Podcast: Episode 15: Easter Round Table with Skeptics and Seekers

https://anchor.fm/reasonpress/episodes/Episode-15-Easter-Round-Table-with-Skeptics-and-Seekers-e3o0ab/a-ad5lhg

It’s time for another Round Table episode; Andrew and Matthew are joined by Dale and David from the Skeptics and Seekers podcast for another of their regular round tables. This time fielding questions about Easter.

Find out more about Skeptics and Seekers at https://skepticsandseekers.wordpress.com/

 

 

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Motivating Children into the Kingdom

Its with a little bit of trepidation that I write this post, because I am stilling working through what I think on the subject. However the subject has been nagging away at me for some time.

It all started a few months back when my daughter brought a friend home from school and said friend then joined her at our church for early evening club. The church runs a very popular even club for pre-teens and teens. The church is located in a very good location close to the town centre and so an evening youth club makes sense. Its popularity as a hangout is not at all surprising.

What started bothering me was when my daughter got excited about getting an extra point for bringing a visitor. Apparently there is a points system in place and kids get points for attendance, bringing a guest and various other things. Those with the most points at the end of the term get a prize. At least I think that’s how it works. What bothered me was the motivation in bringing along a friend, was it to have fun or to get a precious point? Given the age, its more likely to be the former; however, the excitement displayed over a single score point did get me thinking.

Part of the reason for my concern was also the fact that the invite came from the children and the parents were faced with the request to join a club where saying no would mean denying their child a fun and games evening for reasons that she would not understand. So I think the potential for putting the parents in an uncomfortable position did bother me. As it happens the parents were more than happy to let the friend start attending the club regularly and we now share lifts to save on car journeys. It turns out that friend’s older sister also attended the club when she was the same age; so in this particular case no harm is done. That doesn’t mean it’ll always be that easy though.

What is a fair way to Motivate Children into Faith?

I don’t have an answer to this question.

I am pretty certain that in my Christian years I would have been okay with this as a motivation for children to evangelise and bring friends into a church environment. Nowadays I am more cautious and wary of such overt indoctrination, as a child I too was indoctrinated.

I think its pretty safe to say that there are atheists whose view of religion is so negative that this form of child motivation will be viewed as wicked and manipulative. Yet they’d probably be okay about using the same tactic to bring children into a youth equivalent of Sceptics in the Pub, assuming such a thing exists; objecting because its religion does seem the height of hypocrisy. My earlier concern about the parents’ response works both ways anyway.

I don’t really see any way in which I can legitimately object to this situation but yet the fact that it exists niggles at the back of mind. I think I’ll just have to put it down to my current state of faith abandonment and accept that things like this will occasionally bug me and I’ll have to get over it.

I was Away at School when Dad Remarried

The news that Dad and new woman had eventually decided to get married wasn’t broken to me until after the event.

He met me at the airport, on his own, which was unusual, normally the airport run was a family affair and everyone came along. I realised why as soon as he broke the news to me. He wanted to be alone with me, though why I am not entirely sure, maybe he dreaded some sort of teenage strop. Whatever his reasons, he told me as casually as he could and we had the rest of the journey home to recover. While I would later ponder over the various reasons for my (and my brothers) exclusion from this event, it was never voiced out loud.

I can’t really recall what I felt inside, but my response was “I’m proud of you”. It was a lie of course. The years between my parents separating and this moment were full of anger, pain and deep upset. There were many moments when he and new woman had argued and fought. Fights that I never witnessed between mum and dad. These were times when I truly wished dad would leave her and I really could not understand why he didn’t. Life was horrid and the worst that mum and dad has was far better than an average day with this cobbled together group of incompatibilities, trying to call itself a family.

So the news they had finally got married meant that the dream of dad leaving her was over and my brothers and I were doomed to spend most of the rest of our childhood in this very unhappy unit.

The emotional needs of my brothers and I, in this post remarriage family were never met. We were always bottom of the pile and regularly manipulated and bullied by our new step family. Several behavioural issues came to a head over the years and were never acknowledged or even dealt with properly.

Life with mum was a complete contrast, unconditional love, always and never ending.

Through all these years we still went to church. dad to a very traditional Scottish Presbyterian and mum to a very charismatic Assemblies of God church, despite her Plymouth Brethren upbringing. My spiritual life was fed very effectively by mum’s church, while going to church with dad and the new family was utterly tedious. It was immensely boring and something to be endured, just to keep the peace, because speaking out would invoke the wrath of the wicked step-mum.

