Wednesday

Writer claims that God teaches narcissism

A recent blog posted by Deborah Mitchell, or TXBlue08, on CNN has caught my attention. Mitchell, who is a mother of teenagers, authors a blog called "Kids Without Religion."

In a CNN iReport, "Why I Raise My Children Without God", Mitchell explains that she writes the blog because she '... just felt there is not a voice out there for women/moms like me. I think people misunderstand or are fearful of people who don’t believe in God.'

In the first part of this series, I addressed her first point, God is a bad parent and a role model, then we looked at God is not logical and God is not fair. Last week we considered God does not protect the innocent and God is not present.


Today's post is the last in this series and we will attempt to answer Mitchell's claims that God does not teach children to be good and God teaches Narcissism.

Mitchell writes:

God Does Not Teach Children to Be Good

A child should make moral choices for the right reasons. Telling him that he must behave because God is watching means that his morality will be externally focused rather than internally structured. It’s like telling a child to behave or Santa won’t bring presents. When we take God out of the picture, we place responsibility of doing the right thing onto the shoulders of our children. No, they won’t go to heaven or rule their own planets when they die, but they can sleep better at night. They will make their family proud. They will feel better about who they are. They will be decent people.

Mitchell's claim that "a child should make moral choices for the right reasons" is correct. I also agree that parents who only teach that children should be good because God is watching are not raising their kids right. Growing up in a Christian household, there were some things that terrified me,  such as The Rapture, and the fact that I would not be pleasing to God. Thankfully, as I grew as a Christian, the Lord calmed those fears and let me know that I am his child and I came to realize that The Rapture is a contrived fiction. As a Nazarene, I always knew that I had free will and that I made my own choices. Unfortunately, the dominant portion of Christianity - and the one that has taken over the publishing world - believes that whatever happens is God's will and that if you sin you were not really saved in the first place.

For a parent to simply tell a child that he or she must be good because God is watching is unsatisfactory. It teaches a child to look at God as a cosmic policeman ready to strike him or her the moment the child makes a false move. I tried to teach my children that God was watching but it was because he loved them not because he was waiting to strike them down. God watches because he wants to protect and guide. I think they had more fear of me and their father finding out they were doing something wrong than they did God. However, whenever we disciplined them we took them aside after the emotions had calmed and explained to them why they had been punished. We talked about right and wrong and the consequences of good and bad behavior. We talked about doing what was right because it was right. We also told them that God would be pleased if they behaved well because the Ten Commandments tell us that children are to obey their parents in the Lord because it is right. In Ephesians it is written that this is the only commandment with a promise. If children obey their parents it will go well for them on the earth. Working in the court system, I have seen firsthand that this is true.. Those children who are taught to respect authority tend not end up in the court system as defendants, while those who are not taught to respect authority tend to end up in the court system wondering why everyone is against them.

God Teaches Narcissism

“God has a plan for you.” Telling kids there is a big guy in the sky who has a special path for them makes children narcissistic; it makes them think the world is at their disposal and that, no matter what happens, it doesn’t really matter because God is in control. That gives kids a sense of false security and creates selfishness. “No matter what I do, God loves me and forgives me. He knows my purpose. I am special.” The irony is that, while we tell this story to our kids, other children are abused and murdered, starved and neglected. All part of God’s plan, right?

No, it's wrong. Abuse, murder, starvation and neglect are not part of God's plan. Any Christian who believes that needs to reexamine the Bible and weigh what it says against several views, rather than depending on one theology to inform his or her worldview.

It is also wrong to claim that God teaches narcissism. True narcissism is an extreme form of self-focus, or egocentricity. According to PscyhCentral,

    Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or actual behavior), an overwhelming need for admiration, and usually a complete lack of empathy toward others. People with this disorder often believe they are of primary importance in everybody's life or to anyone they meet.

And, yes, I do know Christians like that. Thank God for his mercy on all of us.

The Bible teaches that God has a plan for his people. One of the most popular verses that people love to quote is Jeremiah 29: 11: "'For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

It's a great verse but it often removed from the context in which it was written. In this case, the children of Israel had moved away from God and the Lord was trying to bring them back. He wanted Israel to follow his plan rather than their own selfish desires. Throughout the scriptures selfishness is condemned.

The emphasis on God's plan for people comes from the church, not the Bible. I have said before that Ms. Mitchell's problem is with the church, not with God. From what I surmise from scripture, God's plan is to bring the entire world to himself. The plan he has for us is to help him carry out his plan. Any gifts we have are to be used for that purpose. In the meanwhile, the Lord blesses us with happiness, peace and joy. He also helps us overcome difficulty and heartache. Sometimes he blesses us with material possessions or money, but those are to be used to further his plan. It's not about us. It's about him.

Mitchell concludes:

When we raise kids without God, we tell them the truth—we are no more special than the next creature. We are just a very, very small part of a big, big machine–whether that machine is nature or society–the influence we have is minuscule. The realization of our insignificance gives us a true sense of humbleness.

The writings of the saints show that they thought this very thing the longer they knew God!

I understand why people need God. I understand why people need heaven. It is terrifying to think that we are all alone in this universe, that one day we—along with the children we love so much—will cease to exist. The idea of God and an afterlife gives many of us structure, community and hope.

I do not want religion to go away. I only want religion to be kept at home or in church where it belongs. It’s a personal effect, like a toothbrush or a pair of shoes. It’s not something to be used or worn by strangers. I want my children to be free not to believe and to know that our schools and our government will make decisions based on what is logical, just and fair—not on what they believe an imaginary God wants.

As long as we live in a free society, the people of the church will be able to publicly express their feelings. True religion will always be expressed outside the home or church. It is a lifestyle not something that we hide. As we get to know God more he molds and shapes us. Sometimes the changes he makes are offensive to others because they are not there. People who work in the schools and in government should be able to make decisions based upon their consciences and if those consciences are molded by God then so be it. One who truly loves God will not self-righteously shove his or her religion down anyone's throats. They will simply do what is right without pretense.