Theo Hobson Theo Hobson

Why I’m paying my daughter to go to church


It would be weird if my 13-year-old daughter didn’t say she was an atheist. It’s what you say in our culture when you’re that age. To be honest it would creep me out a bit if she was all pious. But she is getting confirmed into the Anglican faith. This is a piece of hoop-jumping that her parents have decided to require of their children.

I went for coffee with the vicar to ask if my daughter could join the classes. I admitted that she was a bit reluctant. In fact, it was a mixed picture. Whenever I mentioned confirmation she professed her atheism, but when I didn’t mention it for a couple of weeks she asked when the classes were starting. She is not entirely averse to attention, even if it is directed at her eternal soul. Her church-going to date has been patchy. She quite liked Sunday school for a while, when there were some good craft activities and some younger children she could dominate. And she likes occasional guest appearances at her grandmother’s church in the country, where she’s as famous as Pollyanna.

The vicar, no fool, smiled at my sheepish admission that I had not raised St Thérèse of Lisieux. He said that one of his rich arty parishioners had recently paid his teenager to attend church.

That’s what gave me the idea. At first I was a little shocked that a vicar was half–recommending bribery. But then I took the long view and recalled what I had once learned of the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon kings, in which worldly motives played no small part. Why not? Bribing her would settle the matter, and seal her commitment. Otherwise she would perhaps be tempted to stage a little drama of teenage power-play, threatening each week to walk out.

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