Dear Andy and Kelly, Alli and Andrew, Julie and Jonathan, Abby and Joshua,
I am sad to see three institutions that have profoundly influenced me in shaping and molding who I am today being routinely disparaged. America, Sunday School and the Church.
Today I am very excited at the birth of my 7th grandchild. I think of all the misinformation that is present in today’s world. So I thought I would give some insights from an “old guy” who lived through some of the times that I now hear disparaged. My hope is to pass down some insights from perhaps a slightly different “angle” if you will. Since we all see matters from some angle so objects or arguments can seem a bit different depending on where you are standing. The skyscraper reflecting the setting sun will look beautiful and orange from one side, but from the other side it may look dark and dull. So I want to give you an insight into my side and angle about a bright America, Sunday School and the Church.
First, let me say that I am deeply saddened and even confused by a barrage of misinformation about America, her value and what she has or has not accomplished. Not to ignore her faults, but America has been a HUGE blessing to the world. Nearly all races and many nations owe our country a HUGE debt of gratitude.
A few “very visible sins” or “horrors” such as slavery, Japanese internment, treatment of Native Americans and working conditions at the start of the industrial revolution, to name some, are used to “prove” how America is “bad.” If anyone even begins to offer an explanation or defense they are treated as if they have not come to terms with just how bad America really has been. (Those with supposed “open minds” believe if one doesn’t see the skyscraper from his angle, the offender is wrong.)
I don’t think I could hold your interest if I went on and on about all of these issues, but here are some brief “angles” to consider.
Slavery was a worldwide problem. Judeo Christian nations including America were the first nations to bring “open ownership,” and nationally condoned slavery to an end. This was a big, big deal. And devout Christians were at the front of this battle. (Yes, there is still slavery, but there is not “open ownership” condoned by national governments.) Some nations in Africa did not officially end slavery for another 100 or more years.
The US internment of the Japanese was not a proud moment. Neither was dropping the atomic bomb. But remember, the US was under attack and there were difficult conditions. It is important to know not all of the Japanese in the camps were citizens. And having just been attacked by the nation these people emigrated from and many still spoke the language, the US made a poor decision. However, America allowed Japanese to leave the camps before the end of WWII and subsequently put pressure on Canada to free the Japanese they had in Internment Camps.
And when it came to horrifying working conditions, the US, despite a sad path to get there, was on the forefront of creating some of the best work conditions in the history of the world. This may be a shock to some, but the world has had a very bad record of how working laborers have been treated. In the USA a new expectation was set for those in the working class. Did you know in India, nearly all Muslim nations, and many other countries around the world today, certain individuals, be they the wrong gender, wrong caste, religion, or because of some other reason, will NEVER be able to work in white collar or desirable jobs because of who they are? Not so here in America. Despite some facing larger difficulties, here in America everyone has a chance. So again, I say “thanks” to my wonderful but imperfect Country for the huge amount of good it has done. And truthfully, America’s sins are far greater now with the horrors of abortion, than in the past.
Second, I keep hearing crazy things about the American Church and Sunday School and how “awful” things were. So again, let me give my personal experience – my “angle.”
Lately I have been hearing “Sunday School was bad for the children and unwittingly turned salvation from an act of grace to a works based experience because of how they told all the stories of the Bible.”
I have no idea what Sunday Schools these authors, bloggers and speakers are talking about, but it sure was not mine! First, Sunday School was one of the greatest instruments for the Kingdom of God and when it really taught Bible lessons, kids had a very different worldview. Those kids went on to become amazing missionaries, pastors, and gave a greater percentage of their free time and income to the Work of God. Something clearly on the decline by subsequent generations.
And my Sunday School? Did they leave out that the heros of the faith were flawed and broken people? Nope! I am clueless as to why anyone would think that. I can remember being a Junior Boy and giggling at the “scandals” of the Bible. Trust me – we all knew that King David slept with another man’s wife. And we knew of the consequences that followed. If anything, we were given a bit of a “hopelessness” in that no one was ever perfect and no one ever will be! But unlike today’s “real and raw grace” that covers “all” in our stumbling along life’s journey, we were taught about a wider ranging grace. Our grace not only had to do with receiving unmerited, undeserved favor for salvation but also the power to do what God was calling us personally to do! My Sunday School taught that the Heros of the Faith did not get bogged down in their faults, but by God’s grace went on to do great things. It was by His grace we were saved, forgiven and only by His grace could we serve Him, as a very broken and evil hearted King David exemplified. David received grace for his sins and grace to do what God called him to do. As Sunday School students we were thoroughly convinced of our evil heart and our need for God’s powerful and undeserved grace. Not because we did not measure up to the great works of the Bible heros. But because just like those heros, we were broken and sinful. So whatever the books, blogs and speakers say, I can personally tell you I was not trying to work my way to salvation. Now, if you are talking about the “fun” Children’s Churches which replaced Sunday Schools, of which I am sad I helped usher in, they are a different story. Literally – as in Bible lessons were replaced with stories. Once God’s Word was replaced the problems began. But Sunday School was not an issue.
And finally, I am sad that people keep blaming Churches for the decline of “Christians” in America. Have Churches been perfect? No! But never in the history of Churches have they been perfect. No Pastor has ever been perfect. No Church situation has ever been perfect. While I agree that sinful acts by Pastors will be a cause for some stumbling in the Pastor’s congregation and Pastors will be held accountable for “healing my people lightly,” if we step back I think we can see a few concerns and trends that may give us more light on the reasons for the decline of the Church in Europe and America. First, nearly every nation that prospers begins to fall away. We saw this in the people of Israel and we see it in America today. And a second trend. Within the second, third and subsequent generations that come from Christian families, there tends to be a falling away. It seems that every few generations need a fresh move of God to spread across the hearts and land. So I believe the fault of people falling away from faith is because we have prospered (and perhaps have used too much of the financial blessings on ourselves) and because we are not seeking God. Not because churches are too much of this or not enough of that.
And here is one very amazing irony. The very people complaining that Sunday Schools and Churches were too moralistic rather than grace filled and blame the leaders of churches for the falling away of many, are themselves saying that Pastors could be “good enough” so that people do not fall away. Think about that for a while.
I am concerned that those who do not show gratefulness for the blessings of the past, are likely to lose those blessings. So instead of bashing American, Sunday School and the Church I wish we would spend more time understanding the unique “angles” of past generations and most importantly,stop blaming these for present day problems. All the blame has kept people from the real answer, a need to seek God and pray for revival of our hearts. Because every generation needs that!
That is my 2 cents worth, at least for today.
Love you all!
P.S. Please, please take some time and watch this series: