My Kid & Religion: Part 2 – Sunday School
Growing up I spent a majority of my time in church. Not only one church mind you. Many churches. My dad was a Christian pastor for many years and my mom a Sunday School teacher. We moved a lot when I was a kid and spent time at various churches over the years for various reasons. Small churches and mega churches. Lutheran, Baptist, Vineyard, Nazarene, Missionary, Non-denominational, etc.
Attending Sunday School was fun. I have fond memories of Bible stories teaching me the importance of honesty, good works and service. I want Wesley to have a similar experience. But when I think about it more deeply I also remember the overwhelming guilt I felt when I would break a rule. I was taught by some of those Sunday School teachers that my very soul was at risk of going to Hell unless I immediately repented to God and asked for forgiveness. Seriously, I remember one time when I snuck an extra cookie for dessert at home as a 5 year old. I ate the Oreo. It was amazing, but then later that night I remember being in tears over it. I prayed to God repeatedly to forgive me for stealing and hoped I wouldn’t be punished by an eternity in Hell. My parents comforted me and told me I’d be fine, that God had forgiven me but I did didn’t really feel it. We had learned about God’s punishment at Sunday School the previous week and I was full of fear. That is exactly the type of memory I want to spare my son from. What a vengeful and hateful god is that? That’s no way to live. I was only the good kid back then out of fear of God’s punishment.
I was raised to be a good kid. I was taught the rules of life according to narrowly defined and translated views of the Bible and generally followed them. I believed anything my parents or pastors said as the only truth in existence without question as a kid. I began to have questions about the faith in junior high and high school, but didn’t express them until I was in my early twenties. My wife had a lot to do with it. We spent tremendous amounts of time talking about our beliefs and dreams for the future before we got married. She didn’t readily disagree with me about any one thing in-particular, but encouraged me to ask questions. She simply wanted me to know why I believed the way I did and to find my own truth. I love her for that.
We tried to find a faith community as a married couple a few different times. Every time we tried, our questions and cynicism were met with less than welcoming responses. The desire to find a church home was there, but we never did find a place we felt fit our beliefs. In all honesty, if we found a church with a great Sunday School program I would strongly consider attending. I want my kid to have those happy memories. If we talk about the stories told each Sunday a nice dialog about morality could start. Or at least I can hope so.
Our culture is so entrenched in dogmatic Christianity. Keeping Wes out of the church might actually put him at a disadvantage when the topic comes up in conversation as he gets older. Abigail and I were talking recently about how deeply rooted in our society Christianity has become. We want Wes to at least know about the Bible. He should able to counter some of the more obviously false claims people make when they say ‘God says such and such’ and then quotes chapter and verse. I’m just not so sure a church is required for it.
Part Three: “Modern Christianity” can be read here.