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A Different Sort of Religious Inoculation

July 4, 2011

I had the oddest set of thoughts recently…I don’t think it was a dream, but it definitely had a story line. It definitely was more than a passing thought. It was of a soon-to-be mother and father.

The soon-to-be father said, “I think we ought to raise our son in the church.”

The soon-to-be mother’s nose crinkled at the suggestion, but she simply replied, “Don’t you think that’s risky? Churches are dangerous for children.”

The father seemed to have weighed that point seriously before. He already had a response: “I think, however, that it’s important for our son to be exposed to things like that. Perhaps we should protect him when he’s young, and only take him later on when he’s older…”

The mother still seemed reluctant, but she nodded.

The “odd” thing about this conversation is how it seems to me to be so foreign to the sentiments of many people in the country. It seems strange to think of parents talking about religion as a volatile thing that must be engaged with cautiously in a country when more people are probably certain that weekly (if not more frequent) church is the best foundation for a child.

…And I mean, I know some people who would never touch religion with a ten-foot pole, but even that’s a bit of a different position. These people wouldn’t then talk about it being important — regardless of the risk — to purposefully expose one anyway. They might talk about other religions, and maybe even take their kids to some churches as a kind of religious tourism, but it’s a different sort of game.

Instead, with this story, there seems to be this idea of inoculation. One recognizes the danger of the disease vector (and again, how odd is it to think of religion as the disease vector?), but with inoculation, one purposefully exposes another to it…even if it’s a weakened strain, in the hopes of having the inoculated person become stronger.

This isn’t even how I’ve normally heard religious inoculation discussed. In a normal Mormon context, if inoculation is brought up, then there is no question from the parents that they want their child raised in an LDS manner. Instead, one inoculates against extra-church material…for example, the history that the church doesn’t put up from, doctrines from the past that the church doesn’t espouse anymore, etc.,

But it seems odd to think of the church itself as something with which one is inoculated.

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