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

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

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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puppha
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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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Khalil Bodhi
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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:

KB
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 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.

santa100
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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


http://www.armchairadvice.co.uk/relationships/forum/

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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.
He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'
(Jhana Sutta - Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation)

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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.

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Khalil Bodhi
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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:
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

Uposatha Observance Club:
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Fede
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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


http://www.armchairadvice.co.uk/relationships/forum/

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Alobha
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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


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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


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Fede
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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

"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


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puppha
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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

To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

Uposatha Observance Club:
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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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