It actually hurts me to type that question. The memory of my oldest daughter asking that question time and time again is truly painful. While I have shared this before, there’s a part of the story that I didn’t disclose.
As my blog’s name indicates, we are a homeschooling family; several years ago, I chose to have my children evaluated at our local university’s psychology department as an inexpensive way to have standardized testing performed. A full developmental evaluation performed by a graduate student was part of the deal. Like I said, my oldest daughter frequently asked if she was a sinner, to which I always replied, We are all sinners. That’s why we need a savior, of course. You know where this is going, right? While being interviewed by the student, my daughter asked me if she was a sinner. Talk about the most inconvenient timing! No doubt, the student thought I spent our days telling my children what sinners they were. The thing is, I didn’t have to. That’s just part of the Christian message. Despite both of my children being raised in a similar environment, I had one who internalized that message, always wondering if she was good enough, and one who just didn’t care.
I’ll never forget that as the student was giving me the results of the testing, she made a point of encouraging me to maybe spend less time on our Bible studies, so that we could focus on other areas of development. What?! I was nearly twenty years her senior, and she was going to tell me to focus less on the one thing that would get my children into heaven? Not a chance. How’s that for a humble Christian spirit (of which I am no longer convinced exists)? If I could turn back the clock…
So, why bring all of this up? I recently read a blog post by Mama Bear Apologetics titled “Dear Church, We’re Not ‘Messy.’ We’re Sinful.” As you can probably guess with the title, the author’s gripe rests on the dismissive term of messy being used as a substitution for the word sin, mostly within progressive Christianity. For her, it’s just simply not good enough for Christians to think they’re messy, especially children. The author, Hillary Morgan Ferrer, explains, “Anyone who’s taken a kid through the terrible twos should be able to describe what unchecked original sin looks like in a child who is too young to control themselves.” She goes on to state, “When we tell people that they were never sick with sin in the first place, the good news that they are free of sin is one giant ‘Meh’.” Hillary, you are exactly right. For Christianity to be effective as a belief system, its followers must be convinced that they are sick, not just messy. If you’re not a sinner, then you certainly don’t need a savior. But think about the potential implications.
Consider the child. From the earliest age possible, before the child has the ability to think critically, before a sense of self has developed, both the parents and the church must convey that there is something inherently wrong with he or she - a sin condition. Tell me how this can be healthy for the developing psyche of a child. Offering further advice to parents, Hillary continues:
“Bottom line, we need to be teaching our children about sin, not messiness. They need to know that what we have inside of us is a massive problem. It’s not that God doesn’t allow us into heaven because we’re messy. He can’t allow us into heaven because we are terminally poisonous, and if we come into a perfect place still infected with this poison, then we poison everything around us. God can’t let a sinful person into heaven because it would cease to be heaven.”
Again, children must believe that they are intrinsically poisonous, and the only antidote to avoid burning in hell is to believe in an unfalsifiable god. Anyone who has managed to find their way out of Christianity understands how damaging this is and the amount of time it takes to rebuild oneself after leaving. My point is this: that graduate student was trying to help me, and my Christian ego wasn’t having it! Instead, I was offended. She recognized something in my daughter that, because of my own indoctrination, I was unable to see. My daughter was hurting! I was feeding a message to my daughter that forced her to question her own goodness as a human being, the same message that my parents had allowed me to believe. Christianity couldn’t have it any other way, an oppressive cycle passed down from one generation to the next.
Hillary closes with one final message, “Yes, we are all tainted with sin, but we are also all created in God’s image and we have infinite worth in His eyes.” Sorry, Hillary, but that falls completely flat to the child who’s already been convinced of how sick they are. Trust me, I know from experience.
Created in God’s image? If that were the case, I’d sit back and do absolutely nothing while children suffer at the hands of Christianity. I don’t think so. You know, that student took a risk in offending me because she knew it was the right thing to do. I wish I could thank her.