Friday, February 15, 2008

Saving Souls

The article in the New York Times about petulant parents who have discovered that have to (gasp) make changes in the style of their homes to accommodate their toddlers has stayed with me.

It's not just about the issue of parenting. I mean, I am not one of those parents who thinks you must wrap everything in cotton-wool for the children, or that they must allowed to express their creativity (crayons on the walls?) in any way they see fit. But these parents are egregiously self-centered.

And I think that's more the issue. Ms. Theologian talks about the narcissistic system she sees in these parents.

Yeah. And it has me thinking about religion. Our religion. And what we are here for.

My contention is simple. I think we're here to save souls. Not from hell after death, but from that hell that was described in the NY Times article. A hell where "meaning" comes from having a Noguchi coffee table. A hell for the children wherein the punishment for not carefully holding the railing of the beautiful floating staircase is to plummet to the floor.

I know that I am idealistic. I know that it is quite possible that some of those parents mentioned go to church. Perhaps they even go to a UU church. (Inside, my heart cries, "Noooooo!")

I believe that we can save souls. I believe that if we provide dynamic religious education and worship services and covenant groups and opportunities to serve, that our children -- and adults, for that matter -- will search for meaning in books, conversation, nature, experiences...

Proverbs 22:6 says that if you train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it. Well, thank God that isn't true, or we'd have some empty pews, wouldn't we?

Like most -- if not all -- UU's, I agree with Channing that our goal is to stir up young minds, not stamp our imprint on them. I like to believe that if we encourage a person to stir their mind, they will continue to seek meaning ... and not in buying Shantung draperies.


Ms. Theologian said...

I love that you're writing more about this. I just find it fascinating in all sorts of ways. While I think I sort of wrote it off as some sort of unique phenomenon of the rich in Manhattan, I think it's actually much bigger than that---the glorification of things over people, sort of the ultimate in a consumption bargain with the devil.

ms. kitty said...

Amen, Sister! I am just astounded by the article you mentioned, having first seen it on Ms. T's blog. I can hardly believe that these parents are more attached to their so-called "lifestyle" than to the task of raising good kids.

ogre said...

I recall reading with disbelief that there were flks who got certain pets because "they went with" the owner's chosen decor. But it was with shock, horror and disbelief that there were people who got rid of pets that no longer went with (changed) decor.

I think this is an expression of the same terribly, terribly shallow moral character--the same thin topsoil of personality--that this article is describing.

The idea that the universe can and should be arranged and rearranged to the desire and convenience of an individual is a pretty juvenile (if not infantile) psychological state. It's horrifying to think that these people with such a tenuous grip on what it actually means to be an adult are responsible for raising children to be adults....

Steve Caldwell said...

Lizard Eater wrote:
"I know that I am idealistic. I know that it is quite possible that some of those parents mentioned go to church. Perhaps they even go to a UU church. (Inside, my heart cries, "Noooooo!")"

Based on something that has stuck with me from the basic youth advisor training workshop that I attended many years ago, I think we may have adults like these parents in our congregations.

"The souls of the youth are more important than the furniture."

I suspect that we had to be reminded about this because of past incidents where an adult thought it was OK to verbally abuse a youth for breaking something.

ali said...

In pondering the consumption lifestyle, I recalled the bumpersticker I saw on a Mercedes SUV last week: "You are not what you own." So some folks "get it" and simultaneously don't. But that contradiction isn't too terribly different from my insistence on free-range eggs but all of my dairy products are of the conventional variety. How contrary. How human.

Every 7th Day said...

My children shred the world into chaos almost every hour of every day.

And thanks to them - the world is finally starting to make some sense to me.

Here's to projectle vomit, spilled juice, muddy feet, boogers, crayon, GLITTER, and those mystery stains on their shirts. Put it all together and it's the rosetta stone, baby.

Remind me of this comment in a few weeks when they have pushed me over the limit again - thanks, hon.

Elizabeth J. Barrett said...

Great post! I found the article extremely sad and ridiculous. The couples in the article have an attitude toward their children that I cannot understand: they put their kids in danger every day for the sake of the furniture. It's beyond selfish.

Way back when spouse and I were newlyweds planning to have children, we bought a beautiful wool cream-colored rug with a leaf pattern cut into it for our living room. We refered to it as "fabulously impractical."
But, having that rug made me really begin to think about our lifestyle and whether we were willing to put children first. We realized that we weren't. So, we did not have children!