The Great Faith Divide

I wonder if parents have always mourned the lack of faith in their children. When I am visiting with older members of SLC, it is one of their great heartaches when they have a child or children who do not believe in God or are simply apathetic about faith and the church.
A group of us gathered to watch and discuss the movie Philomena on Sunday night, and that theme of the faith of the “parent” and the lack of faith of the “child” in the movie was so apparent to me watching it this time around. Philomena would say that it is absolutely her faith that enabled her to get through 50 years of wondering what happened to the son she had who she was forced to place into adoption by the nuns with whom she boarded. When she meets and travels with the reporter to try and find out what happened to her son, they get into several debates about her faith, he coming down on the side of not believing.
What was troubling about him though, was the condescension with which he viewed Philomena’s faith. He saw himself as so much more educated and enlightened. But as Philomena pointed out to him, he was an angry man who was suspicious of everyone he met, while she thought everyone she met was “one in a million,” and was therefore a much happier person.
I realize that these may have also had to do with the characters respective personalities, but I do find it striking how often children don’t consider the faith of their parents to be important.
When we grow up, it is part of the deal that we often end up disagreeing with our parents. We differ politically, in how we raise our kids, in many ways. But what is troubling is when we don’t honor each other’s differences. We are all guilty of this—I know I am.
For Philomena, as well as for many parents, their faith is the thing in their life they value more than anything else. So it is particularly troubling when the church is not even called when something happens to a faithful elderly member because it seems that it doesn’t even occur to the kids to call and let us know.
As I think about my own kids, there is nothing I want more for them than to be faithful adults who are an active part of a faith community. But I know that I don’t have much control over that. There are countless kids who grew up active in a church and when they left home, they left church.
So what are we to do? We can get down on our knees and keep praying. And a big thing is keeping the 4th commandment– honor your parents, to which God also added that parents are to honor their children. I hope I can be better about honoring what makes my parents who they are. We are very different politically, but we all want the best for people, we just have different ideas about how to accomplish that. So I need to remember to respect and honor who they are and what they believe.
Parents need to honor their children’s choices, but I hope children know the conundrum into which this puts people of faith. When you believe in Jesus and there is nothing in the world you value more than that relationship, and when Jesus tells you to tell others about him, it is hard to know what to do with those who don’t believe. It’s a little bit like when you see the best movie you ever saw and you want everyone to see it. And you show it to the person you love the most and they don’t like it at all–it really throws you for a loop. It is hard not to keep asking them to watch the movie one more time.
That is why that word honor is key. We should honor who each other is. Give dignity and respect to what makes your parents who they are and what makes your kids who they are. This means your parents will probably keep inviting you to church. And parents, you might keep hearing no. But keep showing honor, love, patience, and respect.
It is a lesson we sinners all need to hear again and again, isn’t it?

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2 responses to “The Great Faith Divide

  1. Parents need other venues to support their effort to instill a love of God in their children. The Church should be a major contributor and should be active in helping kids to continue in their faith after leaving home. For out children Young Life was a great help in making Christian Faith a central factor in their life because it was an outside organization that was well designed to meet kids where they were in their life.

  2. Hello, Pastor Paula —

    This is so insightful.

    Our three kids and granddaughters are, thankfully, practicing Christians — but we always feel for our friends who lament the unbelief of their children. It almost makes it worse, when they adopt Buddhism, new forms of Hinduism (new age) or the spiritual form of yoga out there. Once the kids have found their “own”, they seem to harden even more.

    I agree — we live in a world, increasingly hostile to Christian beliefs, especially waged in the media. They make no “bones” about bashing us — goes far beyond their personal selves, like the journalist in the movie.

    Your writing alerted me, though, about my Advance Directive. If my family is in a situation where I cannot make end of life decisions for myself, I will add a note for them to contact our pastors as they ponder my wishes. They might not think of that soon enough. Each having their own churches — this would be a unifying influence.

    Thank you for sharing your movie-thoughts!

    See you Saturday! Sharon

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