Saturday, April 16, 2011

Roots of Religion

I am taking a real risk here.

I know so very many adults with deeply ingrained trust issues.  I count myself among them still.  I'm not sure if I can count on people, or even on God.

I think it starts when we're little.

Our parents, wanting to control our behavior - to give us some sort of motivation for "being good" - tell us that if we aren't good, this or that fictitious character won't come to give us presents, or money, or easter eggs.  External motivations for good behavior amount to one thing and one thing only:  RELIGION.  Dress it up any way you like it, it's either earning brownie points, or it's behaving in such a way as to avoid punishment.  And ... it's wrong.  Because once the myth is exposed - and it is ALWAYS exposed - then the young heart learns that trusting in something or someone hurts in the end.  And it hurts a LOT.

Yes, even the "Christian" myth.  Oh I can hear you now - Christianity isn't a myth.  I know that.  But we Christians have made it into a religion - and religion is candy-coated myth.  What I mean is that we have made what is supposed to be a relationship with God into something that has to do with doing all the right things, saying all the right words, in order to either gain brownie points with God (so He'll do what we want Him to do) or to avoid getting slammed by Him (i.e., to avoid being punished.)  

If that is all there is to it, count me out.  

Thankfully though, I've been learning that that's not what it's about at all.  It's about a relationship built on His love, and our gratitude and trust.

Telling children that something that's make-believe is real ... is lying to them, setting them up to be hurt, and setting parents up to be mistrusted down the road.  I know it's "magical" to see their eyes light up - but is that really worth it to risk crushing their spirits later on?  Can we not make "behaving" about pleasing a loving someone (i.e., the parent) that they are in a relationship with? Would it kill us to build that relationship with our kids instead of relying on a fantasy to keep them in line?

I'm not saying we can't teach our kids about Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, or the Easter Bunny.  I'm saying that we can tell them that it's a story that is fun to pretend about.  Like a game they pretend about in the back yard.  That way, when we tell them that God is real and we live in relationship with Him so they can see it, they'll be able to tell the difference ... and be able to trust.