The curse of the Elder Sibling

As part of the fallout of my parents separation, and eventual divorce, I took it upon myself to take extra care of my younger brothers. It would be many years before mum re-married so made sure I was the man of the house there. Life with dad and the new woman was mostly horrid. New woman controlled the household with an iron fist and we sat at the bottom of the pile of priorities, while her own children got preferential treatment.

The emotional effect on me was devastating. I always did my best to make sure my brothers were okay. This, predictably, ended up with me making decisions about how they should behave and took it upon myself to let them know how much of a failure they were, when they didn’t match my unrealistic expectations. Some people tried to tell me that I was making a mistake, but I didn’t see it.

My brothers did their best to continue growing up as kids, they did their little rebellions and messed about. I was constantly stressed up about being good and at times simply forgot about just having fun.

Part of this process meant that I immersed myself even more into my Christianity. It was the only place where I found peace from the pain of family life.

Looking back, I am embarrassed, even shamed, by how I acted. My relationships with my brothers suffered greatly as a result. At the time when they needed me to just be a fun brother I became a bossy older sibling. Talking it over with my youngest brother recently, he was very philosophical about the whole thing and insisted he understood why I did it. He then teased me about being a goody-two-shoes. I am so glad to have such a reliable and dedicated brother. I owe home much.

The saddest part is that our middle brother makes no effort to contact us and despite efforts from both of us, we have had no relationship with him for more than 10 years now. It hurts us both immensely but we have no idea how we can change the situation.

Oh how I long to change my past, and how I fear that some of my actions all those years ago have contributed to the situation that exists now.

As a young pre-teen adjusting to the reality of separated parents, the wisdom I have now would have been of immense value then. Instead, the pain of life drove me deeper and deeper into my bible and the comforting arms of Christian belief.

Witnessing Sinful Behaviour

The fall-out from my parent’s separation was staggeringly painful. I simply could not cope with the emotional impact that it had on me. The result was that I became very insular, easily prone to tears and enormously protective of my younger siblings.

I could not understand why my parents had separated, as far as I knew we had a happy family at home. I remember no arguments or fights. Though thinking back I can now see moments when the clues were there that all was not right. I think rather than fight my parents just didn’t talk, its also possible that my young mind simply shut out the bad memories.

My parents were now separated, but still married, and with no warning, my father was living with a new woman. Said new woman was fresh out of a marriage with two children older than me. I remember that we visited them as a family a few times. So dad definitely knew her while she was still married and vice versa, as to whether that knowing includes the biblical sense, one can only speculate, its been implied but I don’t know for certain.

Given that Christianity was a major part of the life I lived, the strange scenario that I now found myself in was extremely confusing. I didn’t understand why, I didn’t like this new woman who was to have a major involvement in my life. My mother, whom I loved dearly, seemed to be paying the highest price while also being the most mild mannered and humble of all the adults involved. Nothing made any sense at all.

Then there was the problem of sin.

It was utterly clear to me that what my father was doing was wrong from a Christian perspective. Other kids at school seemed to know things about my family situation that had not occurred to me, which could only mean their parents were talking about my parents. That hurt stacks. Why should they know these things when my parents would not tell me anything about what was happening?

One incident I remember was at end of term. My dad was in conversation with another father and they were discussing the possibility of my dad visiting and staying over. The other father mentioned he only had one spare bedroom with one bed in it. My father replied that that wasn’t a problem, he and new lady would share a bed. Other father promptly informed him that this was not acceptable and would not happen in his house.

Inside I cheered.

Seeing someone stand firm like that was what I needed. Until that point, all I had seen was my father behaving in a way that was contra to all that I had been taught about how to live. Here was someone saying it like it should be. It marked a point in which my respect for my father started to decline. His treatment of mum and bringing in this new woman and the sin that implied was enough for me to realise that not was he not perfect, but he didn’t care for me like he said he did.

It was around this time that I remember being on a car journey with mum and she was having a discussion with a friend about what was going on. Mum turned back to me and asked how I would describe this new woman, as she wasn’t a wife (yet) so what word did I use to describe her. Without so much as a second thought, my reply was “concubine”. Mum shrieked with embarrassment and immediately apologised to the friend, who remained silent on the subject. I think it very clearly shows my thinking on the matter.

Life at home with dad and new woman was stressful and horrid most of the time, with only small moments of happiness. New woman was a bossy and nagging. Nothing was ever easy for her and she was incapable of compliments. This reinforced to me that what dad had done was wrong and drove me to further withdraw emotionally.

The only place in my life that I could rely on for consistency was my education. Being at boarding school was probably a very good thing for me at this time as it gave me space to be away from the painful environment at home. One of the very few places that I found joy was in my growing Christian faith and the daily bible readings.