Our children were brought up as Christians.
Before someone asks, “Isn’t it better to let them decide for themselves?” let’s knock that naïve two-dimensional pseudo-liberal notion on the head once and for all.
Of course our children must decide for themselves. We all have to take responsibility for our choices eventually, whatever beliefs we were brought up with.
There is no such thing as a philosophically “neutral” upbringing any more than there is English spoken with “no accent”. If you bring your children up to “decide for themselves,” you are teaching them the overriding supremacy of Western relativism as surely as the Amish are teaching their children... whatever it is the Amish pass on to their children.
If we ourselves have concluded that Christianity is – probably, on balance – the most credible interpretation of the facts available, we have a duty to pass this conclusion on to our children; just as we have a duty to teach them that the earth is round, or climate-warming is – probably, on balance – really happening, or any other article of faith which (after doing our research as thoroughly and honestly as we can) we believe holds the balance of probability. That’s what parents are for.
So that’s how we brought them up. (Got an issue with that? Get over it.)
Bink loved our Parson’s Green church. All our children did. She played her fiddle every week in the chamber orchestra, which eventually she ran. She lent a hand with the children in Sunday School, or handed round refreshments, or helped host the Harvest Lunch, or welcomed people into the Vicarage garden for coffee after the service. She took as full a part in the church as the rest of us did.
She also loved coming on the teenagers’ Christian holidays which we led every summer, eventually going on such holidays herself.
After one such, she came home bubbling over with a deep and thrilling personal experience of God. She was all for being re-baptised, and celebrating with the church and all her friends. To my shame and lasting regret, I told her that you can’t really be “re-baptised” any more than you can be “re-married” to the same person… though we would certainly celebrate with her.
In the years to come I wondered how I could have put such doctrinal exactitude above exuberant enthusiasm. Well, there we are. (Now I think about it, I wonder why I didn’t suggest confirmation, as she was the only one of our offspring not yet – and still not now – confirmed. Perhaps I did.)
And as I explained in an earlier post, Bink packed two books to take into the Florence Nightingale Unit. One, naturally and wittily (Bink being Bink), was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
The other was her Bible.
Bink had been home for a few weeks. For some reason she had moved into our guest room. Presumably because her own room had become “contaminated.” She has frequently, since, needed to discard clothes or a room or even a house for this same reason.
Dr Ratched had insisted we must get her up in the mornings. This was a bit like saying, learn to fly. Two-year-olds, easy. Sixteen-year-olds? Just try it some time. Not with a normal teenager, who simply needs the stick of being sacked from school or work, or carrot of not having the bedclothes yanked off and a bucket of water thrown over whatever remains, in order to jump joyously from bed.
But a sixteen-year-old who is absolutely, adamantly, completely, hell-bent-determined on not getting up. Or is simply too depressed and defeated to be capable. It may not be completely impossible but believe me, you can spend several hours of every day, for over a year, on the attempt. You can see my t-shirt if you like.
Still fairly early on in this dismal experience I went upstairs to embark on the daily, fatuous, enervating and prolonged exercise of trying to extract Bink from Bink’s bed so Bink could have a life.
I walked into a cloud. The room was white. I found myself in one of those children’s executive toys you turn upside-down to make Big Ben swirl with the kind of Victorian Christmas the Victorians probably never experienced.
Every single India-paper page of Bink’s Bible had been torn out. Every page ripped up into tiny little pieces. Every piece hurled into the room. Every scrap had snowed down and whitened her room with tears of scripture verses.
Year after year after year she had begged God to take away her pain. Year after year after year her prayers had fallen on what certainly seems to us mere mortals to be very deaf divine ears indeed.
I know how she feels.
And she was sweet sixteen.
Wouldn’t you weep the pages of your Bible, which had drifted down such lofty and pretty snowflake promises throughout your childhood merely for them to fall into the fire of your adolescence and melt into a wet and dripping howl of nothing?