Monday, 9 February 2009

"Foster carer should prevent conversion"

A 50 year old Christian foster carer has been struck off the register because a 16 year-old girl in her care became a Christian (reported here and here). I imagine that the social services are concerned that she could be rejected from her Muslim community of origin, because of her decision to be baptised. Perhaps they are concerned that Muslims will not trust social services to care for children if this is 'permitted' to happen - perceived proselytism. But as social services don't comment on individual cases, and as neither of those reasons are really ones that may be voiced aloud, we'll probably be left to guess. It seems to be assumed that all the religions are wrong - after all, it's just to do with culture. Faith should be ok - culturally expressed. But what good is faith in something untrue, unreal? Surely a healthier position in the biggest scale of things is to believe in the truth, whatever it is? But if we rule out of question that there is a bigger Truth, then we must cry horrors when someone changes from one view to another - because clearly that's just cultural imperalism.

How much can a carer preserve the culture of origin? How much should they treat a child differently to the rest of the family? Surely you'd expect a child to be welcomed in to share in the family. So a family I know foster babies - and usually, because no-one else seems to want to foster them, mixed race baby boys. Welcomed into the family for however long, they build up a photobook as requested by social services, for the child to have a record of their childhood. So do you want photos of their first Christmas, surrounded by the loving family, having fun, photos of the boy in church, being looked after by everyone, or should they be photos of him on his own, just in case he doesn't end up in a Christian family? Photos of him definitely not taking part in Christmas, in case he is later adopted into a Muslim family? What about if he's older, and asks to come to church with the family? What if...?

In the Republic of Ireland, it's illegal to be involved in an under-16 year old changing religion - including changing conviction from Roman to Protestant. Not few are the teenagers who come to trust in the finished work of Christ yet are made to continue to attend mass by their parents. It's hard. I always thought we were more free in Britain - or anyway, that we cared more for the right of the individual than for the preservation of the community. That's not necessarily an intrinsically good thing, but apparently, all it takes to change that is for the community to potentially not be happy. Then we run scared. At least in Ireland, there is an official age at which a child is 'permitted' to convert! After that, only social pressure will be exerted. Here, it seems the arm of the law will be exerted. The authorities have said that the 16 year old 'should stay away from church for 6 months'. She's caught a disease, and must be quarantined. It's as if they've learned from other countries who try to stop conversions - isolate them, don't let them near other Christians; tell them they're abandoning their own culture, tell them they'll lose their family. The only thing that's missing is jail.

You can't play make-believe with your whole life: when you welcome a child into the family, you share your life - not just some 'material' aspects. That would be bad parenting. If you believe that God doesn't exist, you will raise the child accordingly - and I consider that to be bad parenting, as it suppresses the fundamental reality of the universe. But you have the right to believe and live that faith position, whether as a parent or foster carer - you can't pretend otherwise. If you believe that Jesus is God incarnate, and will come again to save us from God's wrath and rule over a new creation in loving righteousness, then you will raise or care for a child accordingly - and some may consider that to be irresponsible parenting, as they think that is a fairy tale. But you have the right to believe and live that faith position, whether as a parent or a foster carer - you can't pretend otherwise.

Now, I might be wrong here, but would social services really want to alienate or get rid of all the Christians from their register? I'm sure there are some others who foster...


Chris said...

grief, that's tragic...and slightly terrifying!

RobHu said...

I thought this was a great article, thanks.

You say "Not few are the teenagers who come to trust in the finished work of Christ yet are made to continue to attend mass by their parents". Does this mean you think those things are mutually exclusive? If so, why?

étrangère said...

Hey Rob, thanks for commenting - it seems that following many years of interacting on the web (some of which you may not remember, as students on those good ol' / horrendous uccf discussion boards!), we were in the same place at JB's 30th party some time ago, but I didn't realise it. Hohum! As for your question, it's a good one - thanks. The RC catechism states that "As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which 'Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed' is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out." It's a perpetual sacrifice, a re-presenting of what it rightly says is an accomplished work. Now the catechism itself is theologically nuanced, but coupled with the fact that Trent pronounced an anathema on anyone who says that they are sure that they are saved (on the basis of that finished sacrifice), it means that on the ground the 2 are mutually exclusive, yes. At least in Ireland, France, Belgium, Spain, etc., (my experience of England is more limited), the act of the mass does contrast to faith in the work of Christ as finished for all time. That is, I know that one can see it as applying and making present the accomplished work of Christ and thereby perpetuating it, not undermining faith in its once-for-all-time accomplishment - but for most, they hear/see that they must participate in the mass to continue being in the Church, to continue receiving God's grace, to continue participating in the sacrifice of Christ. The message my RC friends got in Ireland was not, "Trust in Christ's finished work once for all and therefore (and thereby) join with his people in celebration of it until he comes again," but "Keep coming to mass or you'll die in your sins." In the catechisms and articles it's a subtle distinction, but in practice, it's miles apart. Does that make sense? I'd love it if you were to tell me of experiencing it differently?

RobHu said...

I had no idea we'd been interacting on the UCCF discussion boards. I wonder when that was - as (as you may know) I went through a period of being a very committed follower of our Lord, then backslid rather horribly and became an enemy, and now have been (thankfully) returned to my former state.

I knew I'd seen étrangère at JB's 30th, but I had no idea I'd interacted with étrangère before! Perhaps you could fill me in on what I was like / how we interacted?

Your comments there were helpful - I'm broadly in agreement with the general point I think you were making about the RC church / RC doctrine. It's helpful to know your thinking of how that applies here more specifically, but the question was not because I disagreed but because I forwarded your post on to some friends, one of whom responded with the question that I posted to you.

I thought it was a fair and reasonable question, but I doubted that that person would post here on their own behalf. So I thought I'd ask it myself, and act as a kind of proxy :-)

RobHu said...

Oh - and to clarify (based on your explanation here - which I haven't checked, but if it's correct...) then we'd be in agreement.

étrangère said...

Thanks Rob - it was a good question, so thanks for taking the time to ask in proxy :)

You've been more consistent in your screen names - I didn't use the étrangère until I went to Belgium and started this 'ere blog - before then I would've been more simply rosemarygrier on the discussion boards (hm, '01-'04 or whenever they died). I can't remember much about how you interacted, except that I noticed it become more negative over time, ending up on the science question. I tended to keep an eye out for questions which begged a helpful response. On graduation I did Relay in Nottingham when Pod was a staffworker, so stayed aware of how you were doing as I saw through your blogs that you were friends. And saw you'd connected with Tiffer - fellow Warwickite :) So yes, strange connections without knowing you have meant that I have prayed for you and rejoiced when you returned to the Lord! You know the church is strange, so that shouldn't weird you out.

Stanton said...

Thanks for this. and well said.

Ironically, if the council officers have asked the girl to reconsider her decision then they are engaged in a form of proselytism don't you think?