itting in Sunday School and church, you’re constantly confronted with the idea that man’s knowledge is not only flawed (a point with which I wouldn’t necessarily argue) but foolish. For example, 1 Corinthians 3:19 states:
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”
Whenever this comes up in a lesson or a sermon you always hear a resounding, “AMEN!” from the congregation. While I was a believer I never really thought about the implications and I doubt that many believers really do. In the light of debates over evolution, the Big Bang, and the ever-narrowing god-shaped gap in our knowledge it’s nice to be able to point to a verse and say, “See? The things you think you know are utter nonsense in the face of god’s wisdom!” The Bible is a never-ending source of derisive rebuttal to anything even remotely logical. That’s why I loved it so much as a kid. No matter with whom I was talking, I could always feel confident that my god considered them fools and I was right.
s soon as I was old enough to figure out how much fun weekends were and how much shorter they seemed when you have to spend more than half of Sunday sitting in church I began to ask my parents if we really had to go to church. The conversations usually went something like this:
Jon: Do we have to go to church today?
Parent: No, you don’t have to go to church today. You get to go to church today.
Jon: But I don’t want to go to church.
Parent: You ought to be happy we have such a nice church to go to. Besides, you’re not staying home alone. Now get a move on!
This was exasperating every single time. I’m sure it was frustrating for my parents as well. They wanted to raise their children in the church with good, Christian values and their children seemed to want to be little unwashed heathens. What irritated me the most about this exchange was the unreasonable nature of the argument. I, as an autonomous human being, didn’t have the desire to spend most of my day cooped up in a building listening to people talk when I could be running around the woods with a toy gun, saving the world. My parents, as dictatorial heads of the family, didn’t acknowledge my autonomy. How unfair.
ow that I was saved (theological debate surrounding the sincerity of the act notwithstanding) from Hell, it was important to those charged with my education to ensure that I became the best possible Christian. In order for this to happen, I had to become familiar with the doctrine of Christianity — namely, that god created me and loves me and that Satan is trying with all of his might to destroy god’s creation and claim the souls of believers for himself. This means war!
peaking of prayers, there was one thing about Christianity that always either embarrassed, frustrated, or confused me: public/group prayer. It always seemed that a spectacle was made of talking to god whether in a church service, at home, or at an event. Nobody appeared to be capable of just communicating with god in a personal way — quietly, in their heads — and instead we were always being led in group prayers.
When I was a little kid the prayers were like advertising jingles. I memorized a phrase one to four sentences long with catchy rhymes so I could remember what to say. For instance:
Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
So I just saw a TIME article on a priest in Geneva involved in two things:
Making rules for how the Catholic Church will handle sexual abuse cases, and
Sexually abusing young boys.
“Ooh yeah, just like that baby!”
What…the…fuck?! Who knows if it’s true but if it is it has to be the most horrifying and disgusting case of abuse by the Catholic Church ever. I mean, it’s horrible and disgusting when someone in a position of power abuses that power and preys on children anyway, but isn’t there some kind of amplification of horribleness when the abuser is one of the people on the committee for deciding how to stop sexual abuse and punish offenders? Come on!
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. This type of thing is common fodder. I just can’t help but think that if this is true then there’s absolutely no hope for the Catholic Church at all and the people sucked into its moral black hole are all doomed. Why are people still Catholic??
etting saved through Jesus Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit sounds like it would be a really big deal. I mean, the sheer mechanics of opening up one’s heart and having the Holy Spirit move in like a college kid moving into the dorms is difficult to wrap your head around. Oddly enough, Christians seem to think it requires nothing more than the ability to repeat phrases told to you by another person. This applies mainly to children who are too young to formulate a sentence based on the premise that a person died for you thousands of years ago so you won’t go to Hell when you die. It goes something like this:
Heavenly Father, I know that I have sinned against you. I want to be a better person. I believe you sent Jesus to die on the cross for my sins, that you raised him from the dead, and that he hears my prayers. Please forgive me and let Jesus come into my heart and life. I give my life to you, Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
hen you grow up in Christianity, one thing is made very clear to you over and over: you are a horrible sinner and deserve to burn in Hell forever. This sentiment rears its head pretty early on, as soon as you’re able to understand and repeat the name “Jesus.” The adults begin to prime you for the doctrine of salvation through grace. In order to do this, you must first accept that you are undeserving of anything but the worst punishment imaginable. Just to clarify, this punishment can be presented in a number of ways. My family subscribed to the “lake of unquenchable fire, eternal torment and darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth” doctrine. Other sects of Christianity view Hell as simply the complete lack of the presence of god. Still others view Hell as obliteration (which, Heaven aside, aligns quite nicely with the atheistic view that once you die you simply cease to exist).
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:
he stories you hear in church as a child make the Bible seem so sensible and happy. You’ve got a man and a woman created perfectly just for each other, talking animals, big boats full of kangaroos and penguins, babies in baskets, guys rough-housing with god, trumpeters blowing down walls, Jesus the meek and gentle shepherd who loves you so very very much, and a wonderful gift that you can keep forever and ever. Isn’t it all so wonderful?
You know what they don’t tell you when you’re a kid? Incest, murder, unfair punishment, intentional ignorance, violations of free will, genocide, slaughtering of the innocents, more incest, more genocide, slavery, oppression of women, more slaughtering of the innocent, more slavery, more oppression of women! When does it end? It’s enough to make you vomit! And the people preaching this book are the same ones who get indignant when a television show portrays two men kissing.
was indoctrinated into Protestant Christianity from birth and accepted Jesus as my Lord and savior at the ripe old age of four. I don’t remember much about my childhood but I still remember that evening and the place of worship in Panama we called “The Home.” It wasn’t a formal church and I imagine it was more like what you would have seen in the Apostle Paul’s day where believers gathered in homes to praise god together through song and prayer.
A quick aside: on my blog I’ll never capitalize the word “god.” It’s not a proper name. If I use a proper name like Jehovah or Jesus or Allah I’ll capitalize it as per English grammatical rules. However, since I commonly refer to “god” you can assume I’m speaking of the Biblical deity known as Jehovah or Yahweh.