If there is one message I could give to every Christian it would be this, “There should be no anxiety associated with your faith. It can and should be a guilt free experience, cycles of worry and shame are unnecessary.”
I’ve written quite a bit about church life since starting this blog. As a pastor’s kid, and former pastor myself, I suppose this is only natural. While I’m not anti-church, I also look back at my own experiences and shake my head amusingly. A recent line of thinking has emerged as I’ve wrestled in my head as to what kind of church experience I want my own children to have.
Having been raised in an Evangelical/Pentecostal church it is little surprise, looking back, that my own spiritual journey was rife with cycles of worry and anxiety as to my own status before God. Am I saved? How can I be good? What are my motives? Is my heart impure? Was that a sin? Is God angry with me? These questions were the result of my faith environment, and found a lot of support of their validity since my community acted as a positive feedback loop in this regard.
We were spiritually bi-polar with no checks and balances to even us out. Everyone was well meaning, but it afforded little more than an infantile understanding of the religion we exuberantly embraced. As children and teenagers we were surrounded by adults who were passionate about their faith and our church, but it also meant we were indoctrinated by people who had their own anxieties about faith and God. They didn’t want us to make the mistakes they had made. They saw us as babies with unbridled potential, a potential that had no earthly limits since we had a relationship with the God of the Universe. We could then be, in their eyes, children of destiny, children who could grow to be the changers of the world. We should, therefore, witness to our friends, be light in darkness, heal the sick and raise the dead.
That was a lot of pressure, and it was coupled with a deeply ingrained guilt for, well, being human I guess. Theology began with the fall of humanity, so we could hope to be little more than slaves to the God that saved us through his own blood sacrifice. But no one stopped to ask if all of this was appropriate and healthy to be heaped upon children. No one bothered to stop and ask if child superheros of the spiritual world was positive, realistic, or even in accordance with the bible they held so dearly. It was … odd.
Why can’t children just be children? Why should anyone feel compelled to heap their desires, fears, regrets, and hope on those who have no life experience? Perhaps more to the point: why do we as adults have these fears and anxiety wrapped into our faith to begin with? There is no reason for it.