Mike: That last answer was great!

It really got me thinking…

Answering YOUR question: There are a couple things in there:

A child, once they realize they are capable of being mobile (6-10 months old) is nearly impossible to keep still for an extended period of time. At this age reasoning to stay still and stay quiet is out of the question. There are diversionary tactics that work – sippy cups, baby cookies, books, toys – but that only buys you a certain number of minutes. This lasts until the child develops certain cognitive abilities where they can understand what “stay still and stay quiet” means and they can understand that there are certain consequences for not staying still and not staying quiet when they are in a place where they should be still and quiet (2½ -3 years old).

Attending a church service with a child at this young age requires one parent to be acting as a diversionary tactician for the better part of the full church service. A third of that is usually taking the child out into the lobby and walking around with them so they’re not disturbing everyone else when they begin to go bonkers from sitting cramped in the little bench for an extended period of time.

Once the child is over three years old (if you’ve done your job right as a parent) it is smooth sailing.

If a child is old enough to be running up and down the isle with toy race-cars, then that child should be old enough to understand “stay still and stay quiet”. In that case, it seems to me it’s the result of laxed parenting. Here’s a bit of advice to new parents: If you do your job right at the early stages of your child’s development (which is hard) your child will learn proper ethics and judgement and act on them as they get older (which is easy). Proverbs 13:24 is scripture for a reason. But this is the thing; with proper discipline, you’ll find you rarely need to discipline. I can’t think of the last time I had to actual spank any of my children… last year maybe? Children are smart, and they do what works. If misbehaving doesn’t work, they don’t do it. It’s really that simple.

In the case of Erikson, he’s very well behaved and disciplined. All the kids are actually. The fact Erika was able to walk around downtown New York City last year like a mother hen with all four children in tow and behaving perfectly while I was at MoCCA all weekend is a testament to that. I asked Erika about your specific discussion with her and it confirmed my hunch that in this case, what she was talking about with things being crazy, is that Erikson has had hockey Sunday mornings all winter, so the running around she’s talking about is actually us driving him to the arena to play his hockey game, and then driving back. Anika also has had soccer practices Sunday mornings all year, so we’re also driving her around. After all morning doing that, we have to decide if we want to get dressed up to chase our baby/toddler Markus around a church or just take a timeout in the morning to catch our breath.

And this gets into some other things:

The primary thing I enjoy about a church service is the sermon. However that normally lasts for only a few minutes (5-15minutes?) The rest is standing up, sitting down, singing songs, etc. And that portion of the service I have never really connected with. Adding to that an already exhaustive schedule and a small baby/toddler that can’t stay still, for Erika and myself that adds up to the tipping point. Personally I don’t necessarily feel the need to sit in a church every week to exercise my religious beliefs. I think the internal aspect is far greater. As for our children, they attend a Catholic School, so attending a mass during school hours is already part of their curriculum. And the people we interact with in our daily lives are part of the school and church community, so that aspect in our lives isn’t lacking either.

But the BIG one for me is this:

It’s that society has drifted completely off the mark with observance of the sabbath. I remember being a child and every store was closed on Sunday. Now a Sunday is treated like any other day by the majority of the community. So it becomes yet another juggling act trying to fit everything into the schedule. If God is in our lives, is it absolutely necessary to go to a church to stand up and sit down and sing songs? Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. I really don’t know the answer. In the end we just do the best we can do with where we are at any given moment. One thing I do know is that getting back to a proper observance of the sabbath would do wonders for everyone.

Blair and I have slightly different views in regards to some of the things I’ve typed here, so I’m very curious to see what his answer is going to look like. Over to you Blair.

Blair: The “self serving” view of church is a hollow view as far as I’m concerned. Really, it’s nothing more than a form of consumerism. I think we have to start with what church is supposed to be and what purpose it is supposed to serve. As human’s we’re wired for being part of a community, and when we attend church it should be as a selfless act of worship, where each member of the church family has a role to prop up other members of the church. It’s not enough to show up to church, listen to a good sermon and go home. We’re to be servants, just as Jesus was a servant and without the church body, we’re missing out on so much that the Holy Spirit has to offer. I can only say that I for one love seeing kids in a church, and I commend parents who faithfully bring their children to church on a Sunday morning, as it’s not an easy thing to do. Mark 10:13-14 automatically comes to mind when thinking about children getting in the way of worshipping: “13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” I think children reflect such a pure form of worship that I can only be humbled by them. I totally agree with both you and Mike that parents have a huge responsibility in disciplining their children and teaching them how to behave and if the parents neglect their role, things fall apart quickly, but I don’t think that segregating yourself or the children from the church community is a healthy solution. By doing that, everyone loses. I think that if children are getting in the way of us worshipping God, then the problem is not the children, but rather, I believe, the problem is us. Sure we have friends that we socialize with, but in our day to day lives we gravitate to like minded people, or people similar to us in age and in stage of life. What about the elderly lady who has so much to teach us and in turn, needs young hands to help her? A church community is such a vibrant mix of people, all held together by the Holy Spirit, and it’s such a beautiful thing when it’s allowed to thrive in the context it was created for.

I also think that our relationship with God has to be looked at. I’m coming at this from a Christian perspective, because that’s what I am, and to me it is the most healthy perspective. I find it fascinating that we are taught by Jesus to approach the throne of God boldly and also that we are taught to regard God as “Abba” or Father. We’re called to have an intimate relationship with the creator of the universe, not just approaching the throne on our knees, but we have permission to crawl up on the king’s lap and find comfort in his arms, and ask Him for the most trivial of things like a warm glass of milk as well as the largest of things like the stars and the moon. If we dilute our relationship down to only religion like the Pharisees did, then we’re missing out on so, so much of God’s love, and in some cases we’re missing the mark entirely.

As my pastor says, before praying for the children and sending them off to Sunday school, “Now is not the time that we send the noisy children off to Sunday school so we can get down to real church business” and Sunday school should never be just a babysitting program, but rather a place where the children can have age appropriate learning about God. The children are a vital part of the church and should be treated with the utmost care. The “Born this way” argument is scary, because anyone who has children HAS to admit that we’re born sinners and we need to learn how to behave. Just like all of Christianity (and this is what I find so fascinating about Christianity) is the polar opposites that exist within it. Children possess such a pureness and innocence, but at the same time they’re selfish little people that need proper guidance and discipline. If you love your children, you discipline your children, just as the Lord disciplines us because he loves us.

OK, now we’ll ask you one……
I’m curious as to how your religious views affect your recent comic work. Is it something that you feel obliged to work into it, or is it just something that naturally works it’s way into your art because it’s ingrained in you? (or on the flip side, do you ever feel the need to hold certain views back and just play it safe?)