Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

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Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby puppha » Thu Jan 05, 2012 3:53 pm

Dear all,

My wife turned fundamentalist/born-again Christian about a year ago, and started to (moderately) indoctrinate our 6 years old daughter. My initial reaction was to want to educate our daughter also in the religion of her father, by bringing her to the vihara and Sunday Dhamma school.

But somewhere, I didn't think that's right. I also heard recently Ven. Brahmavamso talking against faith schools, and saying that imposing a religion on a child is akin to child abuse because they don't have the maturity to make their own choices and to make up their minds. I have to admit I think the same, although there is probably a difference between presenting a religion to a child and indoctrinating a child.

At this stage, I think I will bring my daughter to the vihara a couple of times, just so she gets an idea of her father's religion. My main issue really is that in our household, everything is Christian now. The TV is constantly tuned on Christian channels, all the books she gets are Christians books for children, my wife brings her to church every Sunday, etc. There is no "presence" of Buddhism in our household. So my daughter only gets the "Christian" point of view.

On the other hand, I think I should not worry about that, and let things happen... But I am concerned with the well-being and the future of our daughter. Ideally, I would like her to know about all religions, so she can make a choice when she's grown up. But my wife's point of view is very different; she wants our daughter to see and hear only about Christian things so she will not turn away (and go to hell of course!) I also think that subconsciously, my wife is coercing our daughter in believing in the same things she believes in.

Still, I started to talk to my daughter about the importance of being kind, and that all actions have consequences. I try to adapt my speech to her age of course! Sometimes, when she says things I disagree with, I ask her some questions to make her think. For example, she said that only Jesus can heal bad people; then I told her that some bad people became good by themselves, etc.

I would like to know if there is anyone who know about a similar situation? or if someone wants to comment?
:juggling:

Thank you very much!
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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Thu Jan 05, 2012 4:14 pm

Giving my children the tools provided by the Dhamma-vinaya are, in my opinion, the best inheritance and patrimony I can leave them. I think it is irresponsible to assume that raising our children in absence of a faith allows them to choose for themselves when they are more "mature." It seems to me that while we are offering them no alternatives they will pick up what the dominant culture has to offer: oodles of greed, hate and delusion. I speak from experience having been the child of lapsed Catholics and almost killing myself with sex, drugs and rock'n'roll until I found the Dhamma. I understand that you will have the spousal issue to contend with but I would definitely recommend providing as much Buddhadhamma as you can to your kids. I'm in a somewhat similar situation where my kids are being raised as culturally Muslim but spiritually Buddhist. Weird I know but that's my life. If you want links to good children's books for Buddhist kids I can provide them in a PM. Best of luck to you! Mettaya. :heart:

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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby Zom » Thu Jan 05, 2012 4:22 pm

Can happen to turn into a quite bad situation in a perspective.
I would advise you to make a compromise with your wife - that is - not dragging child into any religion at all. If your wife will resist that idea - explain her that you have the same right as a parent to teach your daughter your own religion too.
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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby santa100 » Thu Jan 05, 2012 4:26 pm

Also introduce her to the beautiful world of math and sciences. These disciplines require one to use logic and reasoning to investigate phenomena instead of blind faith. They also help your child to develop an inquisitive and open-minded attitude. Equipped with these postitive attributes, she'll much less likely to fall into the trap of unreasonable beliefs and superstition..
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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby Fede » Thu Jan 05, 2012 4:48 pm

A few points:

In my opinion, you should have followed your gut instinct and done something when you originally thought of it.
This seems (to your wife) to indicate that you do not take your calling as seriously as your she takes hers.
she doesn't take your faith seriously, otherwise she might have consulted you on how best to raise your daughter together.
we have no 'God' in Buddhism, so obviously, our devotion to our practice is not as intense..... is it?

I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that her intentions are benign, and she wants nothing but the best for your daughter.
But it's the best according to her, and in her eyes.

You must discuss this sensibly and logically with your wife - out of your daughters' earshot.

On the plus side, raising your daughter from a Buddhist PoV is the easiest thing in the world:
If you study the 4 noble Truths, the Eightfold Path and the 5 precepts, there is nothing anywhere that explicitly states "The Buddha spoke thus:"....
What you would be teaching her is how to be an upright, moral, fine citizen.
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby Zom » Thu Jan 05, 2012 4:53 pm

By the way, there is one more option:

you can make an agreement with your wife to teach daughter only those religious things that you both do share. Certain moral principles, for example ,) And dismiss all teachings that you don't share, like "sin, God, kamma, rebirth, ect".

