Are Christians Indoctrinating Their Kids?
By Natasha Crain
My last post, “The Number One Sign Your Kids Are Just Borrowing Your Faith,” went a bit crazy online! To date, it has been read by over 47,000 people and has been shared over 10,000 times. I’m thrilled that it resonated with so many people, and I hope it will encourage a love for questions in the spiritual lives of more families.
One (presumably atheist) commenter on the post, however, thought my encouragement of deeper faith discussions means I think kids need to be more “indoctrinated.” The accusation that Christians are all indoctrinating or brainwashing their kids is so common today that I want to address it here and give you a basis from which to confidently respond when you encounter it yourself.
For context, here is an excerpt from the comment (this is verbatim from the original; please excuse the grammar and typos):
“The younger generations know things the older ones are either ignorant of, or in denial of, and are thus turning away from religion at a fast pace. That has nothing to do with not enough indoctrination, or it being real enough to the kid because they were just borrowing their parents religion. . .that making your own choice, and starting to think is inevitable. Too bad that higher analytical skills has to be so tied to ditching religion. Stinks huh.”
There are several illogical points here, but for purposes of this post, let’s stick with the accusation of indoctrination. First, consider the definition:
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Indoctrination: Teaching someone to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions and beliefs.
Based on that definition, I would say some Christian parents indoctrinate their kids. I’ve known parents who want to keep their kids as sheltered as possible from the world in order to protect their beliefs and minimize the influence from secular society. They tend to parent by fear (“look at all these terrible things that will happen if you believe something other than we do”). There is no doubt some Christian parents approach their kids’ spiritual development in this way.
But I’m sure you can quickly see this is not strictly a problem of certain Christian parents, or of parents with other religious beliefs. Atheists are just as at risk of indoctrinating their own kids, if they are teaching them to fully accept their “ideas, opinions and beliefs and to not consider other ideas, opinions and beliefs.” Just as there can be Christians who “indoctrinate” their kids, there can be atheists who do as well.
The bottom line: indoctrination is a problem with how you teach someone something. It is not inherently related to any particular belief system, though religion is one type of belief system where indoctrination is possible.
Case closed? Not completely, because there is something much deeper going on here, whether those making the accusations realize it or not…