RE MATTERS: Raising Children in the Resistance

By Emmalinda MacLean

Director of Religious Education

Well, we are certainly alive in interesting times. This isn’t a reality any of us saw coming, and it’s frightening, especially to those of us struggling with how to explain to children—if at all—what’s going on in the world around them, and why people in power right now are taking actions so contrary to the values we try to teach them.

I know that many of you have leaned in to having these hard conversations with your children, and I commend you for it; I hope that you feel your faith community supports you in providing language and resources for talking about your values, and describing what justice looks like in action. But I also want to celebrate the gifts that children bring to a resistance movement: they can recognize right from wrong, and they can stand up to a system of authority that does not represent their beliefs, sometimes with clearer eyes than adults who have been conditioned to regard authority with greater deference. It takes a child to say that the emperor has no clothes. Children are much better rebels than they often get (positive) credit for; it is in some ways a rite of passage, a coming of age ritual, to arrive at the age where you recognize that those voices in power may not be acting for good.

Youth also have plenty of role models for standing up to unjust authority figures; it’s a very popular theme in adolescent fiction. It’s the story of the brave and defiant Hogwarts students who practice Defense Against the Dark Arts in secret, under the name Dumbledore’s Army, when the Ministry of Magic and then the school administration can no longer be trusted. It’s part of what made the wildly popular new Star Wars movie, Rogue One, so moving for so many people—the heroine sees how much her parents sacrifice to raise her according to their values, in the face of an oppressive regime, and it inspires her to carry on the fight against the evil empire. It’s a major theme in the Netflix show I’m enjoying a lot right now, “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” a show about brave, intelligent children who are constantly having to save themselves from horrible situations that the adults in their lives refuse to believe are really happening.


Photo from “A Series of Unfortunate Events” in the Netflix series

It is perfectly natural for children to want to believe themselves more powerful and capable than adults often give them credit for, and at this point in history, I think the world needs a generation with that kind of confidence. I hope that you and your family find some of that confidence, that hope, within our church community; our Unitarian Universalist faith continues to inspire me to do the work of being an active resister of injustice, and I hope it does for you, too. It’s a process, not a panacea, but adults and children alike need a community of support, to be reminded that we’re not the only ones who feel this way. We all need a sense of connection and belonging. We need a group that will invite us to get involved, when we might not go to the protest alone. Staying connected and staying in community matters, now more than ever.