Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Kids - Between Jacob and the Jelly Bean































The painting is titled Jacob Wrestling with the Angel by French Romantic artist Eugene Delacroix in 1861.


When I was in high school there was a local mega, Baptist church (before there were such a thing as "mega churches") who had all kinds of tricks for getting kids in church. They had a very large bus ministry. To lure kids to their Sunday school program, they often gave away bags of jelly beans or toys, like balloons or spinning tops.

The church had an assortment of entertainment to try and capture the kid's interest. They had clowns and cowboys. Once my dad was brought in (he was an archeologist) when they did a big program about Cherokee Indians.

I think if you polled most Evangelical parents and asked them to choose one of two paths for their kids, I know the one they would choose . . . path one.

Path one, the Jelly Bean path, is where they go to church faithfully, support the pastor and elders in everything they do, they dress well, never get tattoos, never use a long list of words esteemed by Evangelicals as being bad. They never drink alcohol in case they might offend some "weaker brother" somewhere. They are very, very nice. On this path they substitute dogma for thinking. They believe what they are told to believe and never doubt it. They suppress their raw human frailties deep out of sight and never, ever mention them outside their silent thoughts, alone in their beds in the middle of the dark night of winter.

The second path is messy. On this path, they think and think and think. They don't grasp the 1,2,3 answers to every problem but feel confused, lonely, angry, horny, frustrated . . . and in distress. They encounter God and a deep visceral, almost animal-istic place. They wrestle with God . . . not disrespectful, but in the honestly of emotions. They are known to cry out, "Oh, God where the hell are you! I'm hurting down here!" Yes, sometimes they use unapproved words.

But in the end of this earthly life, those on path two do come to peace with God, having borne the scars of their struggle.

But I would choose path two for all of my kids over path one. I wish I had taken that path much earlier in my life than I did. It is best to feel and to hurt than to not feel at all.


8 comments:

Brenda said...

People always want their children to have better lives than they did, but they often mistake "easier" for "better," not realizing that it was the challenges they faced that made them who they are. We're quick to recognize this for worldy things (i.e., poor guy works hard to give his kids the "good life," but the kids turn out as lazy bums becuse they've never had to work) but reluctant to see it in the "spiritual."

I've always liked the line from the filmAt Play in the Fields of the Lord, "Did you earn your faith, or are you just stuffed with it, like a big turkey?" Churches (mainline as well as evangelical) are always worrying about young adults leave the church; but I suspect people have to go out and "earn" a faith, if they're going to have it at all. I wouldn't normally say that, though, since it just sounds, well, unChristian. Apostasy! What if they lose their faith forever! I just find it hard to believe that a faith that was never tempered by experience and even doubt could be a real faith at all.

But then, I wasn't raised in any faith, so perhaps I'm biased. :)

MJ said...

Brenda,I think you said it better than I did.

Anonymous said...

When I was in high school there was a local mega, Baptist church (before there were such a thing as "mega churches") who had all kinds of tricks for getting kids in church. They had a very large bus ministry. To lure kids to their Sunday school program, they often gave away bags of jelly beans or toys, like balloons or spinning tops.

The church had an assortment of entertainment to try and capture the kid's interest. They had clowns and cowboys. Once my dad was brought in (he was an archeologist) when they did a big program about Cherokee Indians.


Clowns and Cowboys? These days it's an onsite theme park, pony rides, and media-production center at the minimum. (Not making that up; that's the local megachurch that's siphoning off my writing partner's congregation).

But I've always had one question about the First Church of Disneyland: What's their retention rate when the kids turn 18? Judging from what I've heard, somewhere near zero.

Path one, the Jelly Bean path, is where they go to church faithfully, support the pastor and elders in everything they do, they dress well, never get tattoos, never use a long list of words esteemed by Evangelicals as being bad. They never drink alcohol in case they might offend some "weaker brother" somewhere. They are very, very nice. On this path they substitute dogma for thinking. They believe what they are told to believe and never doubt it.

doubleplusgoodthinkers doubleplusbellyfeel INGSOC.
doubleplusgoodthinkers
doubleplusduckspeak INGSOC.

Or, switching from 1984 to Warhammer 40K:

"Thinking leads to Heresy. Heresy leads to Cleansing. Blessed is the mind too small for Doubt."

Headless Unicorn Guy
(who else?)

Brenda said...

Brenda,I think you said it better than I did.

No I didn't. :) The thing is, with me it's just talk, since I never raised a kid. You actually did it. Repeatedly!

I honestly don't know what I'd do if I had kids. On the one hand, all the atheists I've had a chance to talk to say that they were brought up in intensely devout families, some of them of the "we'll beat Jesus into you if we have to" variety. On the other hand, it would seem ridiculously irresponsible to just turn them loose on a "spiritual journey" and hope that they end up at the right destination. Then there's the fact that sometimes kids will do the opposite of whatever you want just to be ornery. (I'm sure that my lifelong fascination with religion owes at least something to my parents' scornful rejection of it.) Yep, if I had kids I'd have some sleepless nights over this....

Cb said...

I have been thinking about this quite a bit myself and events and your blog post have spurred me to post as well. http://targuman.org/blog/2010/06/25/how-shall-we-rear-our-children/

MJ said...

HUG, sorry to have missed you. Seems strange me posting from your neck of the woods and you aren't here.

MJ said...

Cb, thanks for sharing those words on your site. I always feel guilty when I take things from other blogs and post here (like artwork) but I see it as flattery. BTW, did you take the jelly bean cross photo or find that somewhere?

Anonymous said...

HUG, sorry to have missed you. Seems strange me posting from your neck of the woods and you aren't here.

Doesn't seem strange to me. Most of my life, I've always been a day late and a dollar short.

I'm having to post this from the AnthroCon "Internet Room" in the Pittsburgh Convention Center Westin. There's so many users routing through this connection it might as well be a dialup.

If your SoCal conference were two weeks later, man could I have surprised you...

HUG