Christians are not born in the greenhouse
Is the faith inherited?
Father Paul, can we see the specifics of time that today's children in their teenage may leave the church?
I think it definitely can be. I assume that this intensity of the church life, which is observed the last 20-30 years in Russia in relation to children, has never been before in our country and in our Church. Nowhere in written sources we canfind evidences that the children were led to the Church every Sunday, that they took part at the Holy Mysteries, participated in various forms of activities in the parish out of the Church, such as Sunday schools, clubs, lessons and so on.
It would seem that as a result of all this, the child has just to be firmly rooted in the Church!
That's it! But in practice we see that the one can`t be especially connected with the other. For some reason, the number of theadolescent children is significantly less in the temple than the number of other age groups.
I think one reason is the following. As parents, we often want our children learned by a mechanical way that personal religious experience that we had gained as a result of certain life searching, errors, falls, findings on the way to the Church and which is for us infinitely valuable. And our children are in the churchyard from infancy, they have no painful search for meaning in life, because this meaning has already been given them “a priori! We watch our children, beating the bows in the Church, confessing, communicating, praying, and in this we see a kind of identity to what we ourselves have experienced. But they simply imitate us in whatthat itmay not have been bornin them, may not have been ripened yet.
Therefore, the child must move over to keep a little distance from what he has adopted “a priori”. Why? To return to the Christian ferment which was laid in him, but it is a completely new level of understanding and experience. As a teenager cannot gain autonomy, independence and self-sufficiency, if he doesn`t break the "umbilical cord" linking him with his parents, from whom he is absolutely dependent and so it is here - the child should be to push off something. Therefore, it seems to me that a certain distancing of boys and girls, ranging from 12-15 years, from the Church is understandable. And I would not be afraid to say that sometimes it is even desirable - especially when a young person "has stopped" on his spiritual path, when everything in his religious life occurs "by custom", and not according to the dictates of the heart. And if it happens to someone, it is not necessary to panic.
Do you mean the withdrawal as a reinterpretation of faith?
I'm talking about the distance from the Church not as a decisive rejection of the life by Christian commandments and to lapseinto various kinds of mortal sins and a destructive lifestyle. No way! I mean that the child must identify for himself the measure and the shape of his relationship with the Church. And most importantly, this relationship would remained by him. In addition, an adolescent child is attracted by what is unknown for him, inexperienced and if he has grown up in a church environment, the surrounding world will become for him such a special interest and will be attractive. There are not so many people who have immunity to life in the world from theirchildhood, to its delightsand charms. In most cases, the child doesn`t have such immunity. Therefore, in my opinion, there is nothing wrong that the meaning of the Church for him in this period will be less than the importance of youth environment, music, new friends, some fun, pastime, hobbies and so on. The main thing is that this significance would be kept.
LOCKSMITH THANKS TO GOD
Many parents try to protect the child from temptations, they do all from his childhood that the mundane life was not interesting to him, that it disgusted him…
The experience that I have accumulated in respect of the children of the priests, my friends, allows meto say the following: a conscious effort to protect the child from social life, from secular values, creating for him such a greenhouse, in which he would mature, would become strong, sturdy, stable to the raging waves of the sinful, passionate world, doesn`t help and often leads to the opposite results. More often the tougher some "worldly" things were cut off, the greater the tendency to these things, thirst - I would even say, some abnormal thirst - the man began to feel then. And he could not assuage it, though, it would seem, hecould stop long ago - it broke him through and it carried him!
And vice versa. In those familiesof the priests, where parents first of all were engaged in the comprehensive development of their children with great responsibility- tried to give them a good education and develop their musical skills, and artistic and athletic skills, their intelligent abilities; where the children did not feel defective in comparison with their classmates, and in some ways- even more advanced - because everything wasdone with the utmost responsibility before God! – the teenagers in these families didn`t draw away from the Church subsequently, and opened it for themselves again, and then they become priests and even monks and nuns. The period of youthful rebellion was passing with minimal losses.
Why is it so? Does the high cultural level act as an inoculation?
