Ever since I started gathering a community of Unfundamentalist Christian parents, people have asked, what does it mean to be, or aspire to be, an Unfundamentalist Christian parent? The term is a mouthful and the meaning a little fuzzy, so I thought I’d come up with a guide for YOU to determine whether you are trying to parent as an unfundamentalist Christian.
You are an Unfundamentalist Christian parent if you:
- Are parenting with a shifting faith – We all know there is a wide range of theological convictions under the big umbrella of the Christian faith, and the various doctrines are worth wrestling with in our own hearts and minds as well as in civil dialogue with our communities. But unfundamentalist parents hold our variant convictions with an open hand, and most of us have had changes of hearts in regards to doctrines we have held. We know that faith is fluid and evolves, and some of the best things that have happened to our own faith is because we have had the courage to change our minds.
- Are a Christian parent who often has doubts – Unfundamentalist parenting is to let go of certitude. We have seen the way certainty of absolute truth has caused harm to communities as human doubts are shut down, and genuine questioning is swept under the rug. Because we allow room for doubts, we have moments of weak faith and perhaps even periods of loss of faith.
- Reject hierarchical parental authority, especially as a spiritual mandate – Unfundamentalist parents are uncomfortable requiring children to submit to parents under harsh and strict discipline. Something in our gut tells us this isn’t what is best for our children, and when done in the name of God, it is even more suspect. We seek gentle parenting methods, and believe the way of Jesus, one who gives up power, as a better model in parenting.
- Don’t try to evangelize your children – When Jesus says welcome the little ones, He says the Kingdom already belongs to them. You are an unfundamentalist Christian parent if you believe our children have just as much to teach us as we have to teach them. If you believe God gave our children such vibrant imaginations to help us think outside of the box. Unfundamentalist Christians don’t think of children as prone to evil and born sinners, but image bearers born into an imperfect world wired for struggle. We believe our children are our equal partners in ushering more peace, love, and justice into the world.
- Think there’s no such thing as other people’s children – Children are precious everywhere, regardless of nationality, religion, sexual orientation, race, and culture. It is not okay if in order for our children to thrive, we have to buy them products made from child labor in another part of the world. Our liberation is bound up together. For our children to live a life of wholeness, we must also advocate for children everywhere.
- Believe in gender equality – We don’t want our daughters to grow up believing their only purpose is to marry a man and live in submission to him. We don’t want our sons to be exposed to toxic masculinity where they must prove themselves strong and egotistical and never show emotions. We don’t want our girls to be shamed for not looking like the bodies in magazines or our boys to be shamed for their developing sexuality. We want to deconstruct toxic and rigid gender roles, and fight for a world in which our children grow to be men and women who have mutual love and respect in healthy relationships.
- Fight against homophobia – We are tired of Christian culture wars against beloved GLBTQ bearers of God’s image. We want to extend love and nothing less to GLBTQ children and youth. We can’t stand to see any more of them rejected by their parents, cast out of their homes, and killed in clubs or on the streets.
- Strive for racial equality – Unfundamentalist parents recognize the brokenness of racial tensions and want to learn about how to dismantle systemic racism, starting in our own homes with our own children. We want our children to see representation of different race and ethnicities in children’s lit and cultivate empathy in the experiences of those who have different skin color.
- Believe in connection over boundary marking – We want to build a larger table, not a higher fence. We don’t want our children to grow up afraid of those who have different religions, beliefs, and convictions, but to connect and partner with them to do good in the world. Unfundamentalist parenting is to not fear those who are different but to find common ground and even learn from those beyond our own worldview.
- Desire fresh imagination in old religious rituals – Despite woundedness for some of us from the religiosity of our past, we still find beauty in rituals and desire to cultivate spirituality in our children. However, we want to discard toxicity so our children have less to unlearn. We want to explore imaginative ways of tapping into our connection with God through Scripture, prayer, community, and exercise Christian charity and service to our neighbors.
How many of these did you identify with?
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