Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Indoctrination in Vanilla
My own story of the beginning of my faith was so bland that I have great difficulty remembering details.
My parents shuffled me off to Sunday School while they attended the real sermon. There, I learned how Jesus loves all the little children, yes, all the children of the world. Cartoon pictures of Noah and David decorated the cinder block walls. Cartoon versions of Biblical stories told to us, like how David, just a mere young boy, bravely stood up against the evil, giant Goliath, and killed him with God's help. (They left off the part about the subsequent decapitation, as they did with any of the less-kid-friendly details from other stories.)
It was, for all intents and purposes, a real school without exams. The stories which we were told were presented as fact, just like an History class. That's not to say I would expect anything different, but just to point out that there was no deep thought involved. There was no reason. There was only the way it was. And I just soaked it up without question. Indoctrinated. Christian.
I can't remember the precise age, maybe 10(?), but at some point I was deemed old enough to go through the Methodist Church Confirmation program. It was to be a confirmation that I was actually in the faith, that I was indeed a Christian. The program took the cartoon concepts presented in early Sunday School and, well, made them less cartoon like. But just a little. Still in two-dimensions, the concepts of Salvation and (the only alternative) damnation were sketched out on a foundation of sin. God's love would save us. Jesus would save us. Make that: Jesus had already saved us.
To this day I can't tell you what version of damnation they had preached to me at that time. I thought I was already a Christian, and all the people I knew were too, so I didn't worry about it. Also, I was pretty self-centered, even more than I am now. ;-)
This program, too, was just another form of school. The trouble is that I was a pretty smart kid with a wealth of laziness. When you are "blessed" with that gift, a structured teaching pace can be unbearably slow. So just like in real school, I would pay attention just long enough to get the gist of what the teacher was saying, and then completely zone out in daydreams. The Confirmation program did have tests of sorts, and I paid attention just enough to pass them. That's probably why I barely remember anything from the program.
Anyway, graduation day came, and I was confirmed in front of the entire congregation. The whole class was paraded up front, where we each read a verse out of the Bible. Voilà. We were proclaimed Christians. Our parents were happy. I didn't feel any different. I mean, I thought I already was a Christian. To me, it wasn't a faith; it was a status, or identity. It wasn't something you earned, it was something you were. The pomp seemed a bit unnecessary.
However, now that I was a true Christian in the eyes of the church, from then on I attended the regular sermons with my parents. Physically I attended, that is. Mentally I was off in a different world.
Our church didn't have an energetic preacher. Fire and brimstone was rarely in the forecast. Nobody jumped up and yelled "PRAISE THE LORD!" Nobody spoke in tongues. Nobody got healed. Nobody prophesied. Nobody stood up and waved their arms back and forth with hands uplifted as if receiving invisible ray beams of love-energy from the God in the sky above.
There was no show. There was only worship and psalms. Reverent, quiet worship. And daydreaming. And the occasional nap.
It would take a special girl for me to start pondering my Christianity more deeply, but that's a story for another time...