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My son is 6 months so I may have a little bit of time, but my question revolves around religion. I was raised in a Protestant family and my wife was raised Jewish, however towards the end of our days living with our parents, both of our families did not practice that 'religiously' (pardon the pun). Neither of us feel strongly that "our religion" has to be respresented in how we raise our child, nor have either of us been personally addressed by a higher power, but we both feel that religion can be an important ingredient in raising a child. Right/wrong, community involvement, hope/strength - that sort of thing. Any thoughts or suggestions on how to make raising/educating our child on both Christian AND Jewish principles/holidays work? Additional thoughts: My wife felt a bit outcast in school when Christmas rolled around and I'm not sure I want our child to have that same experience, but I want to keep him very open to other's views. One thing my wife thought of was volunteering on Sundays to offer the right/wrong, community involvement, hope/strength values we hope to resonate with our child. I'm very interested in your thoughts.


Paul F. Davis Replied: The good news is Jesus Christ was a Jew, as were His apostles and the majority of His disciples during His earthly ministry.

Beginning and building upon your Judeo-Christian values is a great place to start. Even the apostle Paul (whose ministry was primarily to the Gentiles) acknowledged the Judaic roots from which Christianity originates and is to this day upheld (read chapter Romans 11 in the Bible).

I journeyed to Israel, the land of the Bible, for the first time last year and enjoyed it thoroughly. There are many wonderful spiritual tours you can take concerning the ministry of Christ and thereby simultaneously connect with both your Jewish and Christian roots.

Jesus Himself strictly kept and adhered to the law of Moses, fulfilling it entirely. The difference is the Judaic law is a shadow of the substance of better things promised by the Jewish prophets in Christ.

God spoke through the Jewish prophet Ezekiel saying, "A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit I will put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments and do them" (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Christ was a child of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18), born of the virgin Mary as foretold by the Jewish prophets. Christ came not to fight and wrestle over religion and the many rules that man-made religionists impose upon people, but rather to bring about a spiritual new birth within the heart of mankind (John 3:1-17) and thereby build a spiritual kingdom (Luke 17:20-21; Romans 14:17) to bring heaven to earth.

Therefore the letter of religion kills, but the Spirit and heart of the Creator imparts love, life and liberty (see 2Corinthians 3:6).

Transcend religion and tradition to taste and see for yourself that God is good!

Religion can be boring and constraining, whereas the Creator is always loving, liberating and life-giving.

Posted On 2010-06-07 06:15:21
Beverly Willett Replied: I think your intuition that religion can be beneficial in raising a child is a wise decision. It's also admirable that you and your wife are willing to work together and sort these things out ahead of time; I think that gives you a leg up that you'll be successful in doing so.

I was raised Protestant; my ex-husband was raised Jewish. I went to church all my life until I left home; he stopped after he got bar mitzvahed. We never really spoke about these issues (we have two children), and while he never forbade me to take the children to church, he was very vocal in his abhorrence of religion in general. For many of the reasons you mention, I, too, wanted my children to have a grounding in some sort of faith, but I deferred to him instead of rocking the applecart. Instead, I took the children to church on holidays only. But I read to them at home and bought a wide assortment of both Christian and Jewish children's books. While my ex-husband had no interest, I felt it was important that my children at least know the other part of their cultural heritage and when holidays came around, we read about Purim and Hanukkah. Occasionally we were invited to a seder. And for many years, I hosted a Hannukah party and made latkes. Each year we had a Christmas tree; indeed, many of my Jewish girlfriends have Christmas trees and presents for their children as well, even though both of the parents are Jewish. And it seems to work for them just fine.

In general, my ex-husband and I tried to raise our children with a strong sense of right and wrong. And yet I still felt that something was missing by their not having a formal experience in a place of worship. For all the reasons you mentioned, I feel my years in Sunday School helped me, personally, become a strong adult with a deep moral conscience. When she was seven my youngest daughter asked to go to Sunday School because a friend from school went. I took her and then my older daughter decided to join the choir. For many years (including several years later when my divorce began), it was a positive place of community, celebration, friendship and refuge for all of us. And when we walked around Central Park many times with a church group for several years to raise money for AIDS, we weren't practicing any particular denomination. But we all learned valuable lessons about tolerance, hope, helping others and a sense of community.

Some people say that exposing a child to more than one religion causes confusion. My personal view is that it's us adults that allow our intellectual and experiential predispositions get in the way. The more I study various religions the more commonality I find. It is true -- the Christian and Jewish faiths you and your wife were raised in have certain distinctive doctrinal differences; there are also a wealth of commonalities. If you and your wife are tolerant and not wedded to your own choice, exposing your child to both with the option of choosing his own path (or not) one day would be a great gift.

The best of luck to you. It sounds like you're off to a very strong start in raising your son. He's lucky to have such caring parents.
Posted On 2009-10-15 09:04:08
Charlie Seymour Jr Replied: What a great question and what a perfect time to think about it (while your son is so young). I applaud you and your wife for putting your child first. Personally (so you see the filters I view my world through) I was raised Methodist and then Presbyterian and have been a Bar Mitzvah photographer for families in our local conservative temple, a reconstructionist, and a reformed. I have a Catholic brother-in-law, a Jewish brother-in-law, and though my wife was raised Methodist, she was Catholic during her first marriage and even when I met her (she and I are both members in our Presbyterian Church and she sings in the choir). I love that the synagogues show so much attention on a child as s/he grows toward adulthood - the most we do is have them in classes for confirmation, since they are baptized when they are infants and don't have the chance to learn by themselves before this sacrament. Here's my suggestion: go visit several churches and synagogues. Find the "community" that feels most comfortable for you. In our church, for example, we have people from many different backgrounds who are very open to each other's uniqueness. We all seem to realize, however, that education (for our youth AND for our adults) is really important as is our community involvement (homeless shelters, feeding the hungry, reaching out to those in need). In this way, both you and your wife will feel a part of your chosen community AND your son will grow up feeling how important it is for YOU and accept what HE feels is important when that time comes. Best to all three of you!
Posted On 2009-10-13 16:12:15
Elinor Robin, PhD Replied: Great question. It makes me want to ask more questions. I am curious as to whether you and your wife discussed the subject prior to deciding to marry and/or have a child. Was religion an issue at all in your courtship and/or the planning of your wedding ceremony? I like your wife's idea of volunteering on Sundays. Children benefit from consistency and having a defined identity and values. In addition, you may want to look at the Unitarian Universalist Association Of Congregations - According to their website "Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion with Jewish-Christian roots. It has no creed. It affirms the worth of human beings, advocates freedom of belief and the search for advancing truth, and tries to provide a warm, open, supportive community for people who believe that ethical living is the supreme witness of religion." I suspect that you and your wife will be comfortable with this group and they will be able to provide you with the sense of community and ritual that you seem to be seeking. All the best, Elinor
Posted On 2009-10-12 23:03:59
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