During the short human history of this Revelation, the first generations of readers have been understandably occupied with finding God personally and building a new spiritual brotherhood. As our reader community matures, it’s only natural that our attentions expand from the wonders of personal growth to the spiritual upbringing of future generations of God loving people. Your posts about parenting makes me feel reassured knowing my wife and I are among many Urantia Book readers attempting the daunting task of raising good children and hoping the revelation becomes the guiding text of their lives.
Life would have been much easier if our children had arrived with a manual titled "how to raise this child to become a God conscious and loving person". Fortunately we were blessed with revelatory standards that clearly articulate our unseen friend’s high expectations about the value of raising a good family. The revelators elevate the importance of being a good parent when they state:
A. “The family is man's greatest purely human achievement”;
B. “While religious, social, and educational institutions are all essential to the survival of cultural civilization, the family is the master civilizer.”;
C. “Almost everything of lasting value in civilization has its roots in the family.”;
D. “The family is the fundamental unit of fraternity in which parents and children learn those lessons of patience, altruism, tolerance, and forbearance which are so essential to the realization of brotherhood among all men.”; and
E. “The family is the channel through which the river of culture and knowledge flows from one generation to another.”.
So I am telling you my tale of two families in hopes of stimulating conversation and sharing of personal experiences that will make us better parents and grand parents. I'm the father of 5 children and grandpa of 4. My children’s ages range from 34 to 14. The kids came in two groups; the first three are now 30, 32, and 34. The last two are 14 and 16. To keep the record straight, all five of the kids are productive, kind, and very good people. But I have strong regrets about how I religiously trained the first three children and think things have gone much better with the last two.
With the first three kids, we consciously decided that we should not impose our religion on them. As I see it now, I completely misunderstood some of the Urantia Book’s guiding principles in raising children. The first misunderstanding came in applying this quote, “Give every developing child a chance to grow his own religious experience; do not force a ready-made adult experience upon him”. Somehow I took that to mean we should not actively teach the kids from The Urantia Book. We talked about its teachings especially if they asked, we read on holidays, but the first three kids did not have formal Urantia Book weekly religious education. With the last two kids, we started them in a kid Urantia Book study group at age 5. Both of these kids have now read hundreds of pages of the book. We didn’t impose an adult experience upon them because my wife built a study group around their level of understanding and their needs. As I look back, my conduct with my older kids could be interpreted as “I don’t care enough about your religious education to spend the time with you, on your level, to share these vital teachings.” Net, net, the younger two are both very religious children, having read much of the book, resulting in a deep appreciation of the revelation and other religions. The older three are much less active and interested in religion. A footnote: My wife is the hero of this story. She teaches the kids class every week. While the adults bask in intellectual and spiritual discussions at the adult group, Jen has spent years entertaining kids with spiritually illustrative arts and craft projects to dramatize or spice up their evening while reading from the Urantia Book.
In the hands off experiment, I occasionally prayed with the older kids but it was not a constant and vital part of our lives. With the younger two, we pray together almost every night. As they have gotten older I don’t force prayers upon them but ask if they want to say prayers tonight. Even at 14 and 16, they almost always say yes. This prayer time is not an adult ready-made experience because each one of us says our prayers out loud and in our own way. Luke loves to pray for the needy and sick, Kate prays for immediate family members and friends.
Next I stumbled at practicing this teaching; “Children are permanently impressed only by the loyalties of their adult associates; precept or even example is not lastingly influential.” Our practice of that quote intertwined with the first mistake. Because we had taken a hands-off approach to teaching the Urantia Book and religion, we assumed our kids would naturally come to the book because of our loyalties. And I have heard from some parents that this actually occurred with their kids. This didn’t happen in our case and didn’t happen to most of my friends who took the hands-off approach. Even though my first three kids knew readers, occasionally went to conferences, and understood my deep love and loyalty to the Urantia Book, they really don’t know much about the teachings. To them, it was “dad’s thing”, not their living experience or educational training. Over time this might change but for now, only one of the first three kids has any interest in being a reader/believer. With the second two, both are readers and believers. The first three kids would have been much better off seeing our loyally as well as actively participating in kids study group. This is not to say that if you don’t read the Urantia Book you can’t know God. But given the choice of having read the book or not, kids are much better off having read some or all of the revelation.
Moving on, the first time around I totally misunderstood the following two passages. “The extent to which you have to go with your message to the people is, in a way, the measure of your failure to live the whole or righteous life, the truth-co-coordinated life.” and “The measure wherewith truth seekers are drawn to you represents the measure of your truth endowment, your righteousness.” With my first set of kids I thought my “righteous life and love saturated conduct” would draw the kids directly to the Revelation. Problem was that lots of my conduct wasn’t saturated with love. Scolding them for keeping filthy rooms didn’t translate to them as a love saturated calling. As to being “truth seekers”, that characteristic generally first appears in the late teens, not as a child. Unless a child is a religious prodigy, without religious education, children aren’t naturally religious truth seekers. Religion is something children learn from their parent’s loyalty, early education, experience, from like minded peers, and by mom and dad investing ample time for an active and disciplined religious life within the family. And if the kids don’t get that type of training at an early age, the lures of computers, cell phones, instant messages, sports, dating, work, pizza, school and a hundred other distractions may keep the kids from finding God until later in life or worse, not at all. The revelation gives us a sobering understanding of the permanent impact parents have upon their children, “A human being’s entire afterlife is enormously influenced by what happens during the first few years of existence.”
With our second set of kids, religion is a big part of their lives. Luke goes to study group and is actively involved with the First Presbyterian kids program. Kate, age 16, asked to be taken out of public school and sent to a Catholic High School. She said she wanted religion in the class room. She loves her religion classes at school and the Urantia Book has dramatically expanded her ability to see the best in Christianity. My wife constantly frames many of their social complexities with the question “What would Jesus do”. With Jesus of the Urantia Book in mind, they are working their way through sticky social issues but with the extra tools provided by the Revelation.
What have I learned through all this? I would like to think this conversation has been about altruism and benevolence but there’s survival of the individual and of the community in the learning. The message of salvation explained in the Urantia Book needs future generations to read and believe in it. You and I are the ones to make sure that happens. “But the security of civilization itself still rests on the growing willingness of one generation to invest in the welfare of the next and future generations.”
On a personal and practical basis, you and I want, more than anything else, for our own children to find God, feel his love, love him in return, and live forever. If not this outcome as parents, than why else have we lived? After all, it's every parent’s prayer and responsibility to help their children cross over the great bridge and enter the clearing on the other side.
Sept. 30th, 2005