My daughter and bible study.

This really isn’t a debate, but it’s about religion and I figured I’d get a jump on the thread moving since religious threads seem to always end up in a heated debate.

My 15 year old daughter came home from school last week and asked if she could go to something called Friends with a classmate of hers. Friends turns out to be a bible study class. I give my permission. That Sunday she asked if she could go to church with her classmate. I ask her what denomination is this church (I jokingly asked if they were Quakers) to which my daughter answers “Catholic”. No, they are not Catholic, I explain. My daughter answers “Well, I know they are Christians.”

She goes to church and comes back to tell me church was fun. Now I know for sure she didn’t go to Catholic church if she thought it was “fun”.

Some family background: We are not a religious family. I was raised Catholic-- with some Caribbean mumbo-jumbo mixed in. My husband is Baptist. I am an atheist while my husband feels very, very uncomfortable with the the fact that I do not believe in God even though he hasn’t set foot in a church in over 30 years.
My daughter obviously doesn’t know what this church is about. Neither do I. She is going because her friend goes and the people are nice. When asked, she says that they don’t really talk about the bible much (she’s only been to bible study once and their church once). I am a bit concerned about what they are teaching her.

I do not want to discourage her in her curiosity about religion nor do I want to embarrass her by showing up and the bible study with her friends. I am a very real atheist. I do not believe in God or any of the other supernatural magic doings of most religions (If you spent any time with the Santeria religion, you’d understand why). The last few times I went to a church (my husband’s family’s Baptist church) all I got was angry. The minister preached about “sisters, stand by your black brothers” even if they are abusive or criminals or drug users that are ruining you and your children’s lives and then went on a tirade against the “sisters” who engaged in sin and had the nerve to show up in church pregnant and husbandless.

This Sunday my daughter is going to watch her high school basketball team play for the championship in Madison Square Garden (she still has her priorites straight!), but I plan to go with her the next time she goes to this church.

I’ve got some questions for you all:
How can my daughter find religion this way when she doesn’t know what this religion actually is? It seems to me that she’s not really finding God, she’s just hanging out with her friends.

How can I encourage my children to explore their own sprituality when I, myself, think that sprituality in the form of organized religion is nothing but a bunch of bunk, scare tactics and peer pressure used to make their adherents conform to whatever rules that particular religion endorses?

Why is religion so much harder for me to deal with than sex is, when it comes to my children?

My thoughts as an agnostic are that: hanging out with your friends is cool unless they are hoodlums.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing for all of us to know something of the Bible. It has obviously had a tremendous impact on Western culture and portions of the King James Version Old Testament contain some of the greatest poetry in the English language.

As to encouraging your children to explore their spirituality, I don’t know if I can advise you on this one. One night several months ago, my best friend, who considers himself a pantheist, was trying to tell me about spirituality and I just kept telling him “I just don’t see it.” Of course, we had been both drinking, and, hence, theological discourse might have been beyond our capabilities at the time.

As long as she isn’t speaking in tongues or claiming that God is telling her to lead a jihad against New Jersey, I wouldn’t worry too much.

Well, you could go on “field trips” with her. Choose a different church each week and afterwards discuss their particular views and teachings and how they compare to the others ( including your own atheist stance ).

You like and approve of sex (with, one presumes, appropriate limits), while you do not like or approve of religion.

It is a lot harder to give one’s child the freedom to explore that which you have already rejected.

She probably is “just hanging out with friends.” OTOH, for many of us, that is where we “find” God. (That, of course, is hardly a comfort to you.)

I’m afraid I don’t have any wonderful advice. What I usually tell my religious friends who are dealing with kids challenging and questioning their faith is that only God can know what is in the heart of the child and only God can call them to believe. If you have raised them with sufficient knowledge and critical thinking skills, they will find what is best for themselves. I guess you could do the same, trusting in the faculties you have inculcated in your daughter. (It certainly is not hard for me to suggest it, of course. I don’t have to live with the results.)

