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Your Spouse and Religion: Do Your Differing Views Matter to Your Child?

Published July 06, 2007        by Matt

religion childTwo of my best friends, Amanda and Brian, are tying the knot in less than two weeks. I couldn't be happier for them. They love each other very much and probably are going to have a million babies. Maybe more.

In the midst of all the hype and jitters surrounding the wedding preparations, I've been able to share a lot of marital advice with Amanda when she wanted it- heck, I even gave her some when she didn't want it, for that matter. I'm like that.

For the record, Amanda was raised Lutheran. Brian, on the other hand, has been a practicing Mormon for almost a decade. Now, also for the record, they could believe lizards were the key to the universe and I would respect their right to their own religion. Nevertheless, things got really awkward when the subject of religion and kids came up in one of my well-meaning rants.

Since I knew that the Lutheran doctrine and the Mormon doctrine are quite different (even contradictory), I asked Amanda if she and Brian were going to raise their kids Lutheran, Mormon, or Religion-Not-Otherwise-Specified-Chosen-By-the-Child. Amanda said that she and Brian, despite the fact the wedding is drawing nearer, never once have discussed the issue. She said it wasn't important right now and that they'd cross that bridge when they came to it.

Ding, ding, ding, ding.

I can't tell you how many bells and whistles went off in my head after hearing that statement. Certainly, not everything has to be concrete between a husband and wife when they step up to the altar. Still, I couldn't help but feel a little anxious.

The truth is, religion impacts kids from the moment they are born. Will they be baptized? Circumcised? Will they put up a Christmas tree and exchange holiday gifts? Will they say grace before they eat? What will they eat? Will they say prayers before they are tucked into bed? Will they be given Easter gift baskets or be allowed to go on an Easter egg hunt? What about being able to participate in the annual "holiday" concert (can't call it a Christmas concert-have to be politically correct now) with all those carols about baby Jesus? Will they have a coming of age ceremony and party? What about Sunday school?

All that being said, I'm not promoting any one religion. What I am promoting is that parents come to an agreement early on about what their children will be taught in terms of faith, because the impacts on family life from religion are enormous, not to mention long-reaching. I had a friend in high school, for example, whose father was Lutheran and whose mother was Catholic-she had to attend multiple services every Sunday and was really torn between the differing doctrines, and her mother just about had a heart attack when she got older and decided to not go to the Catholic service anymore.

It's not impossible to expose your child to multiple doctrines in a healthy way, but children in multi-doctrine homes may have to flip flop from one doctrine to the other several times over before they really settle on their own beliefs, which may be difficult. Therefore, parents need to make an effort to explain clearly to their child why those differences in doctrine exist so that the child can decide more easily for himself what he is going to believe.