The first post of my new blog! :] I've decided to share a story with you guys, from a simpler time. I was a starry-eyed kindergartner, finally old enough to sit with the grown-ups at "big church," when I discovered the secret to being a good Christian. Read on, my friends!
When I was a little kid we went to an Assembly of God church. Now you might be familiar with the Assembly of God folks as "the ones who are crazy but not Pentecostal crazy," and I'd say that sums it up pretty accurately. The Assembly of God churches are part of the charismatic movement, so there was a lot of jumping up and running around and full-on praisin' the Lawd during Sunday morning services at my childhood church.
I accepted Jesus into my heart when I was five, right before naptime one day, so technically I was a Christian. But one morning when I was sitting in church and watching all the people get their praise on, I realized that I wasn't a very good Christian.
I was missing something.
I tried for a long time to figure out what it was. Maybe I should jump up and down? But the old ladies in the front don't jump up and down, they just cry. Maybe I should cry? But the jolly jumping beans over there weren't crying... what was I overlooking?
Then the preacher said something that a whole lot of people liked. Well, he screamed it actually. That preacher was a type I like to call the "screamer." About halfway through his sermons he'd get so worked up and flustered that he just started shouting his key points (which were usually of the hellfire and brimstone persuasion) and making emphatic gestures with his arms. So, red-faced, the preacher screamed something that a whole lot of people liked. I'm sure it was something along the lines of "Yarbaflargh Jesus blah sinners yadda BURRRN IN HELLLLLLLL."
The old ladies lifted their hands and shouted "Amen!" The jumping beans did a synchronized "YAY Holy Spirit leap" and yelled "Amen!" Even some of those lukewarm fence-straddling blasphemers who always came in late and sat in the back murmured it. "Amen."
The secret to being a good Christian... was saying "amen."
From that point on, I was like the best Christian ever. The typical Sunday morning following my discovery went something like this:
Preacher: "Welcome to church everyone!"
Preacher: "Let's pray!"
Me: (a little bit late) "Amen!"
Preacher: "Do we have any announcements?"
And so on and so on. My skill at Christianity amazed even myself. Even now that I'm an atheist I've probably still got some Jesus points racked up from the sheer number of times I said "amen" back in the day.
Now that I'm older I understand that I was being indoctrinated... I mean, if something is repeated to you enough times, drilled incessantly into your head, then you're going to believe it even if it's not true. Indoctrination is a terrible thing to do to a child. But... I was lucky. The most I got out of my childhood indoctrination was a handful of funny stories. Definitely no lasting negative effects, except for a lingering fear of Hell that has long since disappeared. :]
What about you guys? Were you indoctrinated as a child? How did you process religion when you were so young?