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hofHad a lovely visit last month with the Freethinkers of East Cobb, a secular parenting group here in the Atlanta burbs. One of the group members named Kirstin left me a great gift — the cleverest reply I’ve ever heard to one of the most common questions nonreligious parents get.

She and her husband cross paths with the occasional evangelical Christian homeschooling parent in the neighborhood. At some point, by Georgia law, the Christian parent will ask where they go to church. Kristin told me

“Whenever we get that question, we just say, ‘Oh, we homechurch.’

The more I think about it, the better this answer gets. You would NOT want to use this to hide your beliefs, but the inevitable follow-up question will give you the opportunity to go there. It ends up being a gentle and interesting sidestep into, rather than around, the larger question.

According to the Googlemind, the coinage “homechurch” is rare but not unheard of.* It’s apparently used most often by Christians who are “between churches” for one reason or another. But it also works for a secular parent who is making an effort to raise religiously literate kids (and selves) without the shortcomings and single note of the traditional church.

I’ve written at length about what I think is the ideal approach to religious literacy, which boils down to several thousand little conversations, connections, observations and experiences woven into the daily fabric of family life for 18 years. Described that way, it’s more similar to “unschooling.” But saying “We unchurch” would be immediately misunderstood — an experience unschoolers are surely familiar with.

So my vote is unchanged. “We homechurch” goes straight to the Secular Parenting Hall of Fame. Use it responsibly, and send Kirstin a nickel every time you do.
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*UPDATE: Or not. If you search with a space (“home church”), you uncover a whole movement of believers who “home church” because actual churches have gone too liberal on them. I avoid church (in part) because the perspective is too narrow and exclusive for me. They avoid it because the perspective is too broad and inclusive for them. Oy! (Thanks to several commenters for pointing out that dark reflection.)

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.