A Liberation Theology, for Children

On advocating for children, fighting the so-called “parental rights” movement, and teaching children when disobedience matters; an interview with R.L. Stollar

Sarah Stankorb

--

PHOTO: Kay Smith

How does a person get from James Dobson’s Strong-Willed Child to child liberation theology? Well, spend enough time hearing from people whose families gobbled up various — and often damaging — guidance on child rearing, and maybe it’s natural to start hoping some of those kids learn to disobey the grown-ups who hurt them and find a little liberation. Maybe there’s some beauty to be found in a model of the divine that puts kids first, instead of silencing them at the back or under a thumb.

This week, I asked R.L. Stollar to join us. Many readers probably already know R.L. as an advocate for reforms to ensure all homeschooled students can thrive. He’s also a child liberation theologian, always ready to fight the good fight, and if you read through to the end, he has a big list of book recommendations to replace some of the problematic ones we’ve been covering recently.

Our guest this week, R.L. Stollar.

SS: Over recent weeks, I’ve been rereading the likes of Dobson and the Pearls. It’s been rough going. One question that keeps surfacing is why some families were (or perhaps are) susceptible to these advice-giving systems that suggest the way to raise a child in a spiritually sound way is with physical discipline and will-breaking. Can we start there? What makes these systems so attractive theologically?

RLS: Having been raised in several such systems, I would say the most attractive aspect of them is their promise, or guarantee, that their way of parenting, their unique approach to child rearing, is the one way or approach that for sure results in happy and godly children. There is comfort and security in the certainty and control implicit in such a promise.

Both of my parents, for example, grew up in the chaos and tumult of the 1960s and 1970s and they came from dysfunctional families. Compared to their own childhoods featuring abusive and alcoholic adults…

--

--

Sarah Stankorb

Sarah Stankorb has published with The Washington Post, Marie Claire, Glamour, O, and The Atlantic (among others). @sarahstankorb www.sarahstankorb.com