On the car trip home yesterday, my daughter told me how she was pleased to get extra points in English that day. The teacher read a poem with some Christian allusions, and no one else in the class knew any of them (or at least raised his hand to answer). My daughter’s best friend admitted that she hadn’t even known that in the Christian faith Jesus had risen from the dead. The teacher admitted he was a lapsed Catholic, and commented at the end of the session, about my daughter, that “someone went to Sunday School.”
Well, actually she didn’t, she just had a darn picky mom who drummed the principles of the faith into her head. No, I didn’t proselytize – I just told and answered questions about the Bible stories, and explained, “this is what I believe, and this is why…” I explained how these questions about God are so important to honestly explore. We studied what other religions believed. I explained how, as a scientist, I had found atheism to be lacking in explaining certain truths about the world: for example, where do these ideas of self-awareness, or morality, or justice, come from? We discussed these things as easily as discovering how to fill a balloon with CO2 (mix baking soda and vinegar in a narrow bottle, put a balloon over the opening to catch the gas), and learning how the atoms moved around to form different compounds. (The kids were delighted to discover that the CO2 balloon thumped to the ground because it’s heavier than air). We learned how to make biscuits. We learned how the eye worked. And we learned to discuss God.
This past summer our family joined a new church. Our previous church had a confirmation program in which I taught for about five years. I asked the kids once, “Who brought the ten commandments down from Mount Sinai?” and someone answered, “Martin Luther.” They didn’t know who were David or Daniel, or even Abraham. Jesus was important but they didn’t know why. These were churched kids, by the way, who had attended church since they were babies. I ended up in my confirmation class, every week, asking them “What does a Christian believe?” By the end of each year they could give me a pretty good answer.
The Youth Group was a patronizing, fun-and-games place for “kids to be kids” (“Even though you’re underage, I know you’re going to drink, so do it safely…”) Even in the church proper there were only a few adults who knew their stuff. The wife of a deacon told me that “if you’re sincere with your religion, even if it’s not Christianity, you’ll go to heaven.” Well, no. This pluralism is a popular view in our culture, but it’s NOT what Christianity teaches. If you want to believe this fine, but then don’t call yourself a Christian. You have the right to believe anything you want, but you DON’T have the right to change the faith that has been “once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3)
Am I ranting yet?
I know that my experiences are anecdotal, but even so, my friends, I don’t believe these are atypical. I run into people all the time who say they are Christian, but don’t seem to have a clue about what this means. I believe we as a people have lost our faith. Much of our country is as heathen as any place before a missionary comes through – maybe more so, in a way, since there is such an antipathy to God. No one wants to be told what to do. Thank goodness for books and radio that deliver Christianity. Even with these, though, one has to be careful. Joel Olstein and his prosperity gospel? Maybe not.
While watching Ted Turner’s masterpieces Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, about events and people in the Civil War, I was struck with just how saturated with the Bible the culture used to be. Turner was well known for, and deserves great credit for, his desire for meticulous accuracy in this series. For darn sure he didn’t put these Biblical references in on his own, since he is a strong atheist and notoriously antipathic to religion. I reread Jane Eyre this summer, and was struck by the multiple references to the Bible within. Many other classics are the same. Shakespeare is the same. Kudos to my daughter’s teacher for discussing Biblical references as a literary device.
2 days ago