Anyways, I never liked sunday school

January 11, 2009

The problem with Sunday school, if you really want to know, is that it teaches us at a very influential age that following Jesus is fun, colorful, and likely to involve songs and games.  We learn about how awful people’s lives are who are in the “World” and how wonderful life is going to be if we just do the things Jesus tells us to do.  And it’s not that I think Sunday school is intentionally lying to kids, it’s just that kids aren’t always too bright and if you have to break down the Christian message it makes sense to focus on the fun things; kids love fun.

            But I can’t help but wonder if these simplistic and optimistically biased views of Christianity affect our adult understanding of what it means to follow Christ.  For example, we assume that if we are experiencing anxiety, depression, or fear that we are somehow missing out on what God has for us; that we are clearly out of his will.  Which is quite frustrating if you’re in the middle of something like that, truly seeking God, and getting….nothing.  And you realize that following Christ is really nothing like what people told you it would be, that your life is not noticeably better than all those “worldly” people who seem to be quite content and peaceful, actually.

            And its times like that when I feel like it’s all kind of been a lie.  This whole Christianity thing we’ve been taught.  Sometimes it feels so capitalistic, so cost/benefit analysis.  I follow God and I get: peace, happiness, love, smiles.  Sign me up, sounds good, I’ll believe in that.  Hell, I’d believe in anything for that.  And the truth is that Christianity does not hold the market on peace, happiness, and smiles.  I don’t think I’m being overly post-modern to say that people of many religions exceed in these qualities.  There’s a reason that Buddhism resonates with over 350 million people.

            All this to say: I don’t like the idea of believing in something based on what I can get out of it.  I could become Mormon so I could get a job in Utah. I could become Buddhist so I could have a cool conversation with Madonna someday.  But I’ve looked into those things a bit, I’ve read through the book of Mormon, those things aren’t true.  And maybe that’s why life isn’t handed to us on a silver platter, that’s why sunday school was wrong.  Because I bet God wouldn’t feel too honored by people who follow him because they can get something cool out of it.  I bet he wants people who follow him because they know he is real, even in the midst of absolute mess, even if he doesn’t make things better.

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9 Responses to “Anyways, I never liked sunday school”

  1. joelmw Says:

    Yes, but I don’t think it’s so simple. Part of the problem is that the rest of the religion we’re force-fed not only contradicts the sales pitch but it contradicts the Bible as well.

    As I see it, there are several problems:
    1) As you say, a bit of false advertising.
    2) Even more false teaching about what the Kingdom and who the King is. Part of why the Gospel doesn’t make good on the initial claims is simply that, after the sales pitch, the Church continues to point its converts farther and farther away from the Gospel.
    3) Back to the advertising bit: a frantic anxiety that we have to trick folks into the Kingdom and continue to deceive them to get them to stay; the apparent conviction that God would rather–and, indeed, seems to need–us to lie as opposed to resting in the Truth and relying on His Spirit.

  2. joelmw Says:

    I should have put quotes around “Gospel” or said “part of why the Gospel doesn’t seem to make good . . .”

  3. cnagel90 Says:

    I totally agree! The Christianity I learned in sunday school was completely different from the truth I know now. It was like a fairy tale or something. Not quite real, but still a part of my life. In my mind, Jesus was like a cartoon character… probably because every depiction of Jesus I saw in sunday school was a cartoon.

  4. joelmw Says:

    I’ve thought about this some more, and I feel compelled to say that much of what we are told in our youth is lies and half truths.

    Some of it is unavoidable. Some should be avoided. Some maybe could be avoided, but in fact, this is often very difficult and there are frequently even more troubling consequences of insisting on the “truth.”

    Um, to which I would add that we don’t really know the truth when we’re adults either. Indeed, I feel it worth restating that sometimes our adult minds are convinced of contradictions to happy truths we should never have abandoned, yaknow, with the wisdom of “maturity.”

  5. moosetraks Says:

    Im sure when I was little Sunday School was like that, but lately in the Bible studies I have done (while they lasted) and the Sunday School lessons have emphasized that being a Christian, much to the world’s view, does not mean you life will be perfect. But I’m not sure at what age you consider little… And the part where you said, “I bet he wants people who follow him because they know he is real, even in the midst of absolute mess, even if he doesn’t make things better” reminds me of the talk I wrote about faith for a camp I am going to this coming weekend. Life will not be easy, but choosing God in those hard times demonstrates how strong your faith is.

  6. Mike Says:

    @steph: In the churches I’ve been apart of “sunday school” has always referred to young kids, like elementary school age. Every time I hear adults talk about going to “sunday school” i quiety laugh to myself and picture them doing crafts and cutting along dotted lines.

  7. moosetraks Says:

    We still do Sunday School… and we still do crafts, or games, or activities which require getting off of the couch which I typically refuse to do, because it is too painful after a church service. But it kinda goes along with your post. Why does bad stuff happen to good people? And I know you dont have an answer because none of us do, but what do you believe?
    And I might need your help…

  8. mnagel Says:

    @steph: yeah, that’s a biggie. Jesus says somewhere in matthew that God sends rain on the just and the unjust, i think that’s essentially the answer; which is kind of what i was saying with this post. I get the feeling that life just kind of happens, and while God can do anything he wants he often seems to leave the fate of things in our hands (or at least it feels that way).

  9. moosetraks Says:

    Then I guess I didnt quite get the post. I am never very good at trying to decipher the meanings from passages of writing. And I think the fact that God knows that something bad is going to happen and it his will for said bad thing to happen and he lets it happen just blows my mind.


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