I have a five year old little girl. We take her to church on a regular basis. While I have some differences in theology/doctrine with the church I attend, for the most part, it's a great place and my children love it. But, this Sunday when I went to pick up my little girl, she had done a craft which disturbed me deeply.
The craft was a piece of white paper with a black piece of construction paper glued to one half. On the white half, they had the children write "God". On the black half, they had the children write "me". I had almost a physical reaction to just seeing the paper. But, I decided to play it cool and ask my little girl what the lesson was about before I jumped to any conclusions.
She said "It was kind of weird, Daddy." I remember those were her exact words. I don't recall exactly the words she used to describe the lesson. But, it was something to the effect of "We sin and we are bad. God never has done anything bad. So, God is good.". The sheet that was handed out to the parents said something to the effect that what the children were taught today is that we sin and that any sin, no matter how small separates us from God and that we have to ask Jesus to forgive us.
Now, I can't debate that God is good and that we fall short. Of course. That's an important lesson. But, here are the problems I have with the lesson:
- Children tend to see things in "black and white" (pardon the pun). This lesson could easily be construed to show that they are made as the very antithesis to G-d.
- The doctrines of original sin, total depravity, etc. are debatable. But, no matter what, they are extremely strong and potentially troublesome doctrines to teach to FIVE YEAR OLD CHILDREN.
- I take my child to Sunday School to learn to be a better person and to learn about G-d's love and acceptance. She had years and years ahead of her to learn about guilt and shame and those are lessons the world never fails to teach. So, why the rush to start putting it into her head now?
- My child is African American. Using black to represent evil and white to represent good is not something I want to teach her. Also, given that every image she sees of G-d or Yeshua (Jesus) is white, this further reinforces the image that white (caucasian) is good and black (African American is bad). I completely understand this was not the intent of the lesson. But, this is what my five year old took away from it.
Now, on to the main points. That is the question "What is the good news?" You may be wondering how this all ties into universalism. But, in my mind anyway, it does. Are you ready? Here we go!
ETer's always start the "Good News"with sin. Can you imagine? We go out to spread the good news and we start off with telling people why they are deserving of torture and how G-d has a plan to send them to Hell for Eternity (and people who go door-to-door wonder why people hide when they see them coming). This image of us as being evil (total depravity, original sin) I believe derives from the fact that those who believe in ET have to justify why and how a loving G-d could condemn His children to Hell. Either we must be so evil that G-d can't bear to be in our presence, or He is so good, we can't stand to be in His presence or we are so deserving of punishment that His "justice" demands our punishment or some evil concoction of all three. I believe this lesson is taught to children to set them up to believe that ET is justified. I'm not saying it's a conscious conspiracy. I think it's just a natural outcropping of the ET mentality. Adam screwed up (Adam's fault) and Adam passed this along to us, his stupid, "fallen" children. Therefore, somehow, we deserve not only death but, Eternal Torment. Even if Adam hadn't sinned and we hadn't inherited His sin "gene", we would have done the same thing. So, it's our fault, even if we weren't there. I never understood this logic. But, I think it's necessary if one is going to justify ET. Once I rejected, ET, it gave me the ability to look at this, too, differently. If G-d was going to Eternally Torment us, it surely must be our fault. Otherwise, this woulnd't be "justice". You can't torment another in retribution for something that you are responsible for and be just.
First, of all, I don't buy the Creation story as literal. Jews (and they wrote it) don't. The lesson to learn from Genesis is about how man grew into responsibility and left the "womb", the Garden. But, that's a whole different article that I might get around to writing one day. Let's take a look at the story from a traditional POV. I think there's a major flaw there.
G-d put Adam in the Garden and told him not to do one thing. G-d also put the tree there, creating the circumstance enabling to do that thing. Adam did it. Now the traditional teaching (I believe) tells us Adam did not have a sinful nature before he partook of the fruit. Wait a minute! If Adam didn't have a sinful nature before he sinned, why did he sin? Why did G-d put the tree in Garden if He thought Adam even might eat from it and risk having to condemn Adam to Eternal Torment. If Adam did have a sinful nature, G-d gave it to him. G-d created Adam. Right? The way I look at it, sin entered the world because G-d set it up that way. G-d preordained "the Fall". When I believed in ET, this thought was incomprehensible to me. G-d couldn't at the same time be the cause of sin and punish us for it. But, now that I believe G-d will reconcile all to Himself, I can put the "blame" for sin, where it belongs. G-d planned for sin in the world. Somehow, it suits His purposes. It's all part of His plan. G-d knew we would sin. It's no surprise. It's no design flaw. It's how we were created. Now, I'm not saying we should go out and celebrate this by sinning all the more. No, G-d wants us to resist evil. G-d wants us to not sin. Sin is bad. Sin brings death and destruction. But, sin is a part of the plan.
Now, let's tie this back into what my daughter was being taught and I'll tell you what I told her. G-d made her the way He wanted her to be. G-d did not make a mistake when He made her. He knew she would sin and He still loves her, even when she does sin. He wants her to learn from her mistakes and to be sorry for them and to make amends when she can. But, He will always love her, no matter what she does. He will never turn away from her. And, He has already forgiven her for whatever she does.
We are not the antithesis of G-d. We are not "black" and G-d is "white". We were created in His image. We are growing into full Sons and Daughters. He loves us just the way we are, even as He continues the work to craft us into what we can become.
Let's hear some feedback. What do you think?