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January 29th, 2003

Hooked on Phonics

measuring cup

When I was a kid, we spent our summers attending Vacation Bible School at all the churches in town. These substituted for day care, I suspect, for the parents in the town. Vacation Bible School varied a bit from church to church, depending on denomination. The Pentecostals had the coolest felt figures--very life-like. When you are a Biblical literalist telling the stories of miracles, needless abstraction is not the "done" thing. I remember being 8 years old in Methodist VBS, trying to glue spreckles onto a light bulb to make maracas. At Presbyterian Bible School, they were really big on songs.

But the day of Bible School I remember the best was the day the minister over at the Missionary Baptist Church gave a sermon to us kids about being saved. The sermon was kinda high tech. He took some murky, blood-like liquid, mixed it in a measuring cup with some other liquid, and voila! the murky liquid was clear, saved by grace from sin. But then he asked a question: "How many of you are SAVED? How many of you would go to Heaven if you died right NOW?".

In our Methodist church, we didn't get asked this question a lot.
We typically made maracas rather than declarations about our immortal souls, and sometimes played drop the handkerchief, red light green light, red rover or Mother May I during the breaks. So it probably is no surprise that every Baptist kid in the audience shot their hand straight up high into the air, while my hand stayed resolutely down. At the time, I felt so badly--how could they be so sure? How could I be so much in doubt? But now, I look back at myself, and like myself just a little, because I didn't try to believe for the sake of fitting in.