Are Your Children Hearing Of A Hateful God?

Are Your Children Hearing Of A Hateful God? July 7, 2022

Children are naturally spiritual. When small children awaken in the morning, they want to know where they are. They look around themselves. There are also physical needs to be fulfilled. My oldest would reach up and ask for juice. Both children listened at the sounds coming from outside. We lived in a rural community. They identified the animals that made the sounds. Animals, plants, houses, electronics, beds, toys, and food filled their days. They also knew Sunday meant church and class. Growing up in a parsonage family has peculiar challenges. But children in such families, know church is a big part of their lives.

The Language of Spirituality for Children

There is no innate language for spirituality. We are all taught it. Our parents, teachers, and preachers give the language of spirituality to us. Your child learns about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, Noah, Moses, and everything else through these mediators. Parents want to know the other people are teaching about these subjects. As a pastor, I wanted to know what they were hearing about them.

I could count on hearing about what my kids said in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. They are witty people. But I could not get a full grasp on what they heard. Reading the literature being used is not as helpful as one might think. The teachers and preachers bring their own information to the class. I wanted to know what they were told about God in relation to humanity. When I tried asking these questions, I got answers that never explained anything.

Parents in a parsonage family usually does not grow up in the community of the church. So the explanations that would be fully comprehended by a lifelong resident did not always translate. Sunday school teachers did not understand what I was asking either.

Evangelical Goals

There was something I understood very well, though. Most teachers in my mainline church were bringing into their classes standard evangelical goals. The purpose of religious education was so one day the children would claim Jesus as their personal savior. But what parents want to know is, Jesus as savior from what or whom?

Are children in church being told about a hate-filled God? Even though my teachers quoted John 3:16 to me about how God loves the whole world, and we sang about it being “in his hands,” my impression was the opposite. God hated the world unless the world claimed Jesus. Only certain individuals will be able to do that primarily because of where and when they were born. Those individuals are the ones God loves. They are the world in God’s hands.

Fundamentalists claim a person must believe the correct doctrines in order to be saved. Salvation is for a person who discovers those doctrines through careful study of the Bible, or has teachers imparting it. I was lucky to have people who would teach me “the truth.” But the truth left me with the impression of a blood thirsty God who was sending my family members who believed differently to hell.

Children of the Blood Thirsty God

My family members believed these basics too. They held a different view of how someone gets themselves saved. But it was the same idea of God who would eventually punish all (his and our) enemies. Children whose spirituality is warped by this theology are damaged. They are not made better people because of it. I tried to get my children to places where this thinking was not prevalent. Yet, my denominational leadership never thought in these terms when it came to assignments.

My children went through a process of reworking their minds growing up. If someone told them about the God who hated everyone but us, we explained God valued differences and expected no one to get it all just right. When some teacher explained they wanted no “gays teaching their children,” we explained people were not automatically bad people for being gay. And it continued on and on. But now they are young people who have a means of exploring their own understanding of spiritual life.

Children of the Blood Thirsty God do not enter adulthood with such permission. They tend to reject it out of hand with no desire to seek an alternative. I was cautious about sending my children to other church based programs for that reason. My children rarely “met at the flagpole” in school. I told them it was fine to skip it if they wanted to do so.

The Present State of Religious Liberty

The latest rulings on “religious liberty” strengthens religious authoritarians. Children are in danger of being given a mental image of a blood thirsty and hate-filled god that parents should not and often do not want. But children are spiritually vulnerable. There are actions to take.

Progressive parents need to tell their children it is all right to skip the teacher’s prayer times. Progressive church leaders should encourage parents to help their children avoid the prayers offered by the coach. Religious liberty means freedom not to participate in religious activities and instruction when one does not agree. Religious authoritarianism encourages the violation of conscience for the sake of conformity.

We need to say, pray if you want. We need to also say, abstain from praying if you want. If a Sunday School teacher does not like being questioned by the students, explain it is the student’s job to ask questions. Object loudly if your children come home after having been proselytized. Do not allow their spiritual development to be interrupted by being told they should say certain prayers to stay out of hell. Find out what your children are being told.

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