Do you think parents have a responsibility to cultivate some sort of meaning-making or spiritual sentiment in their children?
It’s kind of a new phenomenon in Western history right now that we have all these kids growing up with parents who have rejected their traditions of origin, in a way people weren’t free to do previously.
Children ask for this. Maybe they’re asking for structure and meaning-making. Or maybe they’re just asking the big theological questions which they do at very young ages: Where do we come from? Why do people die? Why do people treat each other that way?
So do we have an obligation to come up with something? I don’t know. But I think we have a responsibility to meet our children’s questions and longings along those lines. I think that – especially for people who have rejected the tradition in their background – that becomes an opportunity.
You grew up in Oklahoma with a grandfather who was a fire-and-brimstone Southern Baptist preacher, left that tradition when you went away from home, and found yourself unsettled without a spiritual anchor at midlife. How important is it for parents to be settled in their spirituality?
In the name of not giving your children what you rejected, you also give them nothing to reject, to work with, to question, and to challenge.
It’s true a lot of people these days do go through a period of agnosticism or searching or atheism. That’s what happened to me. But I circled back to questions of meaning, of morality, and – ultimately – faith as an adult.
The question becomes: What do you do with that? Do you take it seriously? A lot of people hit that place when they have children. They start asking themselves this question: What do I need to pass on to my children? And I think it does feel like a huge burden. But just seeing that as an adventure and as a moment of possibility for yourself can be really important.