I am helping out at children’s church for a few Sundays. I was pretty excited about it because I get to be in my daughter’s class. But the curriculum and message has got me a bit perplexed.
The Bible is a hard book to read. In case you think it is all fluff and stuff…you have another thing coming. It is a complex book of war, torture, oppression, slavery, conquer, victory, surrender, love, lust, sex, relationships…I mean it’s like a bottle of Ragu – It’s in there!. It’s ALL in there.
Let me first of all say that I really like my church. It’s not perfect…but it is real. The pastor is sincere and humble and the staff actually does stuff for the people in the church, the community and abroad. They care. They say they Love God and Love People and so far – it has rung more true than anywhere else I have found. It has been a place of refuge for me these past few years in many ways. I also adore the children’s ministry leaders. They are simply amazing women. They didn’t write this curriculum…it is just a program.
Anyway – This really has nothing to do with with my church or anyone in particular. This is my blog…so forgive me I am a bit egocentric. I’m the only one I am allowed to pick on in this space. This is my therapy, my platform to work things out…so this is all about…me. My perceptions…my struggles and weaknesses. I get to say all the ridiculous things that you may think but never say out loud.
The only reason I bring my church into this post at all is because it was the whole starting place that got me thinking so deeply about the thoughts I have been wrestling with the past 24 hours.
I am teaching 8 and 9 year olds, and we are taking them through the old testament book of Judges that focuses on war, massive destruction, conquering and destroying, and grand scale murder – all in the name of the one true God.
Forgive me. This is hard. I am conflicted.
So here I am, in a suburb in somewhere Ohio…teaching our local children about the glory and blessings that awaited the Israelites when they actually obeyed God and completely and utterly devastated, destroyed, murdered and overtook the peoples that were there worshipping other gods. It was considered a cleansing of the region or something.
Somewhere in a small village in somewhere Pakistan…there is a small group of local children gathered together to hear about the glory of the reward of killing in the name of THEIR true God. It would be considered a cleansing of the region or something.
And to be honest here, we are not 1000’s of miles apart. The reality is that we are just down the street from each other…having these very drastic points of view. It is not just the far removed children in Pakistan…it is children in the same schools as my daughter…or maybe even in a large white house somewhere in DC. Honestly – no one knows what goes on deep inside the soul of a person behind closed doors.
Isn’t that the wonderful and frightful consequence of freedom?
It was about at this point in last’s nights torturous fitful sleep that I realized how sorely under qualified and totally incompetent I am of such a huge responsibility of teaching Sunday school.
We are talking about Holy wars here! This battle has been brewing for thousands of years. It is one of the most powerful, sacred, mysterious, forces of all times.
Yes…I am having a major tripping dilemma. I thought I was just going to do my duty and good thing by trying to give back of myself like so many wonderful and faithful volunteers have done for my children these past 2 years.
Why this curriculum now? Am I the only crack pot thinking this? I mean how is this appropriate 8 year old content? Maybe it is…and I am just an idealist or naive. Not to mention – just the sheer amount of huge 3 to 5 syllable names of tribes and villages alone – kids can’t read them – let alone get any major content out of it after they have read it. It’s like a whole different language.
I think everything has a place in time. These stories are important to tell and know. History is absolutely important. I just don’t feel right about telling it to this age bracket. It’s not something I want to go into detail with my own 8 year old. When do they even start teaching history in schools?
Let me also say that I don’t believe in being condescending, sappy sweet and presenting a Mr. Rogers like message about only goodness and fluff either. I know children are capable of mature content and we sometimes underestimate what they can and should grasp. And, unfortunately, I do believe that they have to know – at least in part that there is evil in this world.
It just gets really really out of focus when you take a few 1000 steps back and look at the whole situation…as if we were all just insects. How do you even know which side is “evil”? Well, for most of us…it is just whatever side we are NOT on. It is reality that we point our crooked unsteady fingers and assume different is wrong.
Looking at it from this confusing M.C.Escher-like perspective it gets REALLY hairy…because no matter which side you are on from this stand point…wouldn’t EVERYONE be created by ONE God? Because each religion would claim “Creation” rights. So, essentially – when instructed to invade and destroy – you are in fact killing the children of your own God in some fashion or form…right? Ugh…brain cramp!
And yes – I do realize that I have traveled into the fringes of the extremists view here. All major world religions have the bell shaped curve with the bulk of believes being the stable, peace loving folks – with their right and left winged factions that warp love into hate. But when reviewing the history and foundation of the old testament…it sounds pretty extreme.
Even the current state of affairs – kids needs to know and respect our veterans and current military members. But do they need to know the gory details of what these amazing men and women have seen and are currently facing everyday?
Do you let your 8 year old watch the details on CNN and local news? Kids should understand the basics of 911, but do they need to see the horrific details? Maybe? Some of you think so. I remind myself of the luxurious far removed life we live, safe from front line war zones (again – Thank you military men and women) that some kids live in today and even some of our grand parents lived through themselves. Sometimes – yes – kids need to know the details.
Is it a case by case basis? I only have girls…and my oldest if a very dramatic, sensitive girl. Maybe my perspective is just all out of whack.
Hell…even the weather report can be a bit precarious around our household. The other day we had tornado warnings and I am here to tell you – I flat out lied to my 8 year old to avoid sheer pandemonium. If I knew we were actually in danger – THEN I would handle the situation…but again…why provoke fear and drama when they really only need to know so much at this age.
I really am at a loss here. A cross roads. Religion is a crazy dichotomy of redemption, saving grace and torture. Depending on which side of the world you live on…we all think we are right.
And no…I don’t subscribe to some Utopian or Orwellian antiseptic society of no religion at all or a sedated, unaware one united world religion. I can’t see how that would ever even be possible without major manipulation, brainwashing, coercion by force or, back to topic…extreme genocide.
It may be safe to say that the only thing that is certain in this world is…war.
Lordy…I need to get a happy post in here soon. I am bumming myself out lately.
May your God be with you…whatever side you are on in this war that never ends. And don’t think you atheists or godless ones are off the hook either, because even if you choose not to decide…you still have made a choice. (that’s for you Rush fans).
Welp…smile. Sleep well little ones. May you dream of sugar plums and hand grenades, blue skies and homeland invasions…all in the obedient loving name of God(s).