How will we teach our children in this multi-religious age? Monica Coleman, Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions and Co-Director for Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Lincoln University, wrote this in a recent post at Patheos:
As a progressive Christian, I cannot imagine faith formation without being interreligious. Our friends and family are religiously diverse.
This is increasingly the reality of our modern world. Claremont School of Theology became an intentionally interreligious institution a while back. Yet, even if we are not looking for encounters with people of other traditions, we meet them every day. They are our neighbors, our teachers, our co-workers, and, for our children, their classmates. And so Coleman’s next observation is perhaps poignant:
As we spend time with them, our daughter may follow them.
My own sons have chosen different paths than mine. One of them, in response to a question about his faith in his Catholic school class said, “My dad is a Baptist minister, my mother is a Catholic, and I don’t know what I am.”
This morning, I joined with a crowd of Muslims who were celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the festival that ends Ramadan. I watched one little boy, about four years old, wander as his father was caught up during the prayers. There was no concern; many of us were keeping an eye on him. Occasionally he would imitate those around him, bowing down for reasons I’m sure he didn’t fathom.
We do the best we can to teach our children, but in the end they will always find their own way. I do know that my sons are compassionate, ethical, and open- all traits that I hope they learned from me and my wife.
When I was young, I heard the saying, “Faith is not taught; it is caught.” And I believe that’s true. Maybe the challenge is not so much to the younger generation to follow what they have been taught as it is for the older generation to recognize what they have taught in how their children carry it forward.