Monday, October 22, 2012


"What is your only comfort in life and in death?"
-The Heidelberg Catechism, Question 1
One of the ways Christians have attempted to retain the faith and understanding of God in their community is by the use of the catechism.  This has largely fallen out of favor over time, but it was in the same vein as the Jewish use of the Torah, teaching children from their youth to remember and understand God.  
Unlike the memorization and repetition of the Koran to Muslim youth, catechism is a system of questions and answers meant to explain and illuminate scripture, a sort of systematic method of explaining God's word and the truth to young people.
One of the best of these is called the Heidelberg Catechism which combines theology, dogma, and comfort in a wonderful package that I return to again and again to study, read, and think about.  This catechism was written in the 16th century and was used by fathers to teach children day after day.  It is laid out in 52 weeks - one for each week of the year - and covers every aspect of Christian theology.  The Apostle's Creed, the ten commandments, the Lords Prayer, the sacraments and so on are all covered, in question and answer form to make remembering and understanding easier.  It is heavily notated with Biblical references supporting the points made.
This system, if followed, tends to result in very well-informed young people who understand their faith, are better at living it out, applying it to everything they do, and passing it on.  It means that young people are equipped to face life with a Christian worldview, are able to understand what they read and see better through the lens of their faith, and it also means they are better leaders for the future in their Church and community.
Because of this sort of catechism, great leaders in the western world arose and became very influential and beneficial to the world at large.  Artists, composers, scientists, philosophers, teachers, pastors, writers, politicians, doctors, explorers, and more learned and grew up in this system and then went on to change the world.  Sadly, in an anti-intellectual, lazy, and selfish society, we've reached a point where parents are not inclined to try to teach their kids in this way, think its too advanced for the young people to understand, and the kids are so ill-disciplined and squirelly they won't sit and listen.
Some families do still do this, though, often home-schooled ones, and I expect our future largely depends on them.  But the pattern here has another application.
Very few young people in America know what the constitution says.  Their history is often based on Howard Zinn's absurd America-bashing fantasies, and their education about justice, law, rights, and liberty is at best sketchy.
What we need is a generation of parents who teach their kids an American Catechism.  A catechism that covers concepts like justice, liberty, virtue, and rights.  A constitution that step by step explains the principles of the founding fathers, how they were to be applied, and what that means.  A catechism that counters the left's destructive ideology, that educates our youth.
Such a catechism would include a step by step explanation of the declaration of independence, the US Constitution, the bill of rights, and the principles of justice for all, equality of man, the concept of rights, the meaning of liberty, the idea of government of, for, and by the people, the meaning of responsibility and virtue in a Republic, concepts of the free market, and the importance of all of these matters in life.
I could take a stab at writing such a thing, but there are surely many more qualified people who could do so.  And while I don't have kids, I'd be more than willing to help parents learn how to use it and teach it to children.  
Imagine this kind of scenario.  Its dinner, and you've all eaten.  The dishes are cleared away and dad brings out the catechism.  They've been doing this for years, each night a new question and answer.  By now the kids are starting to memorize the thing, and when dad asks 
Question 15, Week 6:
What is the source and origin of all our rights?
The kids know to answer:
Our rights come from our creator, and not government.  These rights cannot be taken away or given us by any human structure or government, only protected and identified.
Then the book is put down and the kids ask their questions: what about someone who is jailed, hasn't he lost his rights?  Is there a right to the internet?  Why can't I say whatever I want if I have a right to free speech?
Some of these would be dealt with by other questions and answers, but some would just be discussion based on the rest of the catechism. 
Remember when we read about virtues and responsibilities?  Our rights are all understood within that framework, kids.  You have the right to liberty as a minor, but your free exercise of that is limited until you are old enough to properly handle that and act responsibly.  Until then you are trained and guided by your parents and authorities so that you can best use that right when the time comes.
Imagine a country where at least the more right-leaning families all raised their kids this way.  Imagine the effects of a country where at least those people understood the true meaning of all these concepts, and better than that, what their ramifications and consequences were?
Sure, some of the kids would always reject it.  Most would waver at least some in college because youth tends toward rebellion and leftist cant.  But at least they'd have the tools to face life, the understanding of basic American principles and values to confront the left, and the lens to see the world through which would allow them to best vote, choose, shop, and order their lives.
I don't know.  It just seems like a good idea to me.  What do I know, I don't have any kids.

1 comment:

Alex VanderWoude said...

I'd like to see Thomas Sowell and Bill Whittle team up to write such a catechism...