Everything But the Baby: Rethinking the Ed in Religious Ed

I have updated my update to “What’s Really Wrong with Catholic Religious Education? Everything” to include links to a wide variety of responses. The conversation continues here and in comboxes and on social media, and starting Monday the Patheos Catholic Channel home page will have a central link to posts tagged Rethinking Religious Education. But today’s post from my friend and Patheos neighbor Sam Rocha deserves, I think, an endorsement all its own.

Sam, a philosopher and father and educator and enthusiastic-but-impossible-to-pigeonhole Catholic, is the author of A Primer for Philosophy & Education—a tiny little book with a lighted match on its cover for good reason, because it has set off quite a tick tick boom among folks who care about the love of wisdom (which should be everybody, right?).

Sam’s response takes the Everything in the title of my original post very seriously. He suggests that trying to fix religious education—no matter what the age of the “student” or the politics or preparedness or methods of the “teacher”—is just so much deckchair shuffling on a sinking cruise ship called the Scholastica.

In our parishes and churches, the sacraments have been schooled. We treat them as we would a high school diploma. A religious credential.

Catechesis, then, has often become the schooling for the credentials of the sacraments. This is the logic of most religious education nowadays, even the ones that seem to be thoughtful and alternative thinking. There are no alternatives to schooling today. Our Church itself, the ecclesial structure and bureaucracy and petty ethics, has been schooled.

Francis is radical because he is an unschooled pope.

Please read it all, and let Sam and me know what you think.

Many readers took me to task for throwing out the baby with the bathwater by suggesting (as a thought-provoker) that we envision Catholic religious education that wasn’t child centered. Sam goes further, asking us to unschool faith formation entirely. He’s suggesting, in other words, that we throw out the bathwater and the classroom and the teacher and the progress reports and the homework, all of it. Everything but the baby.

Tick tick boom.


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