Fewer and fewer people are raising their children with faith, the report shows Outside church and mosque of the Social and Cultural Planning Office (SCP), which was recently published. What do parents who choose a religious upbringing possess?
For the first time in history, there are more non-believers than believers in the Netherlands, was the conclusion of the SCP report. It probably also means that for the first time, more children are being raised without than with faith.
Practical theologian Toke Elshof from Tilburg University speaks to many parents who decide for themselves whether they call the upbringing religious or not. “For them, faith is not necessarily tied to a church or mosque. They are open to something that transcends life. The more often people enter a church or mosque, the faster they call it ‘something’ God. If one can call children religious, I think it’s an intriguing question. Who is to judge it? “
“In believers, the very idea that there is a God can make sense of life.”
Willem Huijnk, researcher at SCP
In the SCP report, the words “faith / religion” and “meaning” are not the same. But according to Willem Huijnk, a researcher at SCP, these are important to many people, including educators. What is the difference then?
Huijnk: “Above all, non-believers should find the meaning of life themselves. Having children, for example, gives meaning to life. For believers, the idea that there is a God alone can give meaning to life.”
Greater love than parental love
“For believing parents, it means that there is a God, often that there is love for their children that is greater than themselves and their abilities,” Elshof clarifies.
“Whatever happens, there is security and hope and against that background one can stand in society. It is a different message than in the seventies and eighties of the last century, where many closed the church door behind them. Due to rigid, at times compulsive attitudes – you have to do this, you can not do this – that were transferred to family life. “
An image that many non-believers still have, says the theologian. “I hardly encounter that in my research and in my contact with religious families.”
“No one wants to educate another church member.”
Toke Elshof, practical theologian
The fifteenth church member
Many parents who raise their children in a religious way do so with the conviction that in this way they contribute to the upbringing of their child, says Elshof. “No one wants to educate another church member. There is much more room than before for the personal, so the child can choose his or her own path at any time.”
How it looks in concrete terms is different in each family. Elshof: “Some families place great emphasis on rituals such as regular prayers or singing before a meal or going to bed, attending a service or mosque, or reading Bible or Quran stories to mirror your own life.”
“Some children visit a club where they hear stories about the faith. Other families light a candle to show the connection between heaven and earth at special times and celebrate the holiday. Catholic families often live a lot with symbols like that candle or getting an ash cross on Ash Wednesday, more so than, for example, Protestants, who are much more linguistic in the way they live and pass on their faith. “
“Despite our roots, it is not at all obvious that the other understands what faith can mean, and vice versa.”
Toke Elshof, practical theologian
Economically on believers
According to Huijnk, it is understandable that fewer and fewer children grow up with religion, but it can have negative consequences for a society.
“The freedom to choose one’s own path without being limited by laws, institutions or dogmas is very valuable. But we also see that the community spirit is on average greater among believers, who have the largest group of people who volunteer and donate. to charities. As a society, we should be careful about that. “
According to Elshof, religious families also have a role to play in this. “The more secular society becomes, the more people tend to put religion behind the front door. It’s a shame.”
“Self-help, for example, is a fine concept, but it does not work everywhere in our society. Just look at the housing shortage, the increase in poverty, loneliness and mental health problems in our country, also among the young. Religion, dealing with distress and suffering, could well play an important role in this. A conversation that can already start in the families. “
It will only work if we understand each other as non-believers and believers, Huijnk argues. “The fact that we have gone from a time when Christianity was dominant to a secular society leads to mutual misunderstanding. It is our job to have the conversation about this, so believers discover that despite our roots it is not obvious that the other “Understand what faith can mean, and vice versa. Ultimately, philosophy determines how we look at society now and in the future and how we deal with it.”