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What to do? Believing Child with Ex-Christian Mom and Siblings

What to do? Believing Child with Ex-Christian Mom and Siblings April 9, 2015

Editor’s Note: The Atheist Ex-Pastor is B-a-a-a-c-k! Where has he been? Writing and promoting his new book, Life Beyond Belief: A Preachers Deconversion. He’s now “out” as Bob Ripley, long-time pastor of a large mainline church in Canada. He’ll tell us about his après book experience in a future post. Right now, he’s responding to a mother with a question she would not have if she had only not questioned her faith.

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Dear Atheist ex-Pastor,

About three years ago I started doubting my faith. At this point I am no longer a Christian. I don’t dismiss a higher being but I believe that if one exists, we are not a priority. My older children understand and have similar feelings. However last week my five year old asked why I don’t attend. I explained that I no longer believe what the church teaches us. She asked if it was still okay to love Jesus and I said yes. Am I doing the right thing letting her attend even though I feel as though she is being lied to? I would love your insight. Thank you for your time,

Jen Eisenhour

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Dear Jen,

These kinds of decisions as parents are particularly challenging as we try to be honest and authentic but at the same time sensitive to the needs of each individual child.  In this case, you have older children who have similar feelings as yourself but it is not easy to explain to a five year old that the friend they have grown to love does not exist.

The issue is not that far removed from the time each parent has to decide to let a child know that, in fact, there is no Santa.  Often older children “spill the beans” to younger siblings which is not the most ideal situation.  In your case the older siblings might be tempted to tell your youngest that there is no Jesus (or something like that).   As a pastor who no longer believes, I would strongly urge that you bring the older siblings aside and explain that it is important for them to understand your reasons for allowing your youngest to continue to attend church, lest they think you are being hypocritical. My hunch is that with the rest of the family absent, your child will gradually drift away from church and opportunities will open up for you to explain why you are no longer a Christian.   At the same time, of course, it is important that your children know how much you love them and that life is wonderful beyond belief.

All the best,

Bob Ripley

Editor’s Question to Readers: What advice would you have given Jen?

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ripley2 photoBio:  Bob Ripley, aka “Dave the Atheist ex-pastor” is a syndicated religion columnist, broadcaster, former preacher and author of Christian devotional material. His new book, which came out in October, 2014 is titled Life Beyond Belief: A Preacher’s Deconversion.

 


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