rabbit trails

While working in Children’s church I had this interesting experience.  While talking about something completely different, one of the kids brought up the subject of Satan.  “Well,” this child asked, “if God CAN vanquish Satan and the book of Revelation predicts that he WILL, why wait?”

Before that subject could even be responded to, another child asked about Hell, and then another one accused the second of having said a bad word, and then the whole situation devolved into a lot of shouted questions and the kids looking distressed in general.  Distressed, I say, but a few looked downright panicky.  That’s when it hit me.

Beneath the happy-go-lucky veneer that had been showing all Sunday morning, not even very far beneath the surface, these kids were worried.  They were struggling.  They couldn’t understand their faith.  And they were afraid. They had been told to Evangelize to their friends because if their friends died they may go to hell and be separated from them for eternity.  They had been told to be wary of the temptations of the Enemy.  They had been told a lot of things, and while they were very quick with the questions they were also obviously very uncomfortable with the fact that they wanted to ask them.

Afraid.

It broke my heart.  I wish that rather than being an observer I’d been their teacher, because while the youth minister did a great job of fielding the questions and getting the lesson back on track, I nearly felt as if the lesson for the day should’ve been trashed and those nagging questions just dealt with.  Not that I could’ve provided adequate answers, but I could’ve reassured them of what we know to be true.

We don’t need to be afraid.

We need to obey God not out of fear of consequences, but out of love.  And if we are obeying God and in his hands, the future should hold no fear for us.  We don’t need to fear Satan or eternity.  We should talk to our friends about our faith not because we are afraid of them burning in Hell, but because we’ve experienced the love of God in our lives and we want everyone to share in that joy.  I wanted to ask them if they had ever experienced God’s love, searched after it, heard their parents talk about it in their own lives.

For one very breathless moment I wanted to turn that place upside down.

The church is supposed to be a haven from fear, not a place where young ones learn it.

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8 thoughts on “rabbit trails

  1. I would say “that kind of religion”. I hate that kind of belief, and I really have little tolerance for the people who propagate it, especially parents who treat God like a boogeyman to keep their kids in line and make them eat their vegetables.

    I have a two year old and a four year old, and I didn’t start teaching them about my faith at all until my four year old expressed an interest, and with her I’m teaching her more about the concepts of faith than hard and fast things. Especially Hell. Teaching a young child to fear Hell and fear the death of their friends is just CRUEL.

    Grace, compassion, acceptance, embracing, love for fellow man, charity… These are the things I believe Christians should focus on passing on. Fear and judgment? No way.

  2. I have learned to enjoy your rabbit trails Lindsey, this one is no exception.
    It took me decades of healing my images of God to be more in love with God and less afraid of the rod of God… it is still a process…

  3. Once again you’ve hit the nail on the head.

    I was one of those children. I wish my mother and the churches I was raised in had spent more time focusing on the good and positive things, the things TO do, instead of all the bad, negative things NOT to do. I would have been a much happier person if they had.

  4. Thanks everyone!

    It’s really sad that people don’t realize the long term impact of teaching children to be afraid- and this concept doesn’t just reply to religion. I get the same kind of frustration with politicians who use fear-soaked rhetoric.

  5. It’s refreshing everytime someone realises this. I feel sorry for kids like that. I grew up with a girl who was very religious and she lived in constant fear of hell. Everytime she done/said/thought something less that christian she would asked to be relieved from class to pray, or she’d go off by herself in the playground to pray for forgiveness. She was terrified of me going to hell because my family is atheist. It was really sad. Churches really need to reassure their children more, because often then fear is under the surface and goes un-noticed.
    Last I heard that girl is a prostitute now.

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