I saw a character on a TV show say that a child is not a tool to spread hate. Probably not the first time such a sentiment has been uttered, one would hope, but I do fear the reason for the sentiment.
I have no children for the simple reason that I have not led a life conducive to stability. Too often we hear people like myself, the childless, espousing our views on how children should be treated and raised. often our views are mocked by those actually producing and raising children, and probably with good reason. I was a step parent for a number of years and helped to some degree to raise a young lady, so I am not completely lacking in experience.
It does seem to me though that there is a difference between using a child and guiding a child. There is a difference between teaching an impressionable young mind how t think and teaching that mind what to think. There is a difference between using what wisdom one has gained through life experience to help a child avoid pitfalls and using one’s bitterness and pent up resentments to create and fuel a twisted world view in one so young they have not yet had the chance to find anything out for themselves.
Naive I am sure to think we can guide a child while still allowing them the ability to live and grow and experience life without preconceived notions. Naive as it is though is this not the goal? Is this truly a mythical place?
I watched a show on Netflix the other night called Jesus Camp. Children brought to a religious camp to be “taught” of the greatness of God, to be made into “warriors for Christianity” as one of the believers put it. I was horrified at what I saw. Not because of my lack of faith but because what I watched had nothing at all to do with teaching. What I watched was brainwashing, it was indoctrination of the most vile sort. The children were being trained. Reward or punishment offered in generous doses for behaviors deemed good or bad. Rote memorization of the parental views was rewarded while doubt was set upon with rejection by their mentors and their peers.
The subject matter at hand was God, and spirituality, and one’s place in the universe, not a simple set of arithmetic problems. 1+1=2 has a result at this end of the universe that we all accept as pretty well defined. Is there a God, and what might this God expect of you, is not defined in any way for the larger audience. To push these notions of faith and spirituality as absolute givens, when they are actually questions wrapped in questions wrapped in an enigma, is more than troubling to me, it is irresponsible, and borderline criminal. And there are those that would read that and think me the problem. That is the problem.
If you are a believer, and what you hold true is, in your mind, the absolute truth. Why then do you need to brainwash any child ever into your ways? Your ways are correct and the child should grow into them naturally. When a baby is born it breathes without training, it stands and eats and drinks without indoctrination as the the rightness of these things because they are larger absolute truths. Instinct leads one to these truths. And yes, the lion may teach the cub hunting methods but the urge to hunt is either there in the first place or the cub does not survive long.
In some ways faith in God, or a larger, superior, entity, has these qualities in mankind. Since early times, and for various reasons, mankind has manufactured or recognized a connection with that which is not definable by traditional means. There have been myriad methods, means, and results along the way. Our predecessors have been there to guide us to a degree, teach us to hunt if you will, but the process of faith should remain, the personal journey that it is, that I believe it is intended to be.
These parents and these people of Jesus Camp had no intention of allowing for chance. No intention of allowing a personal spiritual awakening. No desire to show one how to hunt. They fed the children instead. Now, I am no biblical scholar, nor would I pretend long at it as I could not suppress the laughter long enough. But, does this not play into the notion of give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime? I am sure the quote is off slightly but the sentiment remains. Fill a human, a child, with your interpretation of the truth, with your facts, with your beliefs and ideologies, and you have created a simpleton with a singular destiny. Fill that same human with curiosity and access to the knowledge the world possesses and you have fed that human for a lifetime. Set them off on a quest for personal truth and a perpetual thirst for knowledge and that person can open new doors and break old barriers. Don’t create believers, create seekers of knowledge.
I pick on religion, mostly, because I am not a fan. There are other groups, entities, persons, that do the same to their children. They do it as they feel it is the right way. It is the way they were taught, so it is the way in which they teach. A child born to parents in the KKK is not encouraged to hang with other races, or religions, in order to learn about them. A child in a liberal or conservative household is not taught the value of the opposing view.
Children are used as tools in parental disputes, and divorces. They are manipulated by destructive family members more often than comfortable society would like to admit. We have a thriving mental health practice in need of more therapists because of the abuses heaped upon our most vulnerable class. People do not adult anymore. Maybe they never did.
My opinion, for what it is worth, is that children will, given the chance, find their truth. Parents will learn, given the chance, a new level of acceptance through the love they have for those children. How many times have you seen a Dick Cheney with a Dick Cheney set of views suddenly faced with the reality of a Lesbian child? The universe has ways of teaching.
Teach a child how to learn. Show that child where to learn. Stand back and watch the results. Gardeners do not tell a plant in which direction to grow or when to bloom. Be a gardener. Be smart.