An anonymous woman has made headlines for writing into Slate’s Dear Prudence for advice, asking how she should deal with a child who insists on preaching Jesus’ love to her 7-year-old son.
What are the details?
The woman, whose message is signed, “Don’t Preach to My Kid, Kid,” explains that she and her husband — who are both “non-religious” and who have decided to raise their children without religion — don’t appreciate that one of their son’s friends — who is Mormon — continues to be vocal about the faith his parents passed down to him.
The woman wrote, “My problem is this kid is REALLY pushy with his religion. Pretty much every time they spend time together this kid is trying to teach mine about a Bible story or giving him religious presents or talking about how Jesus loves him.”
“We have talked to our son about how people believe different things that we don’t, but lately he has been asking questions about the Bible, or why we don’t go to church more often,” the woman complained. “To be clear, I don’t blame my son’s friend. I know Mormons typically teach their kids to proselytize to others, and the boy isn’t really old enough to know better.”
The woman, who clearly doesn’t appear to understand the concept of God’s love and forgiveness, said that she does not want her son to “learn these things” and appeared to suggest that children are manipulated into doing the “right thing” out of fear of God’s punishment.
“But I don’t really want my son to learn these things,” she added. “I don’t want him to be religious, honestly. I want him to learn that you should be a good person and do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, not because God will punish you if you don’t.”
The woman said that she reached out to the child’s parents, who apparently brushed off her concerns.
“I don’t want to stop him from spending time with this friend, but I don’t really want my son to get some of these religious ideas in his head so young,” she continued. “I have considered talking to this kid about it, but I am concerned that that would be inappropriate since I’m not his parent, and therefore shouldn’t really be interfering with his religious upbringing.”
Slate’s “Prudence” — transgender author Daniel Lavery, who grew up in an evangelical Christian family — responded, “I’m completely on your side here. There’s nothing wrong with your son learning about other religions, but I wouldn’t be happy with anyone — kid or not — trying to make my children follow a certain religion.”
Lavery added that the woman has “every right” to address her concerns with her 7-year-old son’s friend.
“If his friend said, ‘You should run across this busy street with me. It would be fun,’ would you think, ‘I don’t know … it’s not my place to intervene because I’m not his parent?’ No, you would step in immediately. The same rule applies in any instance that relates to what’s best for your child.”
Lavery continued, “I think it’s fine to tell the kid that you don’t want to hear any talk about salvation, Jesus, the Bible, or anything else while he’s playing with your son, and that if it continues, then playtime is over.”
Lavery also said that the woman should “coach” her child to shut down any Christian talk if necessary.
“If his friend won’t stop talking about religion, then you need to show how serious you are by ending the playdate right then and there,” Lavery continued. “If it comes to that, then I would reach out to his parents to explain how you don’t feel comfortable with your son taking part in those conversations at his age. They may get offended, but if they’re reasonable, they should fall in line.”
Lavery’s advice concluded, “The bottom line is everyone has a right to believe what they want to believe, but that doesn’t mean they have to push those beliefs on your family.”