When I was a kid, I loved VBS. It was a highlight of my summer. I loved learning about Jesus and the culture of the middle east at that time. I enjoyed the games and most of all the crafts that we would make. The snacks weren't half bad either. All in all, it was a fun way to spend a morning--or several mornings--for a week.
My kids have attended VBS for a few years at different churches. My favorite, of course, is my home church in the city we just moved from. That particular church shared my values more closely than any church congregation I've ever known. This year there was the option for the kids to attend VBS at my parents' church. I thought it might be a fun time. The theme had something to do with traveling around the world and the teacher in me was intrigued. What an opportunity, I thought.
Unfortunately, my kids thought otherwise. Neither was thrilled at the prospect of going, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought that maybe it wasn't such a hot idea either. You see, currently there are several individuals in my parents' church that can't seem to get along. Most of these individuals head different committees. One sent an ugly email last week that literally called others names.
It has always been a puzzle to me the things that people do in the name of God. The most horrific wars, torturous acts, and painful moments can almost all be attributed to being committed in the name of religion. For this very reason I avoided church for years. I consider myself a loving, spiritual human being and I believe fully in God and His word. I know He has acted in my life in multiple ways and has a guiding hand on me. But for some people, religion seems to poison their thinking. It seems to cloud their judgment to the point that the most important messages get lost and control takes over.
Control and submission. For so many people, that's the name of the game when it comes to religion--where you fall in the pecking order. Some religions even have pecking orders in relation to who gets into heaven and how. It never ceases to amaze me the million different interpretations to the Bible, and how the more into control and submission a person seems to be, the more into the belief that there is only ONE way to interpret the bible one seems to be.
Tonight the children were learning about the middle east, and we prepared food that was somewhat representative of the region--flatbread, tzatziki sauce, hummus, veggies, figs. It saddened me to see that a large portion of the lesson this evening focused on bibles being illegal in the middle east. It saddens me to think that these children, who had the potential to learn about the native homeland of Christ, to learn about cultural differences and diversity, will walk away with their primary focus being possession of a bible equates to prison.
I choose to attempt to live by Jesus' message. I choose to try to love others, to live a life of compassion and morality and making ethical choices. I don't choose that life because I fear an eternity in Hell, and I don't choose it because I think it makes me better than someone who lives in Jordan or Pakistan. I choose it because in my culture, in my own life, it is what I know to be true. That's all any human being can do.
I often look at our world today and wonder what God is thinking about it...if it weren't so completely sad I'm sure he'd be having a good laugh at our expense. But I cannot wrap my mind around the idea of a God who would support the idea of one culture controlling another, of a person submitting to something against his or her belief system. Because ultimately, the only one who knows what is right is God himself.
So VBS this year? No thanks. I'll take my church with a cup of love and support, thanks.