Yesterday I read a BlogHer blog post that really got under my skin. You might ought to check it out if you’d like to understand completely where my thoughts are coming from. Here’s the link:
All caught up? Good.
I was 16 years old when I had an experience that solidified my certainty that God knew exactly who I was. I had always known who He was, but this experience took our relationship one step further. I knew Him… and He knew me. It’s a personal experience, one too personal to share in such a public forum, but it was real and good and validating and has stayed with me as a defining moment in my life, even 15 years later. I was prepared for such an experience because from the earliest days of my childhood I was taught about who God was. I was taught to recognize Him in the beauty of the world around me, in the love that I felt in my home, in the joy and happiness that I found in playing outside or snuggling inside. I was taught to recognize that God is everywhere, that God is love.
As a child, I was never told that if I did not believe a certain way, I was going to hell. I was never told that my friends who didn’t believe as I do were going to hell. I was never told that those who make different choices than I do, who live different lifestyles than I do were going to hell either. I was taught to be tolerant, to be kind, to be compassionate and forgiving.
I acknowledge that there is a brand of toxic Christianity that exists, that judges and belittles and demeans. I am a Mormon that grew up in the Southern United States. I have experienced such discrimination first hand. In high school, I had a boy tell me he didn’t want to date me anymore because his preacher told him I was going to hell for being Mormon. Notes were regularly left in my locker, inviting me to be saved, informing me that prayer meetings were being held on my behalf. Such gestures were particularly frustrating because I considered myself a person with a strong sense of who Jesus was and what role He played in my life.
I won’t try and tell anyone that all Christians, or all people of faith in general are perfect, but I will assert that to paint us all with one big brush–to push us all into a box of intolerant narrowmindedness, to imply that we are all scaring our children into following our footsteps with tales of fire and brimstone simply isn’t fair.
When my husband and I teach our children about God, we teach them that they have a right, even an obligation to study and pray and ponder so that they may learn for themselves. Of course, there is a level of blind obedience that exists with young children. But ultimately, each of my children will reach an age where they will have to decide for themselves what they believe. I guarantee when that day comes, they won’t have a mother standing over their head threatening damnation if they happen to choose a different path.
The thing is, I feel this way not in spite of my faith in God, but because of it. Because the God that I know is good and gracious and kind and loves us all. And that’s what my children are taught in church.