This weekend, I visited my sister-in-law and her three children. The two oldest kids (13 and 11) were in and out of the room with the adults.
At some point, my 11-year-old niece says, “So who are you voting for?” I should mention here that this family is very conservative Christian, so I was reluctant to respond at all – it as a nice family Saturday, and I didn’t feel like a political argument. But then my other sister-in-law answered that she would be voting for Obama. My niece’s jaw dropped. “But he believes in abortion!” And he wants to take ‘In God We Trust’ off the money!”
So we had a brief discussion about the history of “In God We Trust,” which I had written about before. I was actually able to sit back and watch – the SIL who will be voting for Obama pretty much described what I had written (thanks for listening, A!). The conversation stopped when someone came back from picking up lunch and we moved on to sunnier – and less explosive – topics.
But a couple of house later, my nephew (the 13-year-old) came in and asked the same question. All but one of hte five adults in the room (his mother was the one) indicated Obama. He freaked out, citing almost precisely what his sister had, adding that Obama was a Muslim who wanted to ruin America’s Christianity.
His mother asked him who told him that, and he replied, “Mr. Powers.” She said she didn’t want to talk about politics, and told him not to bring it up again. (She wasn’t in the room when my niece asked the question, or she may have stifled discussion then, too).
So here’s the deal. These kids go to a Christian private school. So naturally there’s already a focus on religion there. But I am appalled that this Mr. Powers is uttering such inflammatory political statements in front of kids who are old enough to begin considering their own opinions and ideas, given a full cache of facts. There’s a reason they’re not old enough to vote, but they’re surely old enough to be taught to think critically, not just to spew out what’s been uttered by trusted adults.
This is disturbing. I love my sister-in-law and her family. They have been very happy since they found this church, but she has also become very conservative and – as demonstrated in the interaction Saturday – stifling. She’s not open-minded, and I’m not interested in starting a family feud. But I am gravely worried about these kids. They are not choosing their beliefs, they are mimicking their mom’s. They are not presented with other potential world views. They are given the information needed to keep them “in the fold.”
They’re not my kids; it’s barely my business. But I feel like this is injurous to their mental growth, and they are both extremely bright, with great potential in this world. I want to help them find a way to use that potential for the greater good, not for pushing an ancient and manipulative agenda.