In certain ways, being a geek dad is easy. Passing on my geek values involves playing Legos with my kids, doing science experiments on our own pee, and forcing them to stay up late to watch Cosmos on TV.
But the spiritual side of it is trickier. How do I share my tradition and treasures with my kids without brainwashing them? How do I share my Scriptures with them, even while I myself struggle with them?
Right now, a bunch of my friends are in Chicago at a conference I wasn’t able to go to — Progressive Youth Ministry #pym14 — and they’re having fun talking about all these things from a church perspective. They are paying special attention to the experience of LGBTQ kids in church youth groups, which I think should be fascinating (and heartbreaking at times).
In the Christian circles I run in, many of us have issues with our spiritual upbringing, because it taught us things that we’ve had to work hard to un-learn later in life. In fact, a lot of the work in our faith communities has to do with helping us un-learn. But we send our kids to some sort of “Sunday School” that follows a curriculum that is not much different from what we were raised with. Not because we want to, but because we don’t know what else to do.
Cain & Abel, Noah’s Ark, the Wall of Jericho — These stories are so much a part of who we are; we can’t fathom not sharing them with our kids. I would seem as crazy to me to not tell my kids about Frodo and Sam and Gandalf. Still, those stories are a part of my background that sort of screwed me up, spiritually speaking.
What’s a nerd to do?
I think the way we teach the Bible has been shaped to support our culture of empire. We learn that invading a country and killing all its people is holy work. That God is into murdering bad people, and after he murders them, he gets to torture them forever. We learn that the earth is a throwaway item, that our bodies are just temporary containers for our non-material souls. It can be argued that the Bible contains those ideas. But here’s the thing: I don’t think that’s what the Bible is about. The main storyline of the Bible actually subverts those things and turns them inside-out. The Bible has so much nastiness in it because human life is nasty, and we believe in telling the truth about things.
But how do you talk that through with a kid?
I do have some answers, and I will try to share some of them soon. I’m not done thinking about this, but I look forward to hearing about the ideas that come out at #pym14 this week!