Teaching Your Kids How to Choose – and Not Choose – a Religion (Hint: Don’t Use Rob Bell’s Method)

Teaching Kids How to Choose Religion | Christian Mom ThoughtsFormer megachurch pastor and best-selling author Rob Bell made headlines this week for coming out in support of gay marriage. In an appearance during a tour for his new book, he explained:

“The powerful revolutionary thing about Jesus’ message is he says ‘what do you with the people who aren’t like you? What do you do with the other? What do you do with the person who is hardest to love…?’ That’s the measure of a good religion.”

Really? Spiritual truth depends on whom you love? That’s how we should measure “good religion?” And what we want to measure is whether or not a religion is “good”?

I don’t want to find a good religion. I want to find truth.

Let me say up front that this post is not about my beliefs on gay marriage. What I’m writing about today is the notion that a person should choose their spiritual beliefs for any reason other than that they believe they have sought and found truth. Does that sound obvious? Consider this research finding:

1 in 5 twenty-somethings who turn away from faith say that Christianity doesn’t meet their “needs.”

Wow! At what point did these young people begin to believe that their (perceived) needs can determine the truth of a religion? This kind of personalized measuring stick for truth is at the heart of Bell’s mentality. That’s why his quote reminded me how important it is to explicitly teach our kids how they should – and shouldn’t – choose a religion.

In my professional life, I’m in marketing. I can’t help but view this needs-focused trend as an outcropping of today’s consumerism. All marketing begins with identifying a consumer need and results in telling people how a product will meet that need. With more marketing messages than ever surrounding consumers, people are constantly hearing how important their needs are. I believe that consumer-based mentality has slipped into spiritual decision making. People now ask the same questions of religions as they ask of video cameras:

What do I like the best?

What works the best?

What are others using?

What costs the least?

None of these point to the needed measuring stick for religion: What is true?

Truth is independent of what you like the best. You can’t wish truth into or out of existence.

I’m not a Christian because of what I like or don’t like about it. I’m a Christian because I believe the Gospel is true.

Truth is independent of what (you think) works the best. What “works best” is relative to a person’s self-interested desires and circumstances, but truth isn’t relative.

I’m not a Christian because Christianity works the best by my personal definition. I’m a Christian because I believe the Gospel is true.

Truth is independent of what others believe. Truth doesn’t need numbers for validation, and numbers don’t point to truth.

I’m not a Christian because most of the people around me are; most of the people around me are not. I’m a Christian because I believe the Gospel is true.

Truth is independent of what costs the least. Truth doesn’t require an easy life.

Mark 8:34-35: “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

I’m not a Christian because it’s the easiest life that costs me the least to live; I’m a Christian because I believe the Gospel is true.

So how do we teach our kids to choose a religion? We don’t just tell them about the “options”; we give them the right tool for choosing – the right measuring stick. We teach them not to be consumers of religion, but to be seekers of truth. We show them that what they like the best, what they think works the best, what others believe (including you!) and what costs the least frankly doesn’t matter…what matters is searching for what is true.

6 thoughts on “Teaching Your Kids How to Choose – and Not Choose – a Religion (Hint: Don’t Use Rob Bell’s Method)”

  1. Agreed that religion is about seeking the truth. The problem with Pastor/Author Rob Bell is he is seeking social truths and meeting social needs. That’s where destructive social justice theology comes in a corrupts religion. Christianity has been particularly susceptible to this form of secularization of religion.

  2. I think that Rob Bell is right, “Love is the measure of a good religion.” However, I don’t think that the Truth can be found in “religion.” And this is what I think you are basically saying, too, Natasha. Yes, we can find various aspects of truth in religion, and various religions do have good things to offer. But if true faith is about a relationhsip with Jesus, then “religion” misses the mark. Religion consists of man-made attempts to get to God, but God has provided the only way to Him through Jesus, through the Truths found in the Word.
    And when we settle for “religion,” for man-made attempts, then it leaves the door open for man to set the standards, their own ideas of “truth.” But following Jesus and holding the Word up as Gospel Truth does not leave room for us to decide the “rules” and the standards and what is right and wrong. If you choose Jesus, you have to follow His Truth, if you choose religion, you can make up your own. But it is only through Jesus that we get to Heaven.
    But we all get the right to decide what we want to put our faith in – Jesus or our own ideas. It doesn’t mean that all roads are equal and that whatever we want to believe is true. Truth is truth regardless of if we choose to believe it or not. But we all stake our faith and our eternal lives on something. And for me, I think the wisest, most reasonable option is to put my faith in the Bible and in Jesus. If the Word is wrong in the end and we all end up in Heaven no matter what we believe, then it doesn’t matter what we think of Jesus now. But if the Word is right and Jesus is the only way to Heaven, then our eternal souls depend on if we choose Jesus or not. The world can have religion, I’ll take a relationship with the Jesus Christ that I find in the Bible.

  3. Oh, and if Rob Bell wants to define “good religion”, he should look at James 1:27. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” I personally don’t see anything in this about “good religion” meaning that we have to stand up for gay marriage or any other social issues out of “love” and “acceptance.” Yes, the mark of a Christian is love and we need to love all people, but we also need to firmly and graciously stand on the side of truth. And many times this means agreeing to disagree with others. We don’t need to force our beliefs on others, but we also should not be forced to condone and accept everything in the name of love. Truth (Gospel Truth) and love need to go together. When one overrides the other, we are out of line and not living as a Jesus-following, Bible-believing Christian should.

  4. Natasha,

    I really like this post. I think it captures the fundamental question kids ask about why they believe what they believe. If they are raised in the Christian church, how do they know it’s true any more than a child raised as a Hindu believes his or her religion is true.

    Truth has nothing to fear from investigation. If I hear a belief I don’t agree with, I have an obligation to investigate it, and understand why that person believes that way. I think the worst thing to do is to close the discussion. That thing we don’t agree on is worth exploring together, because maybe my belief is wrong.

    I really appreciate this blog, and I love the way you express yourself. This was an exceptional, courageous post.

  5. I being a 26 year old who grew up my whole life in church got away from the Truth of the bible by simply not reading it and developing my own version of God that fit the needs and wants of the world. I think a lot of younger kids do this now days. I was fooled and blinded by what everyone was saying and doing. It made it easier to create this perfect image of what I thought God should be like. Luckily I had a wake up call and got back to the real truth of the bible recently. I feel like now I have so much to learn, especially as a new mother. I think the world is so wrapped up in religion and feelings that sadly the truth of the Bible is fading out of our society. It’s getting harder and harder to walk the straight and narrow path, but we must keep going and stand up for what is right. Thanks for this post.

  6. I enjoyed your thoughtful post. I believe Truth is a person who can be known. For me, if I disconnect my pursuit of truth from my relationship with Truth himself, I lose the whole point and drift almost instantly into legalism and the attendant bondage.

    With my four kids now all adults, I’ve discovered that they were listening when I didn’t know it. They were watching when I wasn’t aware. And all of them laughingly confess that I branded my personal mantra from Proverbs 3:5-6 into their brains for life. “… lean not on (my) own understanding…” Apparently I said it out loud a lot. I still do. I have discovered that like that verse about faith without works being dead, empty words without living the life in front of children is useless. But living silently in front of them is also a danger. Talking about and living truth, transparently even if wobbly, has seen us through some very dark times as a family. He was in the midst all along.

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