June 7, 2005

Christianity and Cultural Literacy

Malcolm in the MiddleI don't watch a lot of TV, but it can be a great way to unwind after a particularly long day when I have no energy for anything else. I saw a re-run of an old episode of Malcolm in the Middle recently. I like the show, but I never watched it regularly when it was on. That means most of the re-runs are new to me.

Anyway, the plot of this episode involved the family going to church because it was the only place where they could find affordable daycare. It was clear that they were completely irreligious and trying to fake it for the daycare benefit. One of the kids asked what that large "T" was doing hanging on the wall (a cross), and the Dad spewed complete nonsense when asked by the pastor to lead a Sunday school class.

What a refreshing thought - children who have never even heard of these crazy superstitions! Such a thing seems unlikely in much of the U.S. today. I recognize that secular people are raising children, but Christianity is so infused throughout our culture (and even our politics) that it seems difficult to imagine children growing up without considerable exposure to it.

Of course, I suppose it could be argued that a child growing up in the U.S. who wasn't at least taught about Christianity might be at a disadvantage. I say this not just because he/she would likely be tormented in school by children of Christian parents but because it seems that some understanding of Christianity is now necessary to understand our culture and our politics. Maybe a child has to learn about religion in order to understand and deal with people, almost as a form of cultural literacy.

From the standpoint of a secular parent living in the U.S., would you aim to teach your children about Christianity? And if not, what do you think about the notion that not doing so might disadvantage them in some ways?