Stephen Kahn

Posts Tagged ‘evangelicals’

How young to indoctrinate?

In Hard to tell, Uncategorized on June 1, 2012 at 3:33 am

The Trinity Lutheran Church is clearly an evangelical Christian church – that is, one of their main purposes and motivations is to get other people to join their church. Their style and approach in doing so fooled me for a bit – it seems so low-key and inclusive compared to other evangelicals.

However, despite their good nature and tolerance (compared to other evangelicals I have encountered), from time to time they still manage to rub me the wrong way. One of the behaviors that irritate me about religious believers is how they indoctrinate children into their belief system when the children are at a very young age. I am not sure what is a better method though. When my daughter was young, I did not say much about religion. When she was in kindergarten, George, a naughty boy who lived next door told her, “Santa Claus is not real.”

My daughter related this to me when she came home from kindergarten. Going Socratic, I asked her, “What do you think?”

“I don’t think he is real. Why did you let me believe in him?”

I said, “I thought it better to let you figure it out for yourself.”

After that, I didn’t have to say much about religion. However, she soon became an atheist, perhaps from being raised by atheists. Also, one of her baby sitters began to teach her about Jesus without asking us, which irritated me quite a bit, but it had no effect.

My daughter’s partner was raised as a Methodist. When she and my daughter became an “item” in college, my daughter converted her to atheism in fairly short order. As far as I can tell, their scheme for our granddaughter (now 8 years old) is to start taking her to various churches when she is a little older and let her decide which one she prefers. My daughter said to me, “I hope she decides not to become a religious believer, but it will be up to her.”

One of the last times I was at Trinity Lutheran Church, after a wood splitting session, the Pastor was teaching a religion class about Jesus and the Resurrection to a group of small children, probably about 3-5 years old. They were acting out (it was near Easter) a little play about Jesus rising from the dead. The Pastor came over to us (the wood splitters) after the children finished chuckling.

“I have to share a story with you,” he said with a grin. It seems that a little girl (about four or five) was playing the role of Jesus. I guess she got to pretend to be crucified on the Cross. As she was lying in the tomb, waiting to rise from the dead, the little girl began to call out, “I have to go pee pee!”

The Pastor and everyone in the group (except me) found the story amazingly charming and entertaining. I kept as amused an expression on my face as I could, but in fact I found the episode unpleasant and distasteful. I have said nothing to Craig or any of the other Christian wood splitters, but the next week I took a trip to the mainland to drop in on a meeting of “atheists, humanists, freethinkers” and the like. I felt a great relief to be around a group of people whose attitudes and thinking was much closer to mine. We watched a movie about abortion, called “Lake of Fire.” The movie and discussion was interesting and well done. (The movie was not “anti-abortion” or “pro-choice.” It was a documentary about the issue and portrayed many points of view and many incidents, including a scene of a baby being aborted and portrayed incidents involving people who had assassinated abortion providers.

The gentle, tolerant evangelicals

In Good news, Humor, Uncategorized on May 31, 2012 at 4:20 pm

I think my recent serious, but not deadly, illness, distracted me from writing about the religious cult to which I belong, Transition Lutheran Church. I participate in a peripheral way with the “wood ministry” crew that cuts, splits, and hauls wood, and sells it to people (at a very reduced cost) for heating purposes.

In the past, I communicated with conservative evangelical Christians (mostly on the Internet, but in a few cases in person). Most of the ones I encountered professed (and perhaps really did believe) that God exists, that Jesus is his son, and that with the Holy Ghost they make up some kind of magical “Trinity.” I regarded this as absurd and offensive. These conservative evangelicals were full of intolerance and hostility (while prating constantly about love), and full of condemnation of Communists (reasonable enough) and of Muslims (not so reasonable), atheists, abortion doctors, homosexuals, “liberals,” and lots of other people who don’t agree with them. After several years of participating in their discussions, I was eventually “banned.” from participation. Though I was guilty of a few intemperate remarks, mostly – as I said in a comment – “evangelical Christians like to dish it out, but they don’t much like to be on the receiving end of dishing.”

However, all humans – individually and in groups – change and evolve. When I began to participate with Trinity Lutheran, it took me a while to realize that they were indeed Christian zealots, as much obsessed with “converting me” as the evangelicals I encountered before. However, the Trinity group with much more tolerant and open-minded than the zealots at worldmagblog (a division of World Magazine, the group I had encountered before.

At Trinity, the obsession with bringing people into the flock is much purer, more ecumenical, gentler, and inclusive than the obsessions I encountered before. “You are a Jew? You are a Muslim? You are a Hindu? You are a [whatever your faith] – well, that’s fine. We all worship some aspect of the same God” seems to be the current doctrine.”

However, I am a stone cold, fanatical atheist. Most of the people who participate in the wood splitters are at least 90% of the way to religious belief, so it only takes a gentle push to push to get them that last 10%. But as I said not too long ago, at most I am .01% of the way to religious belief.

Even so, my friend and neighbor Craig (much like the sweet Karen O), takes that as a sign for optimism. He told me, one day (after I irritated my wife by telling Craig and Sharon I am an atheist), “That’s OK. We have atheists in our congregation. In fact, Pastor Jim has a special sermon he delivers at the funerals of atheists.”

Craig even took it amicably when I sardonically responded, “I suppose I appreciate the thought, but after I die, I will not be paying much attention to any sermons delivered on my behalf.”