It’s rare I read an interview where every question is interesting and the responses are even better.
Internetmonk interviewed atheist Valerie Tarico and the exchange is great reading for both religious and non-religious people.
Specifically, the interview is aimed at evangelical Christians. Internetmonk lays out why that is:
1. Evangelicals are constantly mischaracterizing non-theists. We need to listen and not preach.
2. There is some common ground of concern here for many of us, especially in the area of the ethical practices of religions that seek to convert.
3. We need to measure our responses against reality. Some of our typical talking points aren’t very impressive, so we might consider retiring or reworking them.
4. I want to build a bridge. Dr. Tarico is very open to that kind of dialog.
Here’s just one bit:
When you see a church spending large amounts of money on children’s ministries and activities, do you believe this is ethical or unethical? Why?
If you heard that Scientologists were spending large amounts of money on outreach to kids would you believe this was ethical or unethical? What if they offered a subsidized summer camp to inner city kids like Child Evangelism Fellowship does? What if they had a storefront alcohol-free bar for underage skateboarders like City Church does in Ballard, Washington? What if they had teenage tutors slipping colorful invitation cards to kids in public middle schools like Foursquare Church does in Seattle?
Children are hard wired to be credulous, to believe what they are told by adults who have authority over them and who nurture them. It’s the only efficient way for them to pick up all the information they need. They can’t afford to question and test when we tell them stoves burn you or cars squish you, so they’re built to trust us. Because they are vulnerable in this way, we have a particular responsibility not to exploit or abuse that trust. If you believe the exclusive salvific claims of Christian orthodoxy, then the end justifies the means. That, I think is at the heart of children’s ministries. But it’s only fair to admit that children are being offered metaphorical candy – and the ultimate goal of conversion isn’t always up front. One Jewish neighbor sent her daughter to a playful, wholesome youth group at a local mega church because she thought “nondenominational” meant interfaith.
(Thanks to Emma for the link!)