Yes, it's a kind of the inoculation. For example, it is very difficult to meet the well-developed hearing of the child, graduated from music school, with a cheap pop - for him it will be organically unacceptable, because it is simplybanal and vulgar. He is imbued with other values, he has a developed taste. And such a manner, I think, can be extended to the entire field of culture: what does the child read,whatdoes he listen to, what movies, plays, musicals does he see? The main thing the parents should develop in their child is the taste for veritable, beautiful things and some internal immunity to vulgar, unworthy things thoughthey may seem promoted and attractive. Of course, it is important to create the right cultural context of life, filled with authentic values and correct meaning: the so popular today "omnivorous wish” is categorically unacceptable. Then the right cultural values will become determinate landmarks, such reference points, as they are both for a believer and for a secular man.
In other words, the correct values are laid not only strictly by the orthodox literature, Orthodox performances, the orthodox movie, aren`t they?
It`s quite true. I would even say, the task is to instill in children real values not with the church cover, and, above all, the values outside of the Church, so that they could, being in the world, feel themselves confident and always know what they can rely on.
Parents must create conditions for the child, which are the most harmonious with his spiritual experience, psychological characteristics and help him to develop these abilities as much as possible. And wisdom is that the direction of this development should be, in the end, turned to God. We need toexplain to thechild that, in fact, any of his activities, in fact, should be a prayer to God, and any activity inside or outside of the Church fence is some form of his spiritual service, his doing and his measure of responsibility before God.
Could you give an example?
At one time a plumber worked in my house. He was a man who was not so deep connected with the Church. But he made me seriously think over and that`s why. Firstly, he was extremely responsible for every detail! Where the other would work for one day and get his salary, the man thoroughly thought through what the consequences would be over a certain period of operation, what better coupling assembly would be to install and so on. And secondly, he took for his work about a half times less than any unprofessional plumber in our city. He travelled constantly on different exhibitions, has been aware of all modern technical gadgets, took part at some refresher courses. That is, the man lived entirely his business! And, you know, when faced with such a profound professional integrity, I realized that he was, in fact, a deeply religious man, because the motivation of his actions was not worldly, but ideal. From the point of view of worldly gains he could do the same things easier, faster,could take more money and begin quickly with the other object. And for him his job is a form of serving for the neighbor.
And I think the children who do their work so - even if they have chosen a simple profession – are happiness and blessings for their parents.
NO CRISIS – NO DEVELOPMENT
You have touched a very interesting theme: how a person comes to God. Is it so that faith is for parenta choice, and for children - a transmitted tradition? No search, no choice, no suffering? But is it obligatory to go through the complex searches and tests to acquire faith?
I think, the spiritual crises are absolutely inevitable in the life of any believer, because where there is no crisis, there is no overcoming. Where there is no overcoming, there is no reinforcement, no development. I haven`t met in my life such a deep believing person who could honestly say that he never doubted, never went through a crisis of faith, if he even grew up in an absolutely healthy, godly Christian family.
Another thing is that these crises are completely different within the Church and outside the Church. The crises of internal life of the Church are more serious and acute than the crises when a person is in the space of obvious sin, unrighteousness and abnormality, and eyes from it the Church. It is more simply to get out of the sinful world into the Church than as a Christian to experience a crisis of faith. And then faith is either minimized, reduced to some external manifestations, which provide normal human existence in this coordinate system, or significantly deepens and acquires another quality often leading to a conflict with the real life of the Church, in which the person lives.
If faith is the result of our own choice, of the crisis and rethinking social values, what role does the transmission of own private religious experience by parents to the children play?
The fact is that, as one priest says, all children are by nature pagans. In the truest sense! What is Paganism? This is the religion that is most understandable, useful and enforceable from the viewpoint of a man in his present fallen, sinful state, in which all of us are. And in general, it is closer to the paradigm of the Old Testament law, and retribution.
For example, children are told: "You must pray, because if you do not pray, God will punish you"; "Do not sin, because God will punish you, do good deeds, fasting, work, and you will see - the Lord will comfort, gladden you." Here is a "legal” construction of certain contractual relations between the man and God - it is perfectly normal for a child, clear and enforceable: it is necessary to receive communion, that will be good; communion - that's right. And the child goes with delight, carries out everything that he must do and really experiences joy. Grace acts on the child's heart quite differently than on adults, burdened with sins and passions...
