What My Conservative Evangelical Church Taught Me in Sunday School, And Then Abandoned

I was raised in a quite-conservative Evangelical church. Honestly, I loved it. I felt loved. I felt nurtured. I felt community. I had friends. There were picnics and socials and summer camps. I could walk around knowing that everyone I passed cared about me. It felt like family.

When I was very small, most of the teaching in our Sunday School classes came through simple songs meant to teach basic truths of Christianity. sundayschool

You taught me to sing:

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world,
Red and Yellow, Black and White,
They are precious in His sight.

And I believed it.

Why do you now call me “liberal” for standing against those parts of my culture that violate this simple principle? Why do you insist on calling yourself “pro life” in order to protect the unborn while supporting policies that clearly harm innocent living children? You taught me that all human life is sacred, not because anything any life has done or not done, but merely because that life is loved by God and made in his image. When did the range of which lives count as sacred contract so much?

You taught me to sing:

Jesus loves me,
This I know,
For the Bible tells me so,
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong.

And I believed it.

Why do you now call me unrealistic for imagining this is true of all children, including Syrian children, Guatemalan children.

Did Jesus stop loving them?

You taught me to sing:

For the fruit of the spirit
is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,
for such there is no law.

And I believed it.

Why do you flame me on Facebook when I criticize Christians for favoring partisan enmity over all these things? Why have you embraced political power at the expense of the very morality you taught me?

When did shaming, anger, and violence become fruits of the spirit?

You taught me to sing:

Father Abraham had many sons
And many sons had Father Abraham.
I am one of them
and so are you.
So let’s just praise the Lord.

And I believed it.

Why do you now ask me to believe that other Sons of Abraham (Jews and Muslims) are dangerous terrorists by nature?

Do we not sing this one anymore?

You taught me to sing:

He’s got the whole world in His hands.

And I believed it.

Why do you ask me to believe that “border security” and “economic growth” are the most important considerations while massive parts of God’s world are decimated by war and environmental disaster?

Have some parts of God’s world become less God’s than they used to be?

You taught me to sing:

Praise Him, Praise Him,
All ye little children,
God is love
God is love

And I believed it.

Why do you make those with beliefs different than your own, or those who engage in practices of which you don’t approve feel anything but loved by God? I wouldn’t insist that you change your views, but thousands are walking out of your churches having experienced nothing but ostracism and  double-standards, and feeling nothing but shame and self-loathing. Shouldn’t that, by the standards you taught me, indicate that there’s at least something wrong with your delivery?

You taught me to sing:

Zacheus was a wee little man
And a wee little man was he,
He climbed up in a sycamore tree,
For the Lord he wanted to see.
And as the saviour came that way,
He looked up in the tree,
and he said, “Zacheus! YOU COME DOWN!”
For I’m going to your house today.

And you taught me that Zacheus was a tax collector, a sellout, the most reviled person in his culture, that his fellows considered him unclean and sinful, and yet he was the one whom Jesus chose with whom to sit down and share a meal.

And I believed it.

Why do you criticize me when I sit down to share an Iftar meal with my Muslim neighbors? When I have a theological conversation over that dinner where my goal is to listen and understand and find ways of working together rather than to proselytize and accuse (and have you noticed that those things don’t really work well together)? When I associate with LGBTQ+ friends without shaming them? Jesus didn’t ask Zacheus about his sexuality or immigration status. He just invited him to dinner.

When did Zacheus become unwelcome?

In other words:

What the hell happened to you people?

 

2 thoughts on “What My Conservative Evangelical Church Taught Me in Sunday School, And Then Abandoned

  1. While I would be most reluctant to defend evangelicals, I also need to defend some things you say here. You say that you’ve been told that Muslims are terrorists by nature. What do you make of all the terrorism in the name of Allah? Not accusing, simply asking. How do you square that? And border security–every city in the known world back in the first century had a WALL and watchmen because the simple observable truth is there are bad people in the world who want your stuff, your wife, your children, and your very life. It’s called sin–something evangelicals have completely messed up.

    But all that aside, Christianity in their lovey-dovey come-join-the-club approach has done more damage than good. They are deceived and also deceive. It was of them that it was written “our fathers inherited lies.” (Jeremiah 16:19). “Thousands are walking out of their churches”–yes. A Restoration of the travesty of Nicaea is now underway–in preparation for the coming King AND THEN and only then will there be the kind of love you want to see in the world. Until then, we only try. And since they tossed the commandments of the Most High, the church is clueless of how to do even that.

    Like

    1. Thanks for your interest, Jenna. There’s too much going on there to respond to briefly, but I’ll offer a few quick thoughts:

      It’s interesting that you should ask about terrorism “in the name of Allah,” since “Allah” is merely the Arabic word for “God.” Arabic Christians use the same word when referring to God, and it appears as the word for God in any Arabic translation of the Christian Bible. So yes, there’s been a lot of violence committed in the name of “Allah.” Some by Muslims, some by Christians. Any religion or ideology can be weaponized and turned into an excuse for violence as long as someone believes it makes them so superior to everyone else that they’re justified in whatever they do to promote their religion’s/ideology’s interests.The problem is not any one religion, but rather religious extremism. Let’s keep in mind that the majority of terrorist acts committed on American soil in the last number of decades were committed by white men who claimed Christianity.

      As to walls: Yes, many cities in the premodern world had walls. But as someone who’s spent the better part of a lifetime studying the Middle Ages I can tell you, for one thing, that such walls often didn’t work. They were honored, in a very literal sense, more often in the breach than the observance (see what I did there?). The other obvious reason ancient walls had any efficacy at all is that what premodern people did *not* have were things like aircraft, missiles, satellites, drones, the internet, and all sorts of other things that go over and under and through walls–or just make them irrelevant. And really, you don’t see walls getting used as fortifications very much after folks figure out how to make artillery effective. The question there becomes less one of defending walls and more about how to take out said artillery. And yeah, there are bad people in the world, but what is that thing that Christ tells us to do in regard to our enemies? We don’t get a pass on that just by telling ourselves we’re being pragmatic.

      As to your final paragraph, I have to admit I found it a little obscure and garbled, but I’ll just say that I don’t think any of the teachings of Jesus allow us to put off loving our neighbors unti the advent of some prophesied utopia. Jesus identifies love of God and Neighbor as the two most important commandments, and he doesn’t qualify them in any way: it’s not “love thy neighbor after I’ve made the conditions easy for you to do so.” It’s just “love thy neighbor.” It’s just “care for the least of these.” The Body of Christ is *now*, we work toward shalom *now*.

      You see, that’s actually one of the reasons I’m feeling such dissonance: the very same Christians who showed me the passages in which Jesus identifies love of God and Neighbor as the most important commandments, seem to get pretty high and mighty about talking about how the church has ‘abandoned God’s commandments.’ To me, it looks very much like they’re the ones who’ve abandoned the most important commandments of all. Casuistic arguments about difficult passages of prophecy can’t ever take the place of Christ’s own, totally unambiguous directive.

      mark

      Liked by 1 person

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