The Nature of Catechizing
So, Michael Hansen's series opener on liturgy got me to thinking. I'm not committed to a series on catechizing but I am going to let myself explore the topic a little bit in the upcoming weeks. I'd like to start with the general nature of catechizing.
Catechizing is Necessary
Whether you call it "brain washing" or some other derogatory thing, catechizing is in fact the re-wiring of brains to a Christian worldview. It generally consists of asking stocking questions with the student responding with a stock answer. In the Lutheran and Reformed tradition catechisms were written to alter the theological foundation of the church at its source: the home. Thus many "children's catechisms" were written expressly for the education of covenant/baptized children. A return to this is absolutely necessary in the age which we live.
Our age isn't "worse" than others. We just have returned to unconscious secular catechizing. Our TV programs are catechizing us to accept certain principal truths, laugh at certain cultural jokes, and accept "the" conclusive definitions of justice and morality. The commercials interspersed during our TV programs do the same thing. They convince us we need this car, that material, status-symbol product, and a certain self-image (even if the modern flavor is a "non-judgmental" self-image, we're still hearing it most clearly from secular sources). We are catechized by the world every time our television is on. Time does not permit an explication of how the internet does this so just go look at your FB or Twitter feed.
Similarly, all education is catechizing. At best education will ignore religion and the topic of God. Somehow, Christians think this is a good thing. Let me lay it out. If your child is convinced God is not necessary for education, then they will look down on "education" at church. They will correctly presume that God is not necessary for college. And eventually, barring a miraculous grace from God, they will concede the God is not necessary for their career and life. The current state of the United States of America is not from a false religious worldview being taught in public school. It is the result of catechizing children to thinking that knowledge of God is inconsequential to education. In every mode of education, catechizing is a necessity.
Catechizing is Natural
Lest you fear, every person reading this is already catechizing. Lest you grow complacent, your catechizing may in fact be detrimental. Every single action parents, grandparents, etc. perform teaches those around them about what is important. It communicates a worldview. There is no action we make as individuals that is lacking value. Every single thing we do teaches the truths we hold to those around us.
It is a sad fact of our current social climate that we are seeking to dispense with responsibility. Surely we need a warning on hot coffee that the contents are hot. We need to make sure to remove any ability for anyone, anywhere to do something stupid. So let's take away everyone's guns, monitor everyone's driving habits, and make whole cities dispense with plastic bags. We have forgone regulating morality for regulating stupidity. In every case, a society that seeks to dispense with the responsibility never learns to behave appropriately, but they do learn how to behave. Christianity is meant to communicate the opposite. Christ took upon Himself everything that He was not responsible for. The apostles thus teach us to bear with one another and bear each others burdens. You're not only responsible for you, but you are responsible for those around you (to a reasonable brotherly extent). Only in this context can we understand Romans 12-13.
So as Christians we must stand up and take responsibility. Every idle word will be judged because every idle action teaches the world our worldview. We, by necessity, naturally catechize those around us. Those in our house. Those in our church. Those at our workplace. They learn from us by watching us. Perhaps then, we should be concerned that we are naturally catechizing.
<Insert long break where I kicked balloons with Judah>
So the balloon kicking turned into a full evening of activity and eventually sleep. I completely lost track of my flow. I'll just return to this topic with the "The Intentionality of Catechizing" at a later point.