|New Little Prayers Pop-up Book, reprinted in 1984, copyright Deans International Publishing|
I stumbled upon an interesting story in my search for information on the nursery rhyme, “Christmas is coming.” It’s from the Preface to the chapter on Faith in The Book of Virtues (1993), edited by William Bennett. A few of Bill’s words to set up the story:
A human being without faith, without reverence for anything, is a human being morally adrift. The world’s major religions provide time-tested anchors for drifters; they furnish ties to a larger reality for people on the loose. Faith can contribute important elements to the social stability and moral development of individuals and groups.
To parents who are themselves insecure in their faith and, like the nineteenth-century English radical John Thelwall, think it “unfair to influence a child’s mind by inculcating any opinions before it should have come to years of discretion, and be able to choose for itself,” there is an enlightening anecdote in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Table Talk for July 27, 1830. “I showed [John Thelwall] my garden, and told him it was my botanical garden. ‘How so?’ said he, ‘it is covered with weeds.’ — ‘Oh,’ I replied, ‘that is only because it has not yet come to its age of discretion and choice. The weeds, you see, have taken the liberty to grow, and I thought it unfair in me to prejudice the soil towards roses and strawberries.’ “ (p. 742)