A local church recently taught the young children there a Sunday School lesson about sin. When I heard about it I was upset and I still am. I want so much more and so much different for my son's spiritual foundation. So, I'm retelling and revising the lesson here.
The children were each given a paper heart to represent their own hearts. Then, a list of sins was read by the teacher and for each one committed the child was to blacken in a portion of the heart. One little boy brought his darkly colored heart home to his mother. He was confused and sad. What did it mean?
It means that the whole point of the Christian faith was left out of the lesson. Christian faith is about a wild incomprehensible God who lived with us, as one of us, that we might know something more & closer of that God. It's about grace that extends to forgive both the wrong things we do and the good things that we shrink from doing. It's about hope & energy & courage to extend that wild, incomprehensible love & grace.
And it would have been easy to include a child-sized morsel of this in the Sunday School lesson. The children could have colored over the black with white. They could have flipped the hearts over. They could have made new ones & talked about good that they do & can do... but they did not need to go home to their families with dark hearts.
I am wary of what my son will learn about God & Christian faith if he grows up in the church. I want him to learn about wild, incomprehensible love that forgives, that fuels good work in the world and that keens your understanding to see what to do & how to be. I want him to understand that it's not really as simple as black or white. We are both & more & other things besides. I want church to be one place where he learns, but not a sole or overruling authority. As a parent I need ways to teach my son about these things, both overtly in lessons and subtly in life. Even as I am continuing to learn them.