This week is Semana Santa, Holy Week, in Mexico. (See Carnival, Lent, Holy Week and Pilgrimages) Allegedly it is the most sacred period for Catholics in the area. All the pomp and ceremony involved makes it an ideal time to talk about religion with my son. Therefore, with that in mind…
How Authority Works.––The supreme authority (and all deputed authority) works precisely as does a good and just national government, whose business it is to defend the liberties of the subject at all points, even by checking, repressing, and punishing the licence which interferes with the rights of others …–Charlotte Mason
In a just world, Charlotte Mason’s idea could be easily used to demonstrate God’s role as authority to my son. But we do not live in a just world, so it’s merely hypothetical. So how, as a Christian, do I provide a sense of religion for him?
Charlotte Mason goes on to say that “It is not authority which punishes: the penalties which follow us through life, of which those the family are a faint foretaste, are the inevitable consequences of broken law, whether moral or physical, and from which authority, strong and benign, exists to save us by prevention, and, if needs be, by lesser and corrective penalties” however, we see incident after incident when it is authority which punishes and no law, neither moral or physical, has been broken to merit the punishment. How do I explain that to my son in a religious context? (See On Safety and Security)
I do not make these statements because we live in Mexico, although I can say that injustice is perhaps more visible in our lives here as compared to our lives in the United States. This difference between the ideal and reality exists in all parts of the world, in all social-economic classes, the past, present and future. Where is the God’s mercy to show my son in all this?(See And Justice for All)
Charlotte Mason also talks about the importance of instilling reverent attitudes in our children through the use of “little ceremonies” and again I take issue. She writes “It is a mistake to suppose that the forms of reverence need be tiresome to them. They love little ceremonies, and to be taught to kneel nicely while saying their short prayers would help them to a feeling of reverence in after life.” I have seen my nephews and nieces learn their catechism, make the sign of the cross, beat their little breasts as sinners, kiss the horns of the devil away…and yet…and yet, it is all playacting. There is no reverence there. (See Parenting Challenges–When someone dies)
My son has his own Bible, in fact, he has two, one in English and one in Spanish, but I admit it is daunting for him to just pick it up and read it as a book. It isn’t meant to be read like that. Instead, we focus on the stories and read the sections that have to do with that particular characters life. One of our favorite segments thus far in our studies has been the life of Elijah, from the poking fun of Baal, (“Call at the top of your voice, for he is a god, for he must be concerned with a matter, and he has excrement and has to go to the privy. Or maybe he is asleep and ought to wake up!”) and the abasement of the third army chief before Elijah that spared his life and the lives of his men from the lightening bolts of heaven, to the fiery war chariot and horses that brought an end to Elijah’s part of the story. (1 Kings 18:21- 2 Kings 2:25) Between us, we refer to Elijah as the original superhero and totally think there should be a movie made about him.
In this sense, I agree with Charlotte Mason when she encourages the habit of reading the Bible. The habit of hearing, and later, of reading the Bible, is one to establish at an early age. We are met with a difficulty––that the Bible is, in fact, a library containing passages and, indeed, whole books which are not for the edification of children; and many parents fall back upon little collections of texts for morning and evening use. But I doubt the wisdom of this plan. We may believe that the narrative teaching of the Scriptures is far more helpful to children, anyway, than the stimulating moral and spiritual texts picked out for them in little devotional books. None of my nieces and nephews who have taken their First Communion can retell Elijah’s story or any other fascinating Biblical story for that matter. I really don’t know what they learned during their 8-week required course before they become ‘one with God.’
I recently posted the above on Facebook. My son saw it but didn’t notice that I was the one who had posted it to his page. It struck him as noteworthy enough to comment on it to me later that night. From this, I know that I have inspired what Charlotte Mason calls “The Kingship of Christ” in him. Christ as a historical, even political, figure is understandable to him in a way that being a son of God is not.
Next, perhaps, the idea of Christ their King is fitted to touch springs of conduct and to rouse the enthusiasm of loyalty in children, who have it in them, as we all know, to bestow heroic devotion on that which they find heroic. Perhaps we do not make enough of this principle of hero-worship in human nature in our teaching of religion. We are inclined to make our religious aims subjective rather than objective. We are tempted to look upon Christianity as a ‘scheme of salvation’ designed and carried out for our benefit; whereas the very essence of Christianity is passionate devotion to an altogether adorable Person.–Charlotte Mason
This idea of Christ as a hero brings us around full circle to the problems I mentioned at the onset in teaching religion. A hero, such as Christ exemplified, had the power to change an entire system of things through passive or at times aggressive resistance. A hero does not accept things just because they are but demands that things be as they should be. This I can teach my son.
Matthew 7:12 All things, therefore that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them; this, in fact, is what the Law and the Prophets mean.