Carl Trueman, in praising Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society, R.R. Reno’s new book (which deserves it!), hits on something important I found in doing research for the Benedict Option book:

[P]arents need to teach their children that church is vital. But these are parents who have been shaped in the broader culture of psychology, hedonism, and anti-authoritarianism. I still remember the words of Archbishop Chaput in the 2014 Erasmus Lecture: Young people have abandoned the Roman Catholic Church because their parents’ generation never taught them that it was important in the first place. Chaput also commented that the most vigorous opposition to catechesis in parochial schools in Philadelphia comes from the parents. Parents must care about church and faith before they will influence their children to do the same.

You should read that entire Erasmus Lecture. Here’s the passage Trueman’s referring to:

But the biggest failure, the biggest sadness, of so many people of my ­generation, including parents, educators, and leaders in the Church, is our failure to pass along our faith in a compelling way to the generation now taking our place.

We can blame this on the confusion of the times. We can blame it on our own mistakes in pedagogy. But the real reason faith doesn’t matter to so many of our young adults and teens is that—too often—it didn’t really matter to us. Not enough to shape our lives. Not enough for us to suffer for it.

I know there are tens of thousands of exceptions to this, but it is still true. A man can’t give what he doesn’t have. If we want to change the culture of a nation, we need to begin by taking a hard look at the thing we call our own faith. If we don’t radiate the love of God with passion and courage in the example of our daily lives, nobody else will—least of all the young people who see us most clearly and know us most intimately. The theme of this essay is “strangers in a strange land.” But the real problem in America today isn’t that we believers are foreigners. It’s that our children and grandchildren aren’t.

This is so, so true. I cannot tell you the number of people I’ve talked to — pastors and Christian teachers — who have told me, usually on background (meaning they don’t want to be quoted), that the biggest problem they face is parents. Parents who want their children to be Christian, but not if they (the parents) have to sacrifice in any way greater than writing a tuition check, and not if being a Christian interferes with the plans the parents have for the way the family lives, and the life they have mapped out for their children.

It’s not only parents. It’s crappy formation in both churches and religious schools. But parents are the prime religious educators of our children. We have to do better. If we don’t do our job, the chain will be broken more completely than any other failure to pass on the faith. Psychological researcher Judith Rich Harris says it only takes one generation to lose a habit or a belief that has been in the family for generations. On the up side, it also takes only one generation to restore something. But mothers and fathers have to care, really care, and care sacrificially. The family is the nucleus of society, and if it does not carry within it a living faith, there will be no such thing as a Christian society.

(By the way, I’m on the last chapter of the Ben Op book revision. That will go out by noon today, then I have to go to St. Francisville to help Julie do some last-minute moving. Tomorrow begins the third — and, I think, final — revision of the book. It looks like I will make the August 5 deadline after all. Thanks for your patience with the light posting here, and for my being slow to approve comments. Man comes to install wifi at my new place in the morning. Let joy be unconfined!)

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