Oh, and, of course, a third option: you can convert her (wife) to Buddhism -) Though this requires some intuition, skill, wisdom.
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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby Fede » Thu Jan 05, 2012 5:15 pm

...whatever you decide to do, you should do it in complete agreement and with the whole-hearted co-operation and consent of your wife.
conflict should not arise.
You must seek compromise and do what you both agree on.
For one of you to have to sacrifice what you believe, and dumb down your principles for the other, is no agreement at all, and shouldn't happen....
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Thu Jan 05, 2012 5:17 pm

I say this with good intention: beware of the born again christians. I have a (not first) cousin who is a born again christian and he turned into a mentaly retarded person (with no offense to those who are mentaly retarded). He is now a fascist, a supporter of absolute monarchy, a supporter of the inquisition, against the right to religious freedom, a believer in Adam and Eve, a believer that the earth is 6000 years old and thus an evolution denier, he doesn't have romantic relationships with women who don't have enough posessions, a supporter of arranged marriages and who knows what else...

In short, beware of the bad influences that your wife recieves. And, of course, don't let her teach any of this crap to your daughter.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby Reductor » Thu Jan 05, 2012 5:37 pm

I am in a very similar situation. About a year ago, my wife rediscovered her faith, and it's been a god-fest around here ever since. Of course, my wife and I have a long history of not seeing eye to eye, so this is not much of a departure for us. I make it simple: she may teach them what she wants, but I am going to do the same. My only limit is that they cannot go to church. Binding up their peer group and their religion, it seems to me, would certainly preclude them from having a free thought of their own, for fear of exclusion (I have seen a lot of such fear among my friends while in school).

My wife doesn't always like what I say, since I answer my kids questions without bolstering her beliefs the way she would like me too. When my opinion is in order, I give my opinion. When facts seem to be in order, they get facts. When my wife presses me to believe as she'd like, I tell her what I think about God and god worship.

Will my kids become Christian? Possibly. But there is one thing they will certainly be: well informed on the Buddhadhamma and my relationship to it.

Hmm. Khalil Bodhi, please post a list of child books here. I've been wondering what would be a good. Thanks.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

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To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Thu Jan 05, 2012 6:23 pm

Hi Everyone,

Please find the list of books here: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=36&t=11059#p167218
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby Fede » Thu Jan 05, 2012 6:24 pm

we have to be careful that we don't cling so stringently to what we perceive as fair play, that we simply create antagonism and hostility.

We married tour spouses for better or for worse.... no matter what our opinion of their beliefs and methods, we should not allow our view to be so fractured, prejudiced and judgemental that we forget that (in a different guise) they feel equally as fearful, concerned and righteous as we do.

Remember: a theistic religion is about "putting it all 'out there for God' to do with as he sees fit".

Buddhism is about "owning it all 'in here' and taking full responsibility for thought, word and action".

So - be responsible.
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby Alobha » Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:51 pm

Zom wrote:By the way, there is one more option:

you can make an agreement with your wife to teach daughter only those religious things that you both do share. Certain moral principles, for example ,) And dismiss all teachings that you don't share, like "sin, God, kamma, rebirth, ect".


This certainly is an recommendable idea. Emphasising similarities is a good way to go.
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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:35 pm

puppha wrote:There is no "presence" of Buddhism in our household. So my daughter only gets the "Christian" point of view.

On the other hand, I think I should not worry about that, and let things happen... But I am concerned with the well-being and the future of our daughter. Ideally, I would like her to know about all religions, so she can make a choice when she's grown up. But my wife's point of view is very different;


Having belonged to one of these groups myself for several years I'd be more worried about your marriage.

Sounds like you are being very reasonable about it and keeping things harmonious but understand this issue won't go away unless you convert or she does.

As for your daughter I wouldn't be worried about exposing her to Buddhism rather show her the difference between an apoproach that tells you what to think and an approach that shows you how to think. If she knows how to think for herself she will be able to see through the religious hype and make her own decisions, if she knows your approach is open rather than narrow minded she'll value your advice.
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"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby Fede » Thu Jan 05, 2012 9:24 pm

Didn't want to go down that road, but I'm afraid I agree with Goofaholix....

Having belonged to one of these groups myself for several years I'd be more worried about your marriage.
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


http://www.armchairadvice.co.uk/relationships/forum/
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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby Anagarika » Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:08 am

Through my work I have sometimes seen people invest themselves suddenly and deeply in Christian conservative "faith" and practice when there are indications of depression, and sometimes when the person is struggling internally and requires the black and white certainty that those Xtian practices seem to provide. I don't mean to overanalyze this, but I would feel remiss if I simply said nothing at all in response to your thoughtful and caring post.

It may be helpful to assess with your wife whether she is experiencing any emotional turmoil, instability, or depression. I do not mean this in the sense of a deep clinical depression, but I am concerned that she wishes not only to practice this "faith" but demands that your children be immersed in it as well, over your objection and concerns.

If these issues really begin to create some issues for your family, consider finding a good family therapist (secular) who might work with the two of you and the family as a whole to explore healthy ways to deal with this internal concern in your family system.

