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...
My Joy in the Desert
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