I’m slightly confused about where you’re coming from. Are you concerned that your daughter will develop viewpoints that differ from your own about issues which you feel religion has no place in(Such as abortion, homosexuality, whatever.)? Or are you concerned that your daughter might be getting involved with a religion that differs significantly from yours, like baptist parents with a muslim daughter? (I know that’s not quite an accurate analogy, but I think it makes sense.) In other words, the potential belief in God on the part of your daughter conflicting with your own disbelief? Or(I have lots of questions. . .) are you concerned about organized religion’s effects on your daughter, as you have seen them in perhaps a poor light? Are you concerned that she might at some time in the future view you, as a parent, to be a sinner/heathen/infidel?

I was raised without ever going to church, and started attending Methodist church when I was a teen with a friend and her family. It was a wonderful experience for me, and I got a lot out of it- it wasn’t about the message of Christ (I am not now Christian and do not believe in Christian faith beliefs)- it was more the message of community and belonging that I was searching for. I also found that a lot of the sermons really had nothing to do with Christ or the bible specifically, but would be talks about current events, advice on how to deal with adversity, and reminders to be nice to people and do unto others- that sort of thing.

I’d say let her go and find her own way. She may end up like me- explored it, decided against it. Or she may find that she wants to belong to a church permanently. Only one way to find out.

**Not so much about viewpoints. She’s already much more conservative than I am on many issues. Differing viewpoints is what makes my household a fun and noisy place to have dinner.

** No, I have no problem with her believing in God. Everybody in my extended family does except me. My worry is the actual teachings of whatever this church is. The example above about staying in abusive relationships is a good one. Or teaching that gay people are evil sinners bent for hell. Or it is your duty to your soul to give this church money or you’ll go straight to hell. Or that women are not good enough to serve God in all ways because of some made up story about some chick who persuaded a naked, gullible guy to eat a Golden Delicious. Or. . . you get the idea.

But I am a sinner/heathen/infidel.

I don’t see religious people in a poor light. As I said earlier, almost everyone I know and love is religious to one degree or another.

This is the one thing that gives me any comfort whenever either of my children walk out the door every day. I hope to continue giving my children the skills to make their own good decisions, because we parents to not have ultimate say in anything our kids do. I just wish I was more confident with how to go about doing this in regards to religion.

I have just a few things to say, as the churchgoing parent of three teens.

First, for teens, going to church or Bible study with other friends is much, much more of a social event than a

[quote unquote]
“religious” event. My daughter invites friends to come to church with her all the time, but it’s not to “save their souls”, it’s because it’s cool to invite friends to church. And they come, not because they’re curious about her religion, but because it’s cool to visit your friend’s church.

Second, if you’re concerned about what they’re teaching your daughter, by all means, tag along to church some Sunday, but of course, don’t go to the Teens group–go upstairs (or downstairs) to the Adult Bible Study or Adult Sunday School. This ought to give you plenty of information on whether, for example, this is some kind of cult church. If they buttonhole you on the way out and refuse you let you go :smiley: then that gives you some useful insight in itself.

Finally, I hope you won’t inflict too much of your own emotional baggage on her. :wink: I know I have issues that come up in parenting where my husband has to tell me, “Honey, things were different for you, let the kid make his/her own decision on this…” Unless the church is some kind of fringe cult thing, I wouldn’t worry too much about her being “indoctrinated” into something strange. It’s much more likely that she’s just having a good time finding a peer group that she fits into. Fifteen is a big age for experimenting with abstract things like religion.

if she wants to hang with friends whos parents/kids goto church…i cant think of anything safer for a 15 year old.

she could be hanging around much worse believe me.but i would look into what there doing over there just to make sure.

This is the basic plan. But I started wondering what I would do if the church was one of those born-again charismatics healer type that believe in The Young Earth? Should I forbid her to go? Harangue her with facts every time she comes home from bible study?
The Elizabeth Smart case got me thinking about this, actually. It looks to me that there is evidence Elizabeth wasn’t so much unwillingly kidnapped so much as “spirited away”, if you catch my drift.

My first reaction after reading the OP was that the “Friends” might be a cult, and that Biggirl would do well to find out what exactly these people espouse sooner rather than later. They could be perfectly harmless, but if not you could save yourself the cost of later deprogramming.

Check them out – odds are they have some sort of literature on who and what they are, perhaps even a Web presence. There are a lot of us who are knowledgeable about the various valid forms and perversions that Christian churches get into that can tell you more about the situation with additional background about them; I for one would consider it a way to help repay a debt to be able to offer that kind of help.

