After a recent family outing and subsequent barbecue, my five children and I held a brief “Mom and sibling meeting.” Focused initially on how, with our busy lives, we maintain close bonds as family, supporters and most importantly, friends.
We aired our concerns, and eventually came up with several compromises. Then we transitioned to the subject of whether they thought it wise that their children attend Sunday school. During the brief, spirited discussion varying opinions were expressed, but nothing was resolved. However, the topic on how spiritual wisdom is shared to the next generation has lingered with me.
Reflecting upon a comment made by one of my sons about how his children would obtain spiritual values he said, “I can teach my own children, proper values.” I remember stifling my urge to say, “Seriously, how hard is it to even get homework done on a nightly basis, to ferry children around to their extra-curricular activities and now you want to add spiritual education to your plate as well?” Was he simply trying to silence my question? Has my son actually taken the time to address and sort through his own belief system?
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
– Proverbs 22:6
I know that my real concern is the gaps and inconsistencies that exist between what we should do and what we actually do in our own lives. Inconsistencies that make it hard for us to teach spiritual ethics effectively to our children. Spiritual teachers, pastors, priests, imams, rabbis etc., study spiritual principles before being sanctioned to teach others. How do parents set themselves up to teach their own children even the basics of human ethics, behavior and accountability, given the hectic demands upon them? Every day, we see youth that bully, steal, maim and kill; often to the surprise of even church-going parents, who thought they taught them better.
As a member of a congregation, I’m disappointed that the conventional church appears not to be evolving quickly enough to meet the needs of the community. Many churches serve their congregations, while other children slip hopelessly through the cracks.
The first church I attended was a Catholic church, later we joined a Methodist church and Sunday school was mandatory. Back then children were taught the Ten Commandments, the basic tenets of Christianity and the miracle working power of Jesus.
Pray believing and it will happen!
At 12, when I prayed for a miracle, that didn’t happen, I started skipping Sunday school. My mother found out from neighbors, and her approach was punitive. “No church, no attending the movies theater, no outside activities on Sunday.” I was actually relieved not to be sneaking around, and despite punishment, refused to return to church. Eventually, my father, intervened assuring my mother that someday I would return to church on my own, but he felt that I had the basics. He was 100% correct.
One summer day, as a twenty-something, I lay on the beach at Promontory Point in Chicago, reading Hidden Power for Human Problems, a book by Frederick Bailes, I prayed to be placed on the path to gain spiritual understanding, and I was.
In the next few years my life changed drastically. I became a Hebrew Israelite, and migrated to West Africa for an experience that would completely reshape me as a spiritual being. But the epiphany was that even in my darkest hours I was supported by the spiritual wisdom received over the years from a variety of spiritual teachers, augmented by the values instilled by my parents and the residents of my Southside community. A community rich with church-going mothers, fathers and grandmothers. I was resilient due to my spiritual underpinnings.
My children were provided a strong spiritual foundation through regular attendance in Sunday school until they became teens and refused to go. What is that saying about the fruit not falling far from the tree? I am comforted by the fact that my children had a spiritual wellspring to draw upon, and I have watched them resolve their personal challenges through leaning on their faith and leaning on others that they found wise counselors.
However, I am deeply concerned, that if no formal organized spiritual or ethical instruction is provided for my grandchildren and the children of their generation, how will they cope with struggle, hopelessness, and declining moral values? What happens to our society once the linkage between family members and institutional sources of spiritual wisdom is broken? I am certainly going to revisit this topic within my own family and I am open to other thoughtful opinions on this topic.
– Susan D. Peters
Susan D. Peters, aka, Ahnydah (ah-NIE-dah) Rahm, brings a wealth of experience gained as an expatriate living in West Africa. Her memoir Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, received the Black Excellence Award for Non-Fiction from the African American Alliance of Chicago and the Mate E. Palmer award for Non-Fiction from the Illinois Press Women’s Association. Broken Dolls, Susan’s second book, represents her foray into the mystery market and is the first of a series featuring Detective Joi Sommers as its heroine. Her work is featured in three anthologies, Baring It All, the Ins and Outs of Publishing, Signed, Sealed, Delivered … I’m Yours, a contemporary romance anthology, and The Anthology of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. Buy her books online and at www.SusanDPeters.com.