My personal expereince has been that there are many Xtians who have a balanced view of their faith and do not allow it to become an obsessive aspct of theoir lives. I do see, though, that the obsessive and "black and white thinking that some Xtians present can be indicative of an underlying clinical or emotional concern. All of this is amenable to therapy, but you wife must be willing to meet you in the middle and work with a good independent clinical therapist (LCSW or Ph.D level) and not require that you meet only with her pastor or church family group.

I repeat your concerns are correct and there is a pathway forward for your family to be healthy. I wish you the best in sorting out a problem that here in the US has become a concern for some families.
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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby puppha » Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:43 am

Wow, so many responses! Thanks a lot for your useful comments!

Obviously, I cut a long a story short in my first post. That was about 4 months ago I suddenly realised the level of intolerance she reached, and I felt very down then. We had some discussions that essentially led to a better understanding of each other's point of view, but no more. I have to admit I had some difficulties at that time to imagine how we could go forward together. I am better now, but we are still in a "status quo" situation.
I initiated a few times some discussions about the child's religious education, but in essence she doesn't want to hear about it. She says she is against me teaching our daughter, but that I am the father and I have the right to teach my child, and she just doesn't want to be involved in that. It's like she has an internal conflict: on one hand, she doesn't want to oppose the father teaching his religion to the child, but on the other hand, this will lead her to hell (and away from Jesus)... :rolleye:

So all in all, she doesn't want to discuss the matter of the child's religious eduction, which is not very healthy in my opinion...

Fede wrote:You must discuss this sensibly and logically with your wife - out of your daughters' earshot.

Zom wrote:you can make an agreement with your wife to teach daughter only those religious things that you both do share.

Fede wrote:...whatever you decide to do, you should do it in complete agreement and with the whole-hearted co-operation and consent of your wife.
conflict should not arise.
You must seek compromise and do what you both agree on.

These are good pieces of advice, thank you. However, I wonder how I can approach the subject with her as she is totally closed to it. As mentionned above, I already tried a few times and she doesn't want to talk about it. It's a bit like if she says she agrees to anything, she is committing sin or offensing God.

Fede wrote:This seems (to your wife) to indicate that you do not take your calling as seriously as your she takes hers

That's most probably true. The difference is that in Buddhism, a strong calling results in less fuss and showing, while the opposite is true for the Christian fundamentalists. But I probably need to be more assertive.

Fede wrote:she doesn't take your faith seriously, otherwise she might have consulted you on how best to raise your daughter together

Actually, I never saw that a problem until she turned born-again. Before that, she was even proud that I was a Buddhist! Now I am doomed to hell! :jumping:
In fact, we never talked about the religious bringing of the child until recently. That's probably because both of us didn't think that was an issue or whether that was important.
I will give this advice to whoever is in an inter-faith marriage: however strong or weak your faith or your partner's faith is, discuss and agree the question of religious bringing of your children BEFORE having them! When everything's rosy, we don't think problems can arise, but they may appear in the future and then you will regret (like me) not having discussed the matter beforehand.

thereductor wrote:I make it simple: she may teach them what she wants, but I am going to do the same. My only limit is that they cannot go to church. Binding up their peer group and their religion, it seems to me, would certainly preclude them from having a free thought of their own, for fear of exclusion (I have seen a lot of such fear among my friends while in school).

That's quite sensible. Unfortunately, she takes her to church for years now, so it would be out of touch for me to ask her to stop now. In the past I actually encouraged my wife to go to church (before she turned born-again). I even went with her a few times to encourage her. But these were "quiet" and "soft" churches: a bit of singing, a bit of praying, a lot of community stuff. I never imagined she would go to churches where people shout, jump in the air, enter trance/roll on the floor, and speak in babbles... :rolleye:

Modus.Ponens wrote:I say this with good intention: beware of the born again christians.

:rofl: Your post made me laugh! But it's frightening when one realizes it's a good reflection of reality...

thereductor wrote:Will my kids become Christian? Possibly. But there is one thing they will certainly be: well informed on the Buddhadhamma and my relationship to it.

I think you're right, and I'll follow your example.

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Please find the list of books here

Many thanks for the list! I have been struggling finding such children books! Actually, I found it difficult to find books that are not too much with a "mahayana" slant...

Fede wrote:Remember: a theistic religion is about "putting it all 'out there for God' to do with as he sees fit".
Buddhism is about "owning it all 'in here' and taking full responsibility for thought, word and action".
So - be responsible.

That's absolutely correct, that's why I am quite slow and take action step by step, I try to avoid desctructive or negative actions. In addition, I still believe the best way to raise a child is by setting an example.

Goofaholix wrote:Sounds like you are being very reasonable about it and keeping things harmonious but understand this issue won't go away unless you convert or she does.

