A path through the forest

Sometimes children find out what their parents really believe

William Ellery Channing (1780-1842) was born just before the end of the Revolutionary War and was the grandson of a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His grandfather  later became the Deputy Governor and Chief Justice of Rhode Island.

Channing graduated first in his class at Harvard in 1798.

He left the faith of his Christian home. He denied the Trinity and the atoning death of Christ. On May 5, 1819 he preached the ordination sermon for Jared Sparks in Baltimore which outlined the basic beliefs of the Unitarian Universalist movement.

A childhood memory

His brother died when the brother’s son was an infant and Channing took responsibility for the nephew’s education. The nephew left a memoir of his uncle which contains the record of a pivotal event in Channing’s childhood.

Channing was taken by his father to hear a famous preacher who talked about the darkness of the human condition without Christ and the need for grace. After the sermon, he heard his father pronounce the sermon “sound doctrine.” He was horrified and thought to himself, “It’s all true then.” As they rode home in the horse-drawn wagon, he sat in silence, stunned by what he had heard. His father drove home, went inside, sat in a chair and began to read the newspaper. Everything was normal in his home. He expected that his father would gather the family together and recount the sermon to them. He concluded that day that, no, what the preacher had said was not true. No one really believed it. If they had, things could never be normal. (William Henry Channing, Memoir of William Ellery Channing, 1887. 15-16)

What we do shows what we really believe.

When have your actions revealed part of you that you do not want your children to know about?

How have you used events in your life as teachable moments for your children?

2 thoughts on “Sometimes children find out what their parents really believe”

  1. Now that they’re adults, this article made me think about my missed opportunities to turn ‘challenges to my Christian faith’ into teachable moments. Will need to pray for how best to address this revelation now!

  2. Great point, Bob! Thanks for this reminder. I recall with my doctor said, “You have prostate cancer.” My thought when driving home was, “How can my response to this news demonstrate to my family and students that my faith is real?”

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