It seems hard to imagine that there is a more important question than the effect Charlotte Clinton’s birth will have on the 2016 presidential race. But there is.
I don’t mean more important in terms of national or global history. If Grandma Hillary decides watching this child’s first years isn’t all that important, she may indeed run, possibly treating us to at least four more years of a Democrat White House. The consequences of that cannot be understated.
But I refer to an importance that reaches into the heart and soul— literally— of every marriage and every family.
We all send the new parents (and grandparents) every blessing on the occasion of this beautiful child’s arrival. It is a busy time, filled with the waves of new experiences that will fill stories told for generations. This unique moment is buoyed by the singular love directed toward the child by every layer of her celebrating family.
Soon, it will be time to evaluate whether that love extends to one of the most important parts of a child’s life. Soon it will be time to instruct her on the basics of faith. And that means Methodist-raised Mom Chelsea and Jewish Dad Marc Mezvinsky have a decision to make.
One of them must convert.
This does not have to happen tomorrow. But it cannot wait for the inevitable questions which can crop up well before kindergarten, when children ask us about God. And Jesus. And where we all came from, and where we all go.
These are the most important questions our children ask us in early life. They should not spark a family theological debate.
When little boys or girls are old enough to be curious about these wondrous issues, they deserve a rite of passage that is one of childhood’s greatest joys— the loving guidance of the parents’ beliefs instilled through the teachings and habits that lead to a child of strong faith.
So how will it go when little Charlotte hears the Christmas carols of the season, perhaps as soon as 2017, and asks: “Who is Jesus? Is he God’s son?”
How sad if the answer is something like, “Well, sweetheart, Mommy thinks He is but Daddy does not.”
My bias toward belief in Jesus as a personal savior does not extend to my wish to impose this on the young couple. The only thing I do wish to impose, and I would impose it on all couples envisioning children is: get on the same page religiously.
This is actually a very good idea even if no kids (or no further kids) are planned. Since floating this concept to an occasionally stunned radio audience, I have been regaled with stories of happy couples that are mixed Christian and Jewish, mixed Christian and Muslim, mixed Jewish and agnostic, mixed Christian and atheist— there may have been a Buddhist-Quaker union in there somewhere, all informing me how delightfully happy they are.
I’m sure. But there is a level of peace and satisfaction that can only be achieved when your life partner shares your view of the most important issues anyone will ever consider.
I am well aware that adults may finesse their way through disagreements on such matters. Maybe they sideline it if it comes up at Thanksgiving. Maybe they celebrate secularized Christmas. Maybe they just don’t talk about it at all, opting to focus instead on a blissful shared view of movies, food or pastimes.
I do not doubt these couples’ love. But there is no equivalent to the loving experience of a life walked together on the same path of faith. This is not possible when his heart yearns for a church while hers points toward a mosque, or when she wants to attend a synagogue while he just wants to watch football.
But again, adults may reach whatever agreements get them to the altar, if that is where they are so intent on going, even without the desire to experience the unparalleled closeness of unified belief.
But shall we encourage the conscious decision to bring children into the world with the certainty of a mixed faith message from the most important teachers they will ever have? I wonder if we can re-introduce ourselves to the world of paving the way for the best for our children from the moment of their birth, even if it means adjusting our lives to do so.
We can surely engage in a month-long snit over how Adrian Peterson went overboard in the spanking department, but it raises hardly an eyebrow to deliver to a child a lifetime of mixed parental messages on the subject of salvation. Maybe it’s because there are no accompanying photographs of children conflicted over life’s most compelling questions due to parents who cannot get on the same page about them.
I have received a snootful of lectures about how “we cannot control whom we fall in love with.” True enough, but we can control whom we marry and we can surely weigh the best interests of any resulting children. it is a measure of our societal callousness on this point that the suggestion I am making is viewed as mightily obnoxious.
How dare I suggest how the Mezvinskys should raise their baby? Because if they whistle blithely down the interfaith path, I apparently care more about a cohesive, sensible religious upbringing for their child than they do.
And if that seems to take presumption to a whole new level, pause and listen to the cacophony of the modern world, containing loud advice for every parental decision from corporal punishment to diet. My wish for the Clinton baby involves something far more important.
Today’s self-absorptions often interrupt a child’s very right to be born. So what an outlandish affront it must be to suggest that a decision to being forth a child should be accompanied by a promise to that child of a coherent religious upbringing.
I know full well that mixed marriages can yield children of solid faith, and that many kids divert sharply from whatever guidance parents provide. But neither of those points obviate the desirability of providing the ideal faith environment for every child— a Mom and Dad agreeing on what they will be taught about God.