ACKNOWLEDGING TWO WORLDS

So what have our children learned, as far as religion goes? What seeds have we planted? Actually, I’m thinking of this not so much as a curriculum matter for the Religious Education committee or as a reflection for parents but rather as a consideration of what’s happened in American society in general – the kind of place where soccer practice is now seen as more valuable (“value enabling”) than Sunday School. Or where a child may develop an aversion to being viewed, in any way, as a “Miss Goody Two-Shoes.”

My thoughts leap ahead to the tension many of us feel in the workplace. As Michael Lerner writes in The Left Hand of God, it’s the conflict of values between our dog-eat-dog competitive economy and those we hold dear and sacred. Fundamentalists, at least, attempt to resolve it by separating the two worlds, but at what cost? Children, of course, pick up on this, tuning out what they see as useless to their survival. And that includes what they observe at home. (Should we note the popularity of so-called “reality TV” – as manifested in The Survivor?) The Amish and other old orders attempt to hold the values of workplace, home, and faith in one sphere, but we can easily imagine the difficulty that, too, presents.

Obviously, I’m not going to resolve any of this in the next few sentences. Without the music of hymns and praise songs, the pageantry of robes, processions, lighting of altar candles, and communion, or the attentive consideration to set prayers and sermons, what do we give our children to cling to? (In the old days, did the plain clothing and “thee/thou” speech offer some refuge or rooting?) Or what invitation do we extend to those “voted off the island”? What I am going to suggest is that the answer is not found so much in any catechism or ceremony as in the way we treat our smallest members, our moments of laboring together, and, yes, the repeated ritual of a certain casserole on youth retreats and its reception.

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