can you keep them in the dark for life

I am looking at a picture of a woman comforting two teenish girls. She has brown hair, they are blonde. Their faces are close together in a triangle of what-did-we-all-eat-for-lunch and she has her arms up around them. They are sitting in some kind of auditorium, I am guessing; the red seat backs are a clue. According to the text with the image, these girls have just “giv[en] their lives to Jesus”.


But Jesus is… love. Jesus is the reason death is less terrifying, for some of us. Jesus said to bring ’em all in.

Why would a child, accepting Jesus into her heart, need to be consoled?

I can see where adults break down in great gasping sobs of catharsis and relief. I did that once, when Allison came over to pray with me. Granted, I then had a panic attack because I misinterpreted her somewh– who are we kidding, big time. She said to me that when the time came, Jesus would meet me where I was, but I read that as “you cannot control the changes to come, and who you are now will not be who you know and like”.

Whoops? P.S. Allison, you were right: He met me where I was, when I was ready.

When I was ready.

Nobody took me to any conference to try Jesus on for size, or be convicted. Holy Mary, can you imagine the size of the panic attack I would’ve had back at the hotel room. To be honest, religious education wasn’t on my mother’s radar until I decided I was Pagan around, what, age 13? Which is usually the age at which children are initiated as adults in their religious traditions (e.g. Confirmation, Bat/Bar Mitzvah). So by then we were well past any conventional starting point anyhow.

Despite an acquired distaste for all things Christian(ist), I did read and learn about the Bible. I took an interest in the meta, too, fiction like The Red Tent and The Dovekeepers, interest in the lives of people who were various flavors of Christian, how they saw our secular world, that sort of thing. My mother told me the other day that I’d learned an astonishing amount, for someone who had never seen the inside of a Sunday school.

Informed consent was the name of my game. No way was I messing with a spirituality I didn’t understand. (Again.)

Which makes me wonder: what are these parents doing to their children? Why are those girls crying about Jesus? What have their lives been, that allowing God to take some of their burdens would drive them to tears? What sins do they think they’re expiating in surrendering? How can something feel good in that way when you are an innocent? And no, the answer is not “maybe they aren’t innocent”.

We adults maybe need to chat about the things our children are hearing about How To Be Good At God. Like. It is completely accidental that my style is fairly modest — I just don’t enjoy showing my lingerie to the world, it’s a me thing, and I feel undignified if people can see up my skirts. That is a lot of baggage right there from, drumroll, years of being considered a sex object by secular men. I never listened when it was my fellow young women doing me down for my bare legs, the same way they couldn’t shame me into curbing my drunken-sailor tongue.

But damned if these Secret Keeper people don’t feel the need to inform preteens that they, too, are reasons for their ~brothers in Christ~ to stumble. That link is not safe for under-18s, by the way. By which I mean I don’t want a single vulnerable child to accidentally be indoctrinated.

Who we are in God’s eyes should be between us and God. Not us, God, and a carefully vetted committee of adults who then turn around and dictate what is and is not acceptable, calling it “ministry” to give it some aura of authority. Not us, God, and a self-righteous pair of sisters from Big Hair, Texas.

A child’s faith is for glee, and acceptance, and growing up a decent human being. A child’s faith is not for atonement. May God strike me down if I’m the reason for a child’s doubt or sorrow. May God banish me into the outer darkness should I hurt one of his own.

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