Well, everything was fine until she turned fundamentalist. Differences of religion should not be a problem in itself. But it becomes one when one partner refuses to agree that the other has also the same grounds to have another religion.
I think that all in all, I can live and be happy with this status quo. This crisis also helped me to realise that my wife, my marriage and even my family are not everything. I suffered a lot before at the idea of a divorce, but now I am at peace with it. In other words, if we stay together that's fine, if we separate, that's fine too. I will not force things either way.

BuddhaSoup wrote:Through my work I have sometimes seen people invest themselves suddenly and deeply in Christian conservative "faith" and practice when there are indications of depression, and sometimes when the person is struggling internally and requires the black and white certainty that those Xtian practices seem to provide. I don't mean to overanalyze this, but I would feel remiss if I simply said nothing at all in response to your thoughtful and caring post.

She was Christian before, but in her own words, she was not yet "born-again"!
She met someone very engaged who brought her to such a church, and that was the start of it. You might be right, though... When I look at those born-again Christians, they all look to me like they have some sort of mental derangement, have problems with their own image, or are somehow of the "asocial" type.

BuddhaSoup wrote:It may be helpful to assess with your wife whether she is experiencing any emotional turmoil, instability, or depression.

I have not noted anything special... She always had a bad temper, but if anything it tended to ease very slightly. But I'll try to pay attention to that.

BuddhaSoup wrote:If these issues really begin to create some issues for your family, consider finding a good family therapist (secular) who might work with the two of you and the family as a whole to explore healthy ways to deal with this internal concern in your family system.

Based on what she says about doctors, psychanalysts, humanists, scientists etc. (everyone not born-again Christian in brief), that's unlikely she would agree to see a secular therapist. In any case, God and Jesus are above all and are the only one(s) to be able to solve problems! She even told me a few times God comes first and I come after, which is fine to me.

BuddhaSoup wrote:My personal expereince has been that there are many Xtians who have a balanced view of their faith and do not allow it to become an obsessive aspct of theoir lives. I do see, though, that the obsessive and "black and white thinking that some Xtians present can be indicative of an underlying clinical or emotional concern. All of this is amenable to therapy, but you wife must be willing to meet you in the middle and work with a good independent clinical therapist (LCSW or Ph.D level) and not require that you meet only with her pastor or church family group.

My wife would fall into the "black and white" category. It's quite neat to be able to categorise things that easily! The funniest part is that they themselves are clueless about what goes into which category. If you listen to them speaking between themselves, they just speaking in conditionals without any assertions! They don't know whether something is bad or good; but forunately, God works everything for good! How reassuring! And when they speak to an unbeliever, they are VERY asssertive. Interesting, isn't it?
And that's without mentioning it's the end of the world, Satan rules the Earth, evolution theory is wrong, and all sorts of such non-senses.

BuddhaSoup wrote:I repeat your concerns are correct and there is a pathway forward for your family to be healthy. I wish you the best in sorting out a problem that here in the US has become a concern for some families.

Many thanks for your advice, I'll definitely try to keep my eyes opened with this in mind.
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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby puppha » Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:51 am

Just a little additional comment. I am also slow to take action in teaching my daughter because I don't want her to become a battlefield for her parents. On the other hand, the Buddha's teachings will benefit her immensly... At least I can encourage her to use her brains, logic and reasoning as santa100 mentioned.
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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby Zom » Fri Jan 06, 2012 1:25 pm

One more option to consider: fight fire with fire. If she so blindly believes that she will fall away from Jesus and fall into hell - tell her exactly the opposite - that she will fall in hell or in lower worlds because she dismisses Buddha's teaching and has wrong view. And Buddha said that those who behave like that has only two possible destinies: either hell or rebirth as animal.

May be that direct and pure religious statement will make an effect of shock therapy on her. So may be she will open a little bit and start to think.
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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Fri Jan 06, 2012 1:36 pm

Zom wrote:One more option to consider: fight fire with fire. If she so blindly believes that she will fall away from Jesus and fall into hell - tell her exactly the opposite - that she will fall in hell or in lower worlds because she dismisses Buddha's teaching and has wrong view. And Buddha said that those who behave like that has only two possible destinies: either hell or rebirth as animal.

May be that direct and pure religious statement will make an effect of shock therapy on her. So may be she will open a little bit and start to think.


Sounds like a sure-fire way to destroy a relationship.
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

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Re: Help! How to raise a child in an inter-faith marriage?

Postby kirk5a » Fri Jan 06, 2012 1:48 pm

I'd say if you develop the practice of actual Dhamma for yourself, within yourself, you'll be like a vortex and your child and even your wife will be drawn to understand where you get the qualities of peace, wisdom, clear seeing, warmth, compassion... otherwise, why should they buy what you're selling? So to speak.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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