This children's religious experience is of course with nothing comparable. It isnot to replace by the translation of the religious experience of the adults on the children. The perception of the adults is radically different from the one of a child: the latter is particularly positive. The joy to be with God is normal and natural for him. And for an adult it is almost aerobatics, because we have something to repent, we have something to regret, we have something to ask God for forgiveness. And the most horrible is, when I see how parents begin to translate this pattern of their religious experiences ontheirchildren .It is deeply wrong to force them to repent those sins which are beyond their conception, and to do from a small misdemeanor a global drama. Well, a child haslied and who hasn`t lied? Have you never lied in your life? And the child, who is being brought up in such a way will instantly learn how to play the "role": to pretend a penitent, a confessor, impregnated with a world grief – but as soon as he goes outbeyond the threshold of the temple, such a "breastplate of righteousness for parents” is quickly thrown down and he becomes a regular, normal child. And it is not the worst variant; it is much more dangerous when a childis impregnated by such artificial experiences which are inappropriate for his age and consciousness and, therefore, he begins to feel himself "exclusive", "not of this world", to distance arrogantly from his comradesto the delight of his parents who themselves have come to the Church lately and to the misfortune for his mental health.
For example, the law can be passed as a family tradition. And can the private relation to Christ be passed?
The discovery of Christianity by a child as the religion of Christ is a quite anothermatter. But to know Christ as Savior and Redeemer, he has to understandfrom what he, in fact, is to save and what is to redeem. But a child simply can`t understand this till a certain age! So I do not see a great danger that the children live quite a long time in a space of a largely formal compliance of the external Christian prescriptions in such a paradigm of the Old Testament, where there is a clear law, punishment and reward, but with a clear perspective of development in the direction of Christian values.
Will the terrible punishing God and the law notcause a protestin adolescence, when one explores the boundaries of his freedom?
I`ll rather agree with you. But if we are talking about little children, a different approach would mean the erosion of criteria. Literate, good, experienced psychologists recommend tobuild their relationships with their children so that they clearly understood, where the space of freedom is, where they are conditionally limited and where they are absolutely limited, where there is a "forbidden zone". And if a child hasn`t this, then he will think, in the end, that everything is allowed, unless the parents do not see.
The understanding the correct behavior not as an attempt to avoid punishment and earn dividends in the kingdom of heaven, but just only as the normal pattern of behavior, the only possible expression of gratitude to Christ for what He has done for us - must at some time mature in the child. And I think, the time of youth crises is the point of the maturity of this understanding, as if sprouting through the Old Testament paradigm of religious childishness into something adult.
Somewhere I`ve read about this case: on Good Friday two girls from the Sunday school, who went to the temple and were fully integrated into the life of the church, suddenly stood up in front of the cross, looked at the crucified Jesus on it, and one girl with a genuine horror in the eyes said to another, "Wait, was he killed for us?" These children suddenly realized that the gospel was not a myth, not some instructive history, which had happened for a long time and hadn`t any attitude to you but that this was associated with you personally. All they heard about Christ before, perhaps, operated as a foundation, but the soul was not reached.
Children actually have their own logic. And by every child (and adult too - it is not about age) the personal meeting with Christ occurs very differently. And the moment, when the soil plowed with all the parental efforts sprouts a personal relationship of the child and God, and in what form it will be - in the form of gratitude, in the form of overcoming some acute crisis, acute pain, grief - does not depend on us! It is the work of God and the child.
What is required from us in this case?
We are required - not to prevent,to prepare conditions, to bring the child up, on the one hand, in piety, but on the other hand, in a healthy, open atmosphere. And all the rest the Lord himself will govern. Here we do not have to act either as intermediaries or as translators - this is His work.
Perhaps there is a certain truth. But in any case I think it is more important, how the children perceive the space of the Church. If it is the space of attention and love for you, not the area of the law and punishment, it is not so important, what is happening there. Children feel that they organize for them some activities not to send a report to the Patriarchate, but because they are simply loved.
And to what extent do children need the church discipline, obligation of prayers, obligation of visiting the temple and of fasting?
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