Like many of my childhood friends, I was taught religion through a method known as “catechism,” which is a method of questions and answers. The child does not get to ask her or his own questions, nor does the child have a say in the answers. Both questions and answers are finished products that the child is supposed to memorize. I suppose I emerged from catechism intact, but I hated the whole process for a reason I did not understand at the time.
A catechism class can be an act of violence from which some children never fully recover. To teach religion as a bunch of finished answers robs a child of intellectual agency and asks them to see the world through someone else’s eyes. It is hard to imagine a violation more intrusive.
Fortunately for me, by the time I reached confirmation age, I had already figured out that the adults didn’t know what they were talking about. I realized they were just repeating the answers they had been given by the same process. So, I was not intellectually hobbled by confirmation class, but, I never lost the chip on my shoulder for the educational bullying of children.
A child’s mind and heart are sacred tender things that need to be honored and protected. I’m not saying a child should have to figure out the world without adult help. We do have answers to share, but they are our answers not the child’s. A child will not live their whole lives in our world. They will live in a future world we cannot comprehend. Children will need to outgrow much of what we teach them. We need to approach religious teaching with great humility. Their questions will guide them much further into the future, than will our answers.