I did not have any training on religions other than Christianity until I was in my 12th grade Bible class at a private Christian school. Even then, it was just a chart with listed differences between many of the world’s main religions – not an in depth comparison. Many homeschooling families I know believe it is extremely damaging to expose children to any sort of false belief systems as it may lead children astray or cause them to become enamored and deceived. I agree with this to a certain point. We’ve discussed before the importance of creating a healthy appetite in our children for truth, stories that build character and clearly portray good vs. evil.
We are quickly moving through our Sonlight Core B history. Core B is the first year of two years of World History. Naturally, this year we are studying many ancient civilizations. The great thing about Sonlight is that they use living books and are devoted to providing quality children’s literature throughout the entire year. I cannot say enough good things about Sonlight’s history. They have a very mission-minded focus throughout their curriculum. This is portrayed in a variety of ways, from the THUMB prayer focus each week (Tribals, Hindus, Unreached, Muslims, Buddhists) as well as books such as From Akebu to Zapotece, a Book of Bibleless Peoples. I think it is highly informative to the girls when we actively pray for and learn about people who do not have the gospel. Not only does it give us a heart for God’s kingdom being spread throughout the earth, it gives us a glimpse into the humanity of the people.
This week, we have been learning about Buddha and Confucius and how they impacted the earth with their thoughts. Instead of glossing over and hurrying through the descriptions in the non-religious Usborne books we have, we have stopped along the way for some quick site-seeing opportunities. Gautama Buddah (the founder of Buddhism) was a pretty interesting fellow. He had a sincere desire to help the poor around him whom he saw living wretched lives. He gave up all his family’s wealth and began to pursue a life of “less” and helping the poor. Rather than just painting Buddhism with a broad “false religions” brush and moving on, we talked about his life and what we think were some of the Torah-observant ideas he had. What things did he do for the poor that were honoring to God? Confucius taught people to honor their parents and ancestors as well as the authorities in their lives. This is a wonderful, God-honoring idea at its core. These ancient religious are corrupted with ancestor worship, “enlightenment,” and reincarnation. However, by realizing that the people were merely human, we can recognize God’s heart for them. We also can look at where they went wrong and see that any one of us without the help of the Holy Spirit is able to be deceived. Good intentions do not bring about salvation, but I believe it is very significant for my girls to see WHY Yeshua’s plan of salvation is the answer for all of humanity. In Torah, we see that God’s instructions for life were specific and different from the cultures around them. We see His people thriving, even though they rebel almost every generation and have to be brought back to His ways again and again. As we see His fingerprints on the history of His people, it helps us appreciate His plan to spread His glory to the four corners of the earth. We are filled with gratitude when we understand that He is not a moody, finicky god bent on destroying our crops and killing our children. He is not harsh with us, reminding us every day as we awake to the world of being untouchable that we deserved this and maybe we can somehow earn our way to a different life next time around.
Comparing religions is about so much more than listing the differences in a chart. I want my children to see the living, breathing dynamics and how they shaped our world. If that cannot convince us of the beauty of the gospel, I don’t know what can. I want them to see the truth of how the church behaved down through the ages. Can I pretend that our own history is unmarred? I can guard my children’s hearts by exposing them to measured forays into the world of other belief systems, where they are exposed to enough to make them learn how to think and ask questions – but also how to pray. By providing a safe environment for them to discuss ideas, I prayerfully can prevent a serious crisis of faith such as the one I had as a young adult in college when I realized for the first time that the whole world is not all Christian. This is sparking a new passion in me for intercession. It is not that great a leap from Buddha’s heart for the poor to understanding Yeshua’s own love for them. We have to pray that the seeds of truth God plants in His creation will blossom forth into an uncorrupted understanding of Him and His nature. Talk about receiving His kingdom!