Last Sunday morning my daughter wasn't at our house. She was at her friend's house. We were already facing a busy day of taking our other kid places and running errands for my mother. Then my daughter called and said, "They want to take me to church. Should I go?" It sounded totally reasonable. They'd drop her off on the way home. The end. 

I should tell you that I grew up fluctuating between Catholicism and Atheism with few spots in between. I went to Catholic high school and college. My husband's family went from Catholic to Evangelical before his birth. Both of us attended Buddhist temples and I was a women's studies major. Also? My ex-husband entered the seminary when we were still married and we lived in graduate seminary housing among people of many faiths in Berkeley, California on what's known as Holy Hill. So I go into this with a pretty strong background in all things Western religion.

My background is what made me say, "Sure! Go have a learning experience. It will be interesting." We've raised our kids in a household where religion isn't really a factor. Sometimes I feel bad about this. I got to rebel against my religion. My daughter doesn't really have anything to rebel against. I think of all the friends' churches that I went to as a kid. I went to Mormon, Baptist, Methodist, and Episcopalian churches. I went to a Four Square Gospel. All I remember is lots of singing and praising and a generally kind Sunday morning followed by sugary treats in a meeting hall.

This is not at all what my daughter got. My daughter was told her aunt and grandmothers were going to hell for being lesbians and that Planned Parenthood clinics across America should be closed by any means necessary. My daughter learned about sex in the most shameful terms possible and she learned about abortion. When she came home, I spent the rest of the afternoon in tears trying to sort out each thing she was told and offer her some perspective. That 90 minutes of church ruined our whole day and forced a sex ed talk I wasn't planning on having any time soon. I thought church was rated G and it turns out it that this church trip was rated R.

I write this with 20/20 hindsight. If people offer or ask to take your kid to church, you need to ask the following questions:

1. What topics will be discussed? What will the sermons be on? 

2. Is the church inclusive or exclusive?

3. Does the church respect science and scientific discovery?

4. Will talk about sex be involved?

5. Will there be talk about doing good things in the world, like charity?

6. Will there be talk about domestic terrorism?

It's really no different than someone taking your kid to the movies. You'd want to know whether they were going to experience violence, hatred, or sex, right?

It's been quite the learning experience to be thrust into a sex talk at least a year before you planned to have it, and I suppose it was going to happen sometime. But every parent should have the right to determine when their kids are ready to face all issues in this big bad world.

More on Kids and Church:

8 Tips to Make Your Young Kids Feel Comfortable at Church

Katie Holmes' Great Escape: What TomKat Can Teach Us about Interfaith Parenting

Mommy, What's a God? (and other quesitons of myth and religion)

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