Dreher’s 10 Suggestions to Keeping People in the Faith

The blogosphere of politics and, especially, Catholicism seems to be increasingly just a series of posts in which a blogger simply copies and pastes an excerpt of another article and expands or “replies” to it. See: my previous post…and many others including this one. I understand why this is; it’s a way to publicly communicate with other people in a format which requires more than 140 characters. It’s Twitter with more depth…a nice way of putting it, eh?

At any rate, the increasingly visible orthodox Christian thought-provoker Rod Dreher has a blog post replying to a tweet which was in reply to everyone’s favorite Catholic opinion writer for the New York TimesRoss Douthat. See below:

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Mr. Dreher lists his top ten suggestions for “Christians wanting to keep their kids in the faith”. Pay particular attention to points 3, 6, which are topics discussed on this blog often.

  1. Accept that there’s no such thing as a foolproof program for this. Religious faith is not something that can be programmed into people. There’s no killer app to make your kids religious. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you can do that make it more likely, but you should not be under the impression that there’s a secret formula for it.
  2. Don’t outsource your kids’ religious education. You are the primary religious educator of your children. Your church staff and Christian school staff can help with this, and should — but mostly, it’s on you. If the best you can do is support in every way your church and school as they teach your kids, that’s better than most. If you feel incapable of doing things in-depth yourself, then at least don’t undermine those who are.
  3. Practice your religion yourself. The most important form of religious education in families is by example. Studies have shown over and over that the best predictor of whether or not people become religious is whether or not their parents practiced the faith. It’s not enough to say, “This is what we believe.” You’ve got to walk the walk. You’ve got to live as if God were real — and not just on Sundays and holidays.
  4. The life of faith is 80 percent formation, 20 percent information. When I was in my twenties and a militant new convert, I used to think that the answer to our problems with fallen-away Christians was better catechesis. Now that I’m 50, have lived longer, have had my own deep and painful struggles with my faith, and have been raising kids for almost 18 years, I see that catechesis is only part of the picture — and not the most important part. I don’t mean to put down catechetics — I think we all know that we need to do more of it — but I do want to say that practices matter more than mastering information. (See #2)
  5. Don’t shy away from the big questions. “Why did God let Aunt Ruthie die?” It’s a good and serious question, and it deserves a good and serious answer — and “I can’t say for sure” is a better answer than something pat that’s designed more to short-circuit questions than to answer them. I can see now that much of the religion in my family’s life was (unconsciously) designed to wall off real moral and theological inquiry. I hear this a fair amount from people, talking about their childhoods.
  6. Encourage a sense of wonder. All true religion begins with wonder. Expose your kids (and yourself) to God’s presence in nature, in sacred art and architecture, in literature. Otherwise, you risk turning the experience of faith into dry moralism.
  7. Help them to see the universality and the historic dimension of the Church. It’s a big church, and includes in an immense range of human experience over the past two millennia. This is your children’s inheritance. Share it with them.
  8. Beauty and Goodness are greatly undervalued as witnesses and teachers. This point is implied by a couple of the things I said above, but I still wanted to say it. In a “post-truth” age, it will be easier for many young people to approach God through His manifestation in Beauty (#5) and Goodness (e.g., in the lives of the saints, and in deeds of heroic sacrifice, mercy, and compassion around them). When their minds are closed to the appeal of Truth — as mine was for a time in my teenage years — Beauty and Goodness can be the ways in. Don’t, however, fall for the trap that Truth doesn’t really matter, only subjective experience and kindness. They are all united.
  9. Practice little rituals of forgiveness. I will never forget being at Forgiveness Vespers at the start of Lent in 2006, and watching elderly Orthodox Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas bowing to little children and asking their forgiveness, and receiving their requests for forgiveness, as is the Orthodox custom. That made a huge impression on me, and I’ve tried hard to live by his example. When I speak harshly to my kids, or treat them unjustly, I repent by asking them to forgive me. They’ve told me that this means a lot to them. It would have changed my life had my father done that — and changed his too, I bet. It shows that humility is a real thing, and that we are all the same under the law.
  10. It’s not up to you, ultimately, but to God and to your child. God made us all free. He will not force us to accept Him. Nor can you force your children to accept Him. Do the best you can, and leave the rest to God. (See #1)

If you find this interesting, be sure to check out Peter Kreeft’s How to Raise Catholic Kids. ☩

Bishop Barron’s recent YouTube interview

Bishop Robert Barron, best known for his social media influence and Catholicism series, sat down for an extended interview with a YouTuber known as The Rubin Report. I had never heard of this YouTube station before but a simple glance of it shows that the gentleman seems to interview a wide range of people from all backgrounds and ideologies geared at displaying unique perspectives of others.

In the interview, Dave Rubin asks the bishop about a wide range of questions that I’d imagine most non-Catholics (and even many actual Catholics) have but would never have the opportunity or courage to ask someone able to properly answer. For anyone not familiar with Bishop Barron, he is philosophy scholar and well versed in metaphysics. He was a professor at Mundelein for years (along with Scott Hahn) before moving to Los Angeles recently. His intellectual musings have always struck a chord with me, especially since I came to the faith through my intellect rather than my heart. This, too, is how Bishop Barron describes his transformation into a serious candidate for the priesthood during the first part of this interview: “the fire going from the head to the heart”. Once he laid out the groundwork for how rational it is for there to be a God (the incontingent reason behind the contingent universe as he puts it), mainly through Aquinas’ theory of causation, the rest followed for him. Beyond him discussing how he came to God, the two discuss topics such as the priest sex scandal, abortion, pornography, and more.

Some have given him flak for his perceived soft answer on the legality of same-sex marriage in the United States. I disagree with how many of his detractors are portraying it, especially since he followed up with a post on his website making clear what he meant. Anyway, here’s the videos. Share with people you think would find them interesting.

I think the Church would be well suited if more priests and laypeople were able to articulate arguments as thoroughly and as joyfully as Bishop Barron. ☩

Why Are You Catholic?

“Why am I Catholic?” This is a question people should ask themselves. Some people that claim to be Catholic seem to have a particularly negative view of Catholic teachings. Outspoken publications like National Catholic Reporter (along with people who comment on their articles) often allude that the Church is stuck in the past and chauvinistic. Many of these people want the Church to somehow change natural law in order to accommodate their own self-serving behavior or feel-good ideas. To these people, I submit the following question: why are you Catholic then? There are plenty of Protestant denominations that would likely bend to your own will (and if not, you can just start your own!).

Jesus handing Peter the keys to His kingdom, which Protestants argue was simply just the executive bathroom
Jesus handing Peter the keys to His kingdom, although Protestants argue the keys simply opened His executive bathroom.

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