So last week was full of songs, verse memorization, and games. Helping the kids memorize their verses was a cinch: I made it to Guards in AWANA back in the late '80s, so "God is my refuge and my strength; an ever-present help in time of trouble" (Ps. 46:1) rolled trippingly off my tongue as if I learned it yesterday. But the songs, oh, the songs! Christian faux-pop tarted up with the nasal stylings of auto-tuned teens wailing about how my God will meet all your needs. My girls, natural mimics all, had learned their verse after listening to their take-home CD the first day, but were also imitating the bad musicality of the singers. I don't care how catchy the songs are; I'm throwing the thing out because I can't stand much more of it. The message is good, true, and beautiful; the presentation? Killing me.
Watching Bible Camp from the outside was intriguing, as I watched most of the kids from the block file in each morning and recite (or not) their memory verses, urged on by the enthusiastic candy-wielding teenagers from my neighbor's Evangelical church. There are varying levels of religious observance on the street, and some children barely know what a bible is, let alone who Jesus is. Many of the parents were desperate for an hour and a half of daycare at the end of the summer. (I'm guilty as charged; I hadn't really considered sending the kids down to Bible Camp until I was so hard-up for quiet homeschool planning time that I would have let them beat each other with sticks outside if they would just leave me alone.) I wondered how effective an introduction to the Christian life it was to hand out isolated bible verses to those who have no basis for crediting anything the Bible says. I don't know; I'm not trying to be snide or dismissive of the clear and joyful effort put into the whole project. The parable of the sower and the seeds did become a running meditation for me all week: the soil must be prepared if the word is to be accepted and take root, and it seems to me that part of that preparation is that an appeal to the authority of the Bible must be grounded in the necessity of the search for God. The existence of the Bible, as a physical object, is incontrovertible, but its authority rests on establishing that God has indeed chosen this means of communicating Himself to man, something that gets circular when using the Bible to establish itself as such. The urge for God, or the search for meaning in life has resonance even to children, even outside of any established religious convention. Does this need to be explored, or even touched on, for scripture memorization to take on any significance other than a means to candy?
|"He then gets two nuts in recompense for his infant piety."|
I love this rich, multi-layered religion, and I love the the simple beginning. "Why did God make me?" isn't a just Catholic question, nor even a Christian one, but thanks to centuries of theological and philosophical tradition, and generations of systematic childhood catechesis, we OWN it.
But this isn't an infallible approach, if presented only as information. Generations of poorly-educated Catholics and Protestant converts can attest to that. So what's the answer? I don't know. All I can say is that I find more and more that I am Roman Catholic, not just by birth but by temperament as well as theological and philosophical inclination. The flatter spiritual approach of Protestantism is not for me, nor is it something I desire for my children, no matter how grateful I am for free babysitting. But I am grateful for it, and I hope that the zeal my neighbor shows bears fruit, and that the word so enthusiastically scattered will take root even in imperfectly tended soil.