I watched a video on Facebook today of a little who might have been four or five years old mimicking something she saw in church. In case you don’t want to log in to see the video or the link doesn’t work, I’ll try to do this extremely talented little girl justice with a description: She had a little pink microphone and was whooping, marching, doubling over, dancing and wiping her brow with a little towel as she sang, “I feel the spirit fall over me.” Watching her gave me a good, energizing belly laugh, but the video also scares the hell out of me for two reasons: 1) It shows that everything we do in church can be imitated and our spirituality faked. 2) It shows how early indoctrination begins.
I’m all for training up children the way they should go, or the way you hope they will go, and for parents or guardians instilling their own religious traditions in the child. These can be important for establishing family connections and for building community, and besides, how else would a kid learn these traditions if not in the home? But I think a disconnect often arises between behavior that can be mimicked and purpose. Peter says followers of Christ should always be ready with a statement about why they believe what they believe, but most Christians are asked, “Do you believe?” notÂ “WhyÂ do you believe?” “Yes, I believe (in everything an adult probably just recited),” is good enough to let a 5-year-old get baptized in most churches. Then as they grow up in the church, they learn the lingo and never deviate from the script.” They know to respond, “All the time,” when someone says, “God is good.” They could fill in a testimony Mad Libs game with all the right answers.
And I think that’s unfortunate, because faith isn’t a game. Knowing scriptures certainly helps, but a Christian life is about more than memorization or following church etiquette. TheÂ reasonÂ for Christian faith is aÂ relationshipÂ with God. I don’t expect a kid, especially not one as small as the girl in the video, to know this. But I do hope she doesn’t go through her entire life as a Christian, or just as a churchgoer, without asking herself, “Why?”