I read a hilarious blog post by Snarky in the Suburbs this week–When Vacation Bible School Turns Bad. It’s like, two years old and I couldn’t be happier that she reposted it. Well, except for the fact that it threw me into a low level existential crisis.
See, I attended Vacation Bible School, several times. More on that later. Snarky, on the other hand, has been recruited to teach it. The fact that I am not affiliated with a specific denomination at this point in my life may have something to do with this distinction between our experiences. And the God of any religion knows that I am not asking for that job. I am active in a spiritual community of sorts, but we are far more inclusive than exclusive. I call my affiliation Christian Plus. At a certain point, for me, God got too big to fit on one pathway.
My mom sent me to VBS at the Baptist Church. This was curious mostly because we were not Baptist, but Presbyterian–a lot less fiery (my mother was actually allergic to pepper). I realize, thanks to Snarky, that I was sent there mostly because summer vacation is just too darn long. Perhaps mom also hoped that some of that “don’t be naughty or you might burn in hell” finger wagging might rub off on me in my upcoming teenage years. Sorry, mom.
I don’t really remember much from hanging out with the Baptists. I did win a jazzy Bible by memorizing twenty-seven verses—not the popular ones, either. I have no idea what they were; I didn’t meditate on them, I memorized them. This helped me to excel in theater in high school, which in turn cemented my place socially as persona non grata. That, and my co-founding of the CSDACP (see The Sanctity of the Spud ).
I do have a vivid memory of the weirdness of sitting in the pews and having the pastor strongly suggest that, if we did, in fact, love the Lord, we could and would come forward right then and there to be saved, reborn, etc. It just didn’t sit right. I already felt naturally connected to God, who had provided a fair amount of comfort to a painfully shy young girl without the right hair, clothes, or toys to have the kind of good time fun that was being had by those girls on the Easy Bake commercials.
Recently, my youngest son struck up conversation with some neighbor kids across the street. They stay at their house, and aren’t allowed to venture out in the neighborhood. My son LIVES to make new friends, and he was super excited about these newest ones. A few days later, he came to me on the verge of tears to tell me that the kids were not allowed to play with him. The kids had asked him if he knew the Lord, and if he had been saved. For me, this was not great PR for Vacation Bible School.
Had he mentioned Harry Potter? Referred to his knowledge of mythological gods? The kid is one of the most spiritually wise people I know. All I could do was to remind him about what we do believe: that we are supposed to try to be good to everyone, and that everyone has their own way to experience their connection to spirit, whatever the name and tradition. But that not everyone believes that. I’m just glad he’s not going to VBS!