Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Children and church – the 70s.

My family went to church out of a sense of duty. There was no expectation that anyone would enjoy it, nor any perceptible spiritual growth, increase in charity, or any other fruits of the Spirit as a result. It was just what you "had to" do on Sundays. They were at the tail end of the demographic who went to church out of deference to social expectations. At the age when we tend to believe everything adults say is true, I was told about God, but didn’t have any direct experience of God.

The head of one of my first schools was a committed Christian who told us bible stories, and about the rules of the religion, the Ten Commandments and other things that came in handy lists we could memorise. Miss B also had a real faith herself and an absolute integrity. Her version of Christianity was very much like the icebox approach in the delivery of its beliefs and doctrine, but it was real, she did not go home and then behave very differently for the remaining 166 or so hours of the week like my family.

But when I went on to another school, and although the cracks in the family were obvious by then, there was a complete lack of pastoral support. Here there were some people of integrity like Miss B, but also a lot of opportunistic misuse of religious tools. Telling children about an eye in the sky bearing down upon you wherever you are has obvious applications if you want to enforce excessive school rules or any other kind of conformity. This was paired with a kind of saccharine babytalk in the school assemblies that completely cut God off from me when I most needed that connection.

We filed into the RS classroom past a series of framed cartoons of contorted figures in hell, based on the Psalms and Wisdom literature quotes on fools saying there is no God. When we were told the story of Abraham and Isaac, the teacher did nothing to explain it – another time and place, Abraham’s mistake, God’s knowledge that Abraham would do anything for him? Nothing.

I was going through major intra-family violence, emotional abuse and neglect, including refusal to get me medical help for a very painful and sometimes dangerous condition, someone very close to me was dying, I had been uprooted from a home and school where I had just about managed to hang on. I was not so much having a childhood as getting to be a four-foot high carer for some of the adults around me.

If your so-called children’s assemblies or services are alienating the very children most in need of this, it’s safe to say you’re Doing It Wrong.

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