God At The Kitchen Table: Teaching Your Religious And Moral Beliefs To Your Children

God At The Kitchen Table: Teaching Your Religious And Moral Beliefs To Your Children

by Scott Cooper


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Whatever your denomination, whether you practice religion formally or not, you know a strong moral compass and spiritual awareness are vital to your children’s happiness and well-being now and in the future. Even if you take your children to church or temple or drop them off at Sunday school, they will bring their big questions home, and it’s hard to find time and answers to address them properly in our hectic lives. In God at the Kitchen Table, Scott Cooper offers the guidance and resources you need to bring moral mentoring and God-consciousness into your home life.

You’ll learn how to use family time to teach virtues and discuss religious matters; how to find inspiration and material in books, movies, and online; and how to draw the family together to pray or to do service for others. Cooper offers ideas for fun and enlightening family outings, sample scripts for bringing up thorny issues, and insights from his own experience in raising three children and imparting beliefs in the natural course of life. His book will help you deal with problems that may come up, such as:

* How to help your child trust in God in a world where bad things happen
* How to reconcile different religious backgrounds and faiths—yours, your spouse’s, and others’
* How to sort out your own beliefs and values and pass them on to your children even though you sometimes have doubts yourself
* How to make religious teaching appeal to your children—like good food rather than pious medicine
* How to explain conflicts between religion and science
* How to teach about God if you don’t go to church

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780609809181
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/26/2002
Edition description: 1ST
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.06(h) x 0.52(d)

Read an Excerpt

Home Churching� as a Cornerstone

The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it, parents should, by their word and example, be the first [teachers] of the faith to their children.—Pope Paul VI

Over the years, my wife and I have gradually moved in the direction of making our home the centerpiece of our religious and moral training. Our good, witty friend Lindsey once somewhat jokingly referred to our home-oriented approach to religion as �home churching.� The term isn�t quite right. We don�t have a church in our home and our approach to religious and moral training is mostly informal. But it was a quick and catchy phrase that stuck with us. What the term has come to mean for us is simply providing religious and moral training in the home. Some parents carry out this training by participating in organized religion and reinforcing their faith tradition in the home. Others simply strive to set a good example and have informal conversations with their children from time to time. These can both be powerful approaches to benefiting our children�s lives.

In our case, we stumbled toward our own hybrid approach to this training. Even before having children, our relationship with organized religion had shifted. We had changed from viewing this relationship as a subservient, �adult-to-child� relationship with an institution, to seeing it as an �adult-to-adult� relationship with other people of faith. We had shifted from more formal to less formal, from more involvement to less involvement. Despite this shift, with our first child we depended more heavily on church-based training. This was consistent with how we had been raised. But when our incredulous son started asking me questions like �Dad, they said that God sent a plague and killed a bunch of people. Do you believe that?� or �Dad, they said that God drowned almost all of the people on the earth. Do you believe that?,� I realized that I had to think more about these things and get involved. I respected the sincere beliefs of those who were passing along these stories in literal ways, but I had sincere beliefs, too, and they were the ones I most wanted my children to learn. We were the type of squeamish parents who felt compelled to tell our son the truth about Santa Claus when he asked us about the issue point-blank, so that he wouldn�t equate ultimate disappointment in Santa with disappointment in God (we thereafter explained Santa�s identity as a �fun surprise� to our younger children, so that they could still enjoy the excitement of Christmas morning). So if we didn�t like the idea of God as Santa Claus, God as a benevolent version of Genghis Khan was well off our charts. On the one hand, we had been telling our son that God loved His children and wanted us to be kind to people; on the other hand, he was being taught that every so often God would do very mean things to His children if they didn�t do what He asked. The wise and loving God of our belief system was being transformed into a mostly nice but sometimes pretty mean god-more medieval monarch than Creator and Provider of the universe. I knew better. I had experienced the love of a great father and mother, and I believed that God had to be at least as wise and good as my own two parents.

Much like parents who aren�t entirely comfortable with their children�s academic training and choose to get involved with it, we decided we needed to get more directly involved with our children�s religious and moral training. Despite the kind efforts of teachers at church, we wanted to increase our influence. Thus began an evolution for our family toward this notion of home churching. This process began by occasionally having informal discussions with our children around the kitchen table and reading stories together. We started having more prayers together as a family. It eventually led us to brief weekly family devotionals, and making those devotionals and other simple family-based traditions the centerpiece of family religious life. We have maintained a connection with organized religion, but with a lighter touch. The Amish have a custom of gathering together with other families on one Sunday, and staying home with their own family the next. We have loosely adopted this custom by participating in the �gathering church� (organized religion) every other week or so. Organized religion, from our perspective, is a support to our personal and family religious experience.

In recent years, I have grown to appreciate the Vatican II comments of Pope Paul VI included at the beginning of this chapter. While the pope undoubtedly had his own faith in mind, the notion of making the domestic church a primary vehicle to teach our own children is compelling for people of all faiths. The positive beliefs and attitudes we pass on to our children in the home can be powerful and positive influences in their lives.

As our family religious life evolved in this direction, I became more interested in family-based religion on an academic level. Over a year�s time, I conducted research on the topic at the library of the Graduate Theological Union, near the University of California at Berkeley. What I discovered was quite amazing (I�ve provided a brief synopsis of some of my findings in the appendix). I found that the first teachers of religion were fathers and mothers. The original religious leaders of the Hebrew tribes, for example, weren�t full-time priests and prophets but the patriarchs-the heads of clans. The everyday religions of ancient Rome and China were completely family-based, and the officiators of those religious traditions were parents. I learned that family religion has been the most fundamental and traditional form of religion throughout much of human history. Over time, clans and families adopted organized, institutional religions as their family religions of choice. But for a long while, organized religion remained secondary to the family and its culture when it came to family worship and instruction. Even today, much of the religious activity in India, Asia, and Africa is home- or family-based.

I have come to believe that regardless of whether we have a strong affiliation with organized religion, the home and family-however we define those terms-need to be the cornerstone of our religious and moral lives. In modern theological parlance, our domestic church needs to be at least as fundamental to our spiritual lives as the gathering church, if not more so.

What People are Saying About This

Ricardo, Althea

Recognizing the bafflement with which parents might face this line of questioning, and, going even deeper, knowing the weight of the responsibility of being at the helm of their children�s moral and religious training, Scott Cooper has come up with God at the Kitchen Table, a book on what to teach children about religion and morality and how to teach it to them.

What makes this book even more helpful is that it leans towards no particular religion, focusing instead on spirituality (Cooper writes, "Spirituality is the degree with which we�re in touch with our interior life, find it important, and work to strengthen and enrich it.") and morality ("Morality says some things are better than others. We don�t need angels to come and tell us what helps or hurts others," he explains, "God has written a basic moral code into the soul of humanity."

Pope Paul IV, as quoted by Cooper, once said that the family is the domestic church and parents should, by word and example, be the first teachers of the faith to their children. Picking up Scott Cooper�s God at the Kitchen Table is one good way to start.
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