Tara disovered that if you want a lot of discussion on your weblog, talk about child rearing. (You have to register to read her weblog.) For those of you too lazy to register, she’s given me permission to summarize and quote her post. She’s teaching her son to read using A Beka Books, but has become frustrated with what she calls “blatantly obvious propagandizing”. “Truth is truth,” she writes. “I want [my children] to find out for themselves that the Bible should be a treasured possession, that going to church is a good thing. I don’t mind having a hand in the convincing but I don’t want to exclude reason and personal observation.” I would counter that Truth is accessible only through God’s gift of faith. You cannot rationalize your way into it. Either you believe or you don’t. Still, I’m sympathetic. The A Beka Book story that she talked about was very heavy-handed with its message. No subtlety whatsoever. No art or craft, either. I certainly won’t be using their books to teach anything to my children. I offer the rest of my comments here as another way of thinking about raising Christian Children A couple of months ago, I was talking to my priest about raising children in the Church and the differing perspectives: Evangelical vs. Orthodox. This difference is especially obvious (and troubling) because my children are involved in a program at an “Independent Bible” (read: fundamentalist) church. As an Orthodox, there is no question about whether or not my children will use “reason and personal observation” to come to a “saving faith in Christ” (that’s American Evangelical code for “being a Christian”). They are Christian. They’ve all been baptised and they all take communion — in our church the children receive communion first and mine look forward to it. They’ve managed to impress their Sunday School teachers with their knowledge of Scripture. Does this mean that they’ll be Christians their whole lives? I don’t know. As St Theophan the Recluse wrote in The Spiritual Life, adults must choose to live out their baptism. In contrast, the Evangelicals want to persuade my children to be Christians. They want to show my children a sugar-coated Christianity and hope they’ll buy in. I am not ashamed to admit that I take advantage of the various church’s evening Vacation Bible Schools during the summer. My kids have fun and Alexis and I get a quiet evening to ourselves. One of the prices I pay, though, is that my children get bombarded with propaganda. “Isn’t this ice cream yummy? Aren’t these crafts fun? Don’t you want to pray The Sinner’s Prayer?” The fun was so infectious this past summer that my five-year-old did “walk the aisle.” Why are the Evangelicals are so scared of infant baptism, but so ready to accept a five-year-old’s prayer? Back to the that conversation with my priest. While I’m not ashamed of taking advantage of the local VBS programs, I am concerned about the conflicting messages my children are getting and, as a result, I’ll probably not be involving my children in so many. I asked my priest about this. “Why do the evangelicals have so many programs for children, but we have so few?” (Not strictly true…) After he reminded me that the church sees it as primarily my responsibility to rear my children as Christians and we talked some more, I was able to elaborate this distinction: Evangelicals persuade children to be Christian whereas Orthodox children are Christian. Evangelicals want your child to develop a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” while the Orthodox children grow up knowing the triune God. As Orthodox, we certainly try to help our children know God better over time. We have some great tools in the sacraments and icons of the church — perfect ways for a small child to experience God. Contrast this with the “Madison Avenue” approach that tries to persuade children that God and Church are tons of fun and, hey, you don’t want to miss out on that! But the church and God are not about fun. God isn’t always my favorite person. And it is dangerous to teach our children that they’re in church because its fun. After all, if someone joins the church simply because they think that it is fun, they’ll leave when it isn’t fun any more.