Sunday, September 16, 2007

I was right.


I think.
The most valuable tool that we can give adolescents as they grow is the ability to value questions. More specifically, it is crucial that we focus not on giving them the information that will guide their lives but the appropriate tools to accommodate the knowledge they will acquire throughout their lives. This is especially true with regard to any spiritual training we seek to engage in.
In my classes already I have noticed a systematic, both subtle and overt, rejection of Christianity as viable in comparison to scientific understanding. Rejection of spirituality in general has been strong but Christianity has suffered more derision. I think this is due to the fact that Christianity, in general, is perceived to be rigid – portraying itself to be infallible and dogmatic. This is especially true since I am taking mostly courses in the humanities – I think.
As an aside: I wonder if the reason some of the humanities seem to be railing against Christianity is due to their own feelings of illegitimacy within the intellectual pursuits of academia. Almost like, “At least we are not so na├»ve as those Christians who believe in superstitions.”
The attack on Christian belief has been ardent. And I can imagine that students who adhere to ‘the faith’ might find themselves struggling with the often black-and-white nature of the faith they have been given to adopt. And I suspect the hand wringing at the local Christian women’s league is duly justified when they hear of little Tommy or Cindy losing their way spiritually due to the big bad world of university. This only serves to heighten the fear factor that motivates most Christian churches to concentrate their education with filling their children with information.
Instead over the last few years I have been convinced that far more important than giving children and adolescents the information of faith (quantity), they need to be given the tools with which to engage in the discovery of the mystery of faith. My experience in the first few days of university seems to quantify my convictions.
As a result I think a shift needs to happen. A) We need to work extremely hard to allow wonder to be a central part of our programming. We need to establish a safe place where kids can feel free to discover and test ideas about faith without being rushed, accused or pacified. B) We need to actively teach spiritual methodology. We need to foster the ability to debate important theological and doctrinal issues within the context of a loving community. We need to build the tools like discovery, research, literary criticism, historical contextualization, and original languages way earlier in the process of spiritual pedagogy. Along side that, we need to convey to kids, the disciplines and mystical practices that lead to revelation and affirmation of truth. C) Above all we need to help make these things priorities for parents to practice with their kids.
I remember hearing the alarm from one of our Bible College personnel regarding how terribly illiterate kids were about the Bible as they entered Bible College. It seemed alarming at the time that churches did not seem to be doing a good enough job of downloading the contents of the Scriptures into the minds of children in such a way as to be able to spew it out on command. And it’s probably true that local churches have become lax in their approach to Christian education. But I think that target outcome is skewed as well. I think we miss the mark if we aim to give kids all the information about faith without the tools to really appropriate it personally and practically in the context of real life.
So when we give room for open and careful discussion. When we wander away from the script and play in the margins while honoring the narrative of the text - we do a more honest job of conveying real faith than if we do it the way it has been done for years. And when professors and teachers and pastors take seriously their role as disciplemakers you end up with students who can lean on the learning passed on to them. So thank-you Gil, Mark, Ryan, Jeff, Andre, Gord, Mike, Paul, James, and Mom and Dad for being just that sort of person…

3 comments:

Ryan said...

"I think we miss the mark if we aim to give kids all the information about faith without the tools to really appropriate it personally and practically in the context of real life."

Well said Dale. Couldn't agree more.

roverT said...

Very nice post!

Paul Morgun said...

amen!