On the Atheist’s Lap

Rick Mattson Uncategorized 1 Comment

My daughter Kelli was an inquisitive, expansive thinker right out of the chute. I remember one time she asked me why God wouldn’t show himself if he was actually in the room with us. And why Florida was so far from Minneapolis.

When atheist Benjamin Pierce came to dinner one evening sporting a long beard, Kelli hopped into his lap and stroked the face fuzz for a minute before putting it straight to Ben: “Why don’t you believe in God?”

Ben looked at me apologetically as if his response might forever destroy a virgin intellect. I merely shrugged. At the time I was in an active state of disobedience from the ideology of Christian parents sheltering their kids from worldly influences and alternative belief systems.

It started with my decision in Kelli’s infancy to listen carefully to the parenting advice proclaimed by conservative talk radio and fundamentalist literature—then do precisely the opposite.

So I sheltered her from the most powerful forces that seemed to be pushing my professional audience—college students—out of the house of God: forced church attendance, boring sermons, hoop-jumping through confirmation classes, stringent restrictions on music and clothes and friends, and coerced Bible reading.

My wife Sharon is more temperate than me. She thought I took this whole approach to parenting too far. She’s probably right, I went a bit overboard.

I taught Kelli a non-compartmentalized (integrated) spirituality—namely, that sports and music and dancing and decorating her room were not “neutral” events, spiritually speaking, but rather, fun activities created by God for our enjoyment. Also, that Jesus would be her faithful companion everywhere she went.

My belief was that if a little girl would simply learn to have fun with Jesus, and nothing else, she’d probably grow into a fuller understanding of God and his ways later in life—because she’d want to.

I sought to evangelize, not inculcate. I’ll write about what I think is the difference, next week.

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