Two years ago when my son was 10 he became very verbal about hating church and resisted going. My older son loves the teen group at Sunday school and assured his brother that when he made it out of the baby area, he, too, would love it. Well, he does not. Each Sunday morning he yells, pouts, and eventually succumbs to my threats.
Then he takes his snarky and unhelpful attitude to Sunday school. He doesn’t believe in God, and his very cool Sunday teacher works with that. I hated my boring church as a kid, and looking back I wonder, had I not gone to church would I have been a worse person? My husband was forced to attend his church when he was little. Now, he sleeps late Sunday morning, then hikes and does other activities. He is supportive of the fact that both our sons’ spiritual development is important to me. Do I force my son to go or give up?
—Mad as Hell Mom
No, you don’t force him to go. I wouldn’t call that giving up, I’d call it not forcing him to do something that shouldn’t be mandatory for anyone.
I too hated church as a kid. We didn’t go all that often, but when we did, I hated it. I hated Sunday school even more; I think I went only about twice.
We stopped going before I was old enough to refuse as opposed to complaining – long before I was twelve. Thank fuck for that. But I remain convinced that it’s not something parents should force on children, especially if they hate it. Of course many religious parents aren’t going to agree with me, but that’s what I think.
So I don’t like Yoffe’s reply.
You and your older son find spiritual and intellectual sustenance in the church, but your younger son finds the whole thing intolerable. You’ve been fighting this losing battle for two years, and if you keep going, your son will flee all observance as soon as he is able. I think you need to walk a more tolerant path. Tell your little atheist that you’ve been thinking about what he’s been saying about church, you’re tired of dragging him to Sunday school, and you’re reconsidering your stand. But before you do, you have a requirement he needs to fulfill. You want him to write an essay (minimum two typed pages) about the progression of his (dis)beliefs, and he must cite examples of people who have struggled with lack of faith—Biblical sources get extra credit. Then, if he takes this assignment seriously, release him. But say this doesn’t mean he gets to watch TV or play video games while his brother is getting religious instruction.
Jeezis. Punish him with homework, make his freedom from church conditional on doing the homework, and punish him in general for not going, just to make sure.
Godbotherers can be such bullies.