The old rule for any decision is: don’t act in advance of your information. If these guys are strongly off the wall, she’ll be able to recognize it quickly enough; if not, and it’s a more subtle bizarrerie, you’ve got resources to deal with it. And if they’re on the up and up (as it sounds from what little info. you have), it’s her choice to decide what she wants to do, within the bounds of wise counsel from her parents.

No jumping to conclusions for me, Polycarp. The next thing I’m going to do is go to church with her. As soon as I find out more about it I’d love to hear your take on it.

I’d love it especially if you do it because you like me.

Biggirl: Given your response, and the fact that a church is a fairly upscale place for a kid to hang out (I won’t mention where I was at fifteen ;)) I would wander in with her on Sunday, scope the place out, nab some literature, talk to the Pastor, and if it all seems good, let it go. I wouldn’t worry about the Young Earth, hate gays message too much, since most churches don’t focus too strongly on that. If they do, you may want to take your daughter to some ‘reconciled’ churches in your area. Oh, and the Catholic church has gotten a lot more fun than it used to be for young people.(That sounds dirty but it’s not supposed to be.)
BTW, I don’t think you’re an infidel.

Speaking as a non-parent (and an infidel!), I can tell you from my friends’ experiences that your daughter is going to start doing whatever will appall you the most. You’re an atheist? She’ll become religious. You’re a Democrat? She’s a Republican.

She’s a teenager now, duck and cover . . .

I’m in my teens right now, but I made my decision about religion because of two factors. 1) My parents were forcing me to go to Sunday school, which i hated. 2) I didn’t buy the whole Noah’s flood situation. The former really was tied into the latter, but in any case, DO NOT FORCE her to do anything. If she wants to go, then she will go. Brainwashing your child is the fastest way to lose her trust, and her friendship.

I’d say let her explore around, find something that appeals to her beliefs. If she is as conservative as you make her out to be, she probably will end up as part of some religion somewhere down the road. However, be warned that in your teens, you are extremely influencible (sp?) and like the others have said, you should check it out. However, don’t have her come home and then you immediately start eschewing facts about how the world is not 10,000 years old. She will believe what she wants to believe. Talk with the pastor, some of the fellow adults, and her friends’ parents if you want, but whatever you do DO NOT force her away unless it is a cult. Teens are likely to rebel against what the norm is, so she’ll probably get her fix of Relgion somehow.

It couldn’t hurt to take her to the different religions and give her a sampling of everything before she makes a decision.

I think it’s important to discuss what she’s being taught in the church. When she comes home, casually ask what she was taught that day, and what she thinks about it. Then, give your opinion on this issue, and, if you know them, the opinions of other religions on the same subject.

I think it’s wonderful that you’re giving her the space to discover her own spirituality. I also think that you should encourage her to critically examine any ideas she comes in contact with, and offer opposing viewpoints. Not argument, necessarily, just to help keep her mind open to other possiblities.

Is she much of a reader? If she is, I’d suggest books on different religious faiths, including Buddhism and Islam, as well as the Christian faiths. (Read them yourself before offering them to her.) Then, discuss them over dinner. Try to keep the conversation as open as possible. Talk about what positive points that each has to offer, and what she sees as the negatives.

Whatever you do, encourage her to draw her own conclusions, rather than relying on the opinions of others.

Obviously you have a good handle on this as you plan to check out this religion to make sure it’s not potentially harmful. Any reason your daughter doesn’t expore her religious interest with your husband at his Baptist church?

Just occured to me: Is your daughter attending a Quaker service? IIRC, Quakers refer to themselves as “Friends”.

Why not make an appointment with the minister. Get a feel for his beliefs. Let him know that you “aren’t a very religious family” but you “support your daughters interest in exploring her spirituality,” but being a good parent, you want to make sure that the values your daughter is getting are in line with your own.

We are taking our little ones to the Unitarian church where they go to Religious Education - this months topic for the fifth graders is Buddhism (mine are still in the preschool class, they just make arts and crafts out of seed and read stories about respecting themselves and others). Hopefully, this means when they get dragged to a Conservative Christian church after spending the night with a friend, they will have some basis for processing what they hear.