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22 March 2010


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Will do you any history of religion? It was really the only missing thread that jumped out at me reading through your list, and I think it's fairly important for understanding where we are now: the birth of fundamentalism (using that term correctly, not as a slur), decline of mainline denominations, Vatican II, the rise of the Religious Right and increase in political ecumenism between formerly hostile evangelicals and Catholics.


I probably will, but I will be covering it within my family. This list includes the topics I will be teaching to the children of two other families (who are, incidentally, not Catholic). I think it would be difficult for me to teach a lot of that material to other people's children, and probably inappropriate; in other cases, it's just not that important to the other families (for example, the changes to the liturgy after Vatican II are very important to our family, but not so much to the children of our non-Catholic friends -- at least not so much that it's appropriate to dedicate scarce instruction time to it). We have time to cover additional material on our own as necessary.

Some of it will come up naturally as I teach other topics. It's hard to understand the landslide election of Reagan, for example, without understanding a re-forming of political alliances including the evangelicals and Catholics...


That is interesting to me - you've got no shortage of hotly-debated topics to cover already, so why do you think it would be uniquely difficult or inappropriate to teach religious history?

Here's my pitch: American religiosity today is a huge anomaly. All other developed nations are pretty thoroughly secularized. Knowing something about why that is strikes me as extremely relevant to people of all faiths or none.


Because I believe it's the job of the parents to teach in depth questions of theology, faith, and morals to their children. I don't appropriate that job from someone else unless I'm specifically tasked to do it. And what I've been asked to do is teach "American history," not Church history or even the history of religion in America.

I also am teaching world history to the same kids. Obviously I covered things like the German and English Protestant revolutions. But I didn't in that group teach much about the theological differences between the groups except what was necessary to understand the facts of what happened.

These are nine-, ten-, eleven-year-old kids. We have plenty to work with in our sessions together, and I *am* covering the Church in America in greater detail with my own son separately. But (for example) the Quaker family of the young man I teach undoubtedly wants to spend more time on the very interesting history of the Quaker people in the US than Ion the Catholic history, and time is limited. You see?


I think this is a fascinating way of teaching history and makes so much more sense to me than a strictly chronological approach. Thank you so much for sharing.

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