"It’s better if parents raise their children in a faith”
Cultural theologian Frank Bosman (40) and his daughter Lisanne (17) have together written a book about their conversations on faith, entitled: Vader, dochter, heilige geest (‘Father, daughter, holy ghost’). Father: “She forces me to get to the point.” Daughter: “I’m learning how to think more deeply, and my faith helps me to better understand other religions and believers.” Frank is a researcher for the Cobbenhagen Center at Tilburg University. He is also a popular guest on radio and TV. Lisanne is in senior secondary school.
Who should read this book, in an age of growing secularization?
Lisanne: “In society, and in schools too, like in my school, people can often be disparaging about faith. Lots of teachers make fun of religious beliefs, or are sad and angry about someone who died and take it out on God. In class! That hurts; faith has so many good sides. This book is a good way for me to say: don’t look at it so negatively! Learn from it!”
Frank: “We’re keen to reach Lisanne’s age group, the friends she shares her life with at school. They often know nothing about religion, but they’re interested in it, especially if they notice that a peer is thinking about it in a serious and genuine way, as Lisanne is. And she often gets a lot of appreciation from them at school. So this hits the mark.”
How do your discussions go?
Lisanne: “I’m always full of questions. Dad doesn’t give me answers but, as he says, ‘ways to think about it’. So I’m learning on my own how I want to shape my belief. That brings you closer to God than a bunch of rules, because it’s a better fit with who you are.”
Frank: “She was always very interested in visits to church buildings and other religious spaces. At the kitchen table we often have long discussions on the point or pointlessness of faith in our time, discussions that she likes having and is passionate about. At the same time, I noticed that there were no contemporary books about God, faith and theology in our time for Lisanne’s age category. Such books are aimed either at children or at adults, but never at the age in between, even though that’s when people are full of questions. So our little book was born out of both passion and need.”
We’re keen to reach Lisanne’s age group, the friends she shares her life with at school
Lack of religious knowledge in new generations
Frank: “Religious education in schools has been strongly eroded, despite the enormous efforts of generations of teachers who have seen their subject degenerate into a sort of upmarket civics, lessons on the art of living, or philosophy for dummies. The reasons: the subject is not subject to exams, so it’s not taken seriously by students, teachers, management or politics, with the added implicit force of our empirical paradigm that religion should be kept out of the political domain and restricted to the private domain. The result is a disastrous shortage of religious knowledge in new generations. A lack of knowledge of our own Christian religious history means that we collectively lose memory; a lack of knowledge of other religions means that we panic at every form of public religious life.”
Lisanne, would you also raise your children in a religious faith?
Lisanne: “Yes! It’s much better if parents raise their children in a faith. They learn to think more deeply about their own existence, and how they should treat other people. Faith also gives you a clear goal in life. And you learn to see other beliefs more clearly, because you can understand them better. Children miss so much if they grow up without that knowledge!”
She has an excellent bullshit meter
What have the conversations with your daughter done for you, Frank?
Frank: “A lot! She has an excellent bullshit meter. She has no time for bombast, standard responses, or rhetoric. She asks deep questions, she wants to know how things really are, and she wants to understand. She strips my theological language down to the bone and forces me, relentlessly, to get to the point. I can recommend this kind of discussion to every theologian and every scientist.”
Lisanne and Frank Bosman: Vader, dochter, heilige geest. Geloofsgesprekken tussen een theoloog en zijn dochter (in Dutch), Berne Media, Heeswijk 2018.
Photo: Berne Media