o there I was: a kid spending every Sunday morning and evening, Wednesday night and every major (and some minor) holiday in church. At this point church was still fun because I was doing arts and crafts, seeing flannelgraph stories and singing those great children’s songs that virtually everybody knows. Oh, the songs! They’re catchy, they’re cute, and they’re memorable. Regardless of how I may feel now about religion I can still sing all of those songs on demand.
Song is arguably one of the most effective ways to drill ideas into a kid’s head. There’s a reason you teach a kid the alphabet in song before they can read. When you want to remember something it helps to put it to music. For instance (and I can still sing this one too), children are taught to memorize the books of the Bible with this little number:
One of the songs that sticks with me is “I’m in the Lord’s Army.” When I was a child this song was cute and fun because of the choreography that goes along with it. Now I find it upsetting. The song goes like this:
I may never march in the infantry,
ride in the cavalry,
shoot the artillery.
I may never soar over the enemy,
but I’m in the Lord’s Army!
You want a recruiting scheme? It doesn’t get much better than this. Tell the children they’re doing spiritual warfare, arm them with their “sword” (the Bible), equip them with the “full armor of god” and you’ve got a midget military full of half-pint heroes. I remember being brought up thinking that there was nearly no more honorable profession than that of a soldier so the idea of this song made me feel like I was really going to kick some evil butt! Just whose butt did I think I was kicking? The devil’s? No, humans don’t fight demons. More likely I was being raised to fight against those rotten non-believers who want to turn this country into a heathen paradise full of illicit sex and drugs…or those damned Muslims.
Another weird one is “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” Again, the lyrics are catchy and seem cute on the surface but they’re actually kind of ugly. It goes like this:
Jesus loves the little children,
all the children of the world:
red and yellow, black and white,
they are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
How nice of him. It sounds like a politically incorrect affirmative action poster for Christianity. “Jesus will love you no matter what your skin color is!” Why is it important to point out skin color? Is it because god spent so much time discriminating against people of different nations in the Old Testament? Maybe. But hey, now you can rest assured that even though you’re not a privileged white American you can still be saved by the handsome, manicured, Caucasian Jesus you see in all of the Christian imagery! Perhaps that’s why this song is so popular — the privileged white Americans don’t have to acknowledge the fact that Jesus was a dark-skinned Middle-Easterner as long as they extend the gift of salvation to all of the races.
Remember in my last post how I said you never hear about all the incest in the Bible? Well, you kind of do, in a roundabout way. Consider the song “Father Abraham.” It goes like this:
Father Abraham had many sons.
Many sons had Father Abraham.
I am one of them, and so are you
so let’s just praise the Lord!
Again with the funny choreography. But have you ever stopped to think of what this song is saying? We’re all the products of incestuous relationships, both in the past and to this day. The Old Testament is full of prohibitions against marrying outside of your own tribe. You can only do that for so long before you get three-headed kids with buck teeth, you know.
The songs you learn as a Christian child are fun and sweet as long as you don’t think about them too much, but I’ve grown more and more uncomfortable over the years with the kinds of things the religious are shoving down their kids’ throats. I really hope that people growing up in the church really examine what they believe and why they believe it like I did and eventually realize just how harmful the ideas are. Maybe someday we’ll see the younger generations outgrowing these superstitious beliefs like they do with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
I’ll leave you with this song about throwing up…
Yeah, I think I’m gonna hurl too.