My town hosted a big evangelical Christian rally last year on a summer Sunday evening at a local public park.
It was a big rock and roll concert, laser lights, food trucks, loud worship, and louder preaching.
I could barely hear the birds and cicadas in my backyard from 4:30-8:30.
Their purpose confuses me.
I looked up the sponsoring organization. They mostly advertise charity work. They’re independent of denomination.
They planted trees at a local school and they were very involved in tornado relief around Dayton for a couple months. Everything they post on social media screams, “Look at me! Look at the good we do – for Jesus!”
I’m reminded of the condemnation of showy religion in Matthew 6.
Their statement lists that marriage is between one man and one woman. Some of their language assumes that women are reduced to lesser jobs, unable to serve in leadership positions, like in many evangelical and fundamentalist denominations.
My biggest concerns are how a religious charity is involved with public schools (separation of church and state?) and the white saviors on their website and social media photos and videos – usually posed smiling with beautiful black and brown children. Do those families know their children are being exploited?
I see things like this more and more. Perhaps in America, people really just don’t know any better.
In seeking to fill a hole in our souls, people turn to performative activism and churchtainment instead of doing the work for sacred inner transformation.
Teaching religion to my children is very important to me. I didn’t attend church or learn anything of value about religion when I was growing up.
I don’t rely on church or Sunday school or pastors because they have always disappointed me. Sometimes, they have been outright wrong or hateful or exclusionary. I have certain values I want to instill and I want history and doctrine taught well.
As a family, we have been seekers of Truth. We’ve attended AWANA, Sunday school, VBS, and several different church denomination services over the years. I am often appalled by the curriculum, teaching (or lack thereof), refusal to answer questions (the kids’ and mine), advertisements for questionable charities and services, emotional and psychological abuse, and lukewarm attitudes.
I am disgusted by Christian celebrity worship.
What is religion?
Religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
How do I guide and teach my kids religion? Do I just rely on a denomination, church leaders and officials, Christian TV and music, or do I let them loose on their own to figure it out?
Questions to ask when choosing religion curriculum:
- How does the program support your mission statement?
- What type of curriculum is best for my children? (Lectionary, workshop rotation, story-based, Montessori, etc.)
- How are sacraments taught /covered? Is this in keeping with my tradition?
- How is Jesus portrayed? God? The Holy Spirit? Is this in keeping with my tradition?
- How are children incorporated into religious life: through worship, service projects, faith-in-action, fellowship?
Religious education is the teaching of the aspects of religion: beliefs, doctrines, rituals, customs, rites, and personal roles.
I feel a lot of churches really miss the mark on religious education. Church leaders wrongly assume that people have been raised in church, have healthy spiritual lives, are discussing spiritual topics with their kids, are active in their communities, have it all figured out.
In almost every world religion, we are commanded to LOVE GOD and LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR.
Good neighboring means we want to find a way to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
How can we be loving neighbors?
That the cross stands at the center of the Christian faith, tells us that pain and suffering are not without meaning. In fact, we believe that they can serve a redemptive purpose. Not that we go looking for pain and suffering, it’s just that we don’t need to be afraid when pain and suffering come looking for us. Frederick Buechner, termed this approach the stewardship of pain. I think that’s what we’re after. Often, when I find myself bristling against the bridle of pain, I remember of the words of Barbara Brown Taylor: “Not to accept suffering as a normal, inevitable part of being alive seems like a big mistake, and finding ways to cover it up seems like choosing anesthesia. There is a sense in which…if I will trust that what comes to me in my life is for me and not against me…what I find is that it breaks my idols, that it breaks my isolation, that it challenges my sense of independence, it does all kinds of things for me that I would not willingly do that are for me, that are for my health.”Tim Suttle
America is a culture of pew warmers who sing pretty songs while ignoring social justice and personal inner change.
Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions.Henri Nouwen
How I Teach Religion
It’s hard to teach religion if I don’t understand it.
It’s been a rough faith journey and I’m now realizing it’s a never-ending walk. I’m coming full circle.
I didn’t grow up in church or with any real understanding of Christianity.
I said a prayer before dinner and at bedtime and that was about it.
Learning to live a life of faith is important for me to model for my children.
I had to learn what faith meant to me by trial and error, reading lots and lots and lots, and watching what not to do.
Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. “Faith is not enough,” they say, “You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.” They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working, creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, “I believe.” That is what they think true faith is. But, because this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn’t come from this `faith,’ either.
Instead, faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words.
Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they’re smart enough to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools. Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.Martin Luther
Do we do all this alone?
- Sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”)
- Sola fide (“by faith alone”)
- Sola gratia (“by grace alone”)
- Solus Christus or Solo Christo (“Christ alone” or “through Christ alone”)
- Soli Deo gloria (“glory to God alone”)
While this oversimplifies the purpose of faith, I also worry about individualism in place of community.
I’ve taught Sunday school and Wednesday night classes to adults and children. I’ve taught parenting classes, Bible classes, financial classes, health classes.
I’ve been criticized for sarcasm, jokes, my appearance, photography, crafts, storybook read alouds, and more.
Not many of you should become teachers, because we know that we teachers will be judged more strictly.James 3:1
I’m tired of being told I’m a sinner, evil, bad, wrong.
I’m tired of being told what I can and can’t read, watch, eat, do, wear.
I’m not caught up in rules or legalism.
The older and wiser I get, the fewer rules I find important.
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28
I have no patience for discrimination or exclusion.
I’m not interested in a vanilla church that looks like a private country club and has worthless social events.
I don’t want our family members separated out at the door of a church building to go to age-segregated classrooms to learn about complementarianism.
It’s not my job to be the Holy Spirit to my family.
I don’t believe that my kids can’t doubt or ask hard questions about God, Jesus, the Bible.
I don’t believe in stressing out on the American idea of Heaven and Hell.
Jesus died on a cross to show us what love looks like in action.
Nearly half of young LGBT people who are left homeless after coming out are from religious backgrounds.
That’s according to research by the Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT), which supports young people who are at risk of homelessness.
The charity says three in four LGBT people are rejected by their families – and 45% of that number are from a faith background.Nomia Iqbal and Josh Parry, BBC
We stopped going to church for many reasons. I have yet to find a church that is not complicit in racism and sexism, even if they are actively engaged in social justice and trying hard. I’m not interested in an American nationalist capitalist Jesus.
Being complicit only requires a muted response in the face of injustice or uncritical support of the status quo.Jemar Tisby
I enjoy reading to my family and learning and growing in our faith together. We read lots about church fathers, saints, missionaries, poetry, nature…God is everywhere.
I feel it’s important to understand church history and the history of all world religions.
I love comparing and contrasting religions around the world.
I find history fascinating and I love learning how parallel and similar world religions are.
We learn a great deal about the origins of religions during our Ancient History studies every few years.
We enjoyed learning about and visiting churches in Europe.
We learn the Old Testament stories like the literature, myths, and legends they are.
We read about missionaries and discuss what they did wrong and right about evangelizing and helping people.
I enjoy exploring the music traditions, celebrations, and unique customs of religions.
Adhering to our faith, expanding our knowledge, and learning history isn’t enough.
We have to put into practice what we believe.
Acts of love, mercy, and grace are important.
Charity work and volunteering are difficult with young kids when most organizations want only adults.
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.James 2:14-24
I believe in “Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
We are the church and we are the hands and feet of God.
We need to show Heaven to the People.
We are the Kingdom of God. It is at hand. Reach out for it!
Inclusive Reading list:
Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism are the main world religions. There are lots of variations within them and other smaller faiths and beliefs throughout the world.
Panentheism: the belief or doctrine that God is greater than the universe and includes and interpenetrates it.
I teach my kids the history and customs of other faiths and traditions. I want them to understand and not fear them. We are delighted by some of the customs in their simplicity, complexity, and beauty.
We see things on media that incite fear and otherness and I won’t allow that to dictate our views. We discuss it and refute it.
- What’s in the Bible?
- Story of God with Morgan Freeman
- Story of Us with Morgan Freeman
- Studying God’s Word workbooks
- Reformation Unit Study
- Nonviolence Unit Study
- Celebrating Advent
- Celebrating Hanukkah
- Celebrating Passover
- Celebrating Rosh Hashanah
- Celebrating Purim
- Celebrating Saints and Holy Days
- We Stopped Going to Church
- Statement of Faith
- I Don’t Teach Purity
- How I Pray
- Bible Studies for the New Year
- Summer Bible Studies
- Bible Studies for Lent
- Teaching the Trinity