Small Town Celebration
I recently attended our town's Labor Day celebration. I was helping my dad's band, who had the honor for playing the celebration for the third year in a row. The incredibly long day started at 6:30am, when we arrived to set up the equipment on Main Street. Soon, the street began to fill with people, and the band played for an hour or so. Afterward, the Labor Day parade kicked off.
If you've never lived (or stayed) in a small town, you might not be able to appreciate the full effect of such an event, but try to imagine. There were several marching bands competing for a $10,000 prize (which some of them desperately needed!). The September sun was shining brightly, and children ran into the streets to catch the candy thrown from the decorated floats. The floats carried winners of beauty pageants and office-elect hopefuls...and church members.
Nearly every church and religious organization within a 50-mile radius
marched in the parade. Now, don't get me wrong; I don't mind that fact at all. I live in a country that safeguards everyone's freedom to express their religious beliefs, and I support these organizations right to march and demonstrate. I was a bit astonished at the number of churches, and disappointed that there were no floats promoting any other opinion (but this was in the Christian Right of the Bible Belt).
And instead of tossing candy from their trucks and floats, some of these Christians threw tiny booklets for proselytizing...for children. I was (un)lucky enough to catch one of these little booklets, and the thing made my skin crawl. I wanted to take the microphone away from the parade announcer and yell a warning to the kids. Yet again, it is these churches' right to express their believes, but like I said, the book irritated me (along with other events that day) enough to start this blog. I'll try to explain this booklet and hopefully you will see what I mean.
The booklet, being only three-by-three-and-a-half inches big, begins with its deceiving cover: A cartoon image of Albert Einstein on a solid light-blue background with the text, "Hey Kids, Test Your Memory...See if you are a GENIUS!" in various pink and yellow fonts. I'll admit that I wasn't aware of what the booklet was, as I didn't see the Christians who threw it. My wife handed it to me, and I thought -- for a fleeting nanosecond -- that maybe, just maybe it was about science.
Not a chance in this town. As I turned the tiny page and read "Test Number One", my fears were confirmed: "Memorize the Ten Commandments using these special picture figures, then test your memory and grade yourself!"
The booklet continues to instruct the child (it's targeted reader) to use visual symbols as a way to memorize the Ten Commandments. For example, Commandment #1 (the "you shall have no other gods but me"), is represented as a little image of a 1st place medal (cause God should be Number One). After the tenth and final Commandment, the child is able to grade how many they are able to memorize in this fashion with a ranking system: at least five means you did okay, but you need to try again; six...you did well; seven...good; eight...very good [with an underline]; nine...wonderful!; and ten declares GENIUS status.
Test Number Two is a simple question that holds the ultimate purpose for this booklet. Your "host" throughout the booklet is a child with a dirty face and hands, because according to this particular faith (and the answer to question two), God gave us the Ten Commandments as a mirror to help us realize what a bad state we are in. Then the real preaching begins, and I noticed that the style of sermonizing was familiar:
Do you remember #9? Have you ever lied? What about #5? Have you always obeyed your parents?...The Bible says if you hate someone, you've committed murder...Have you ever stolen something...or been greedy?
I quickly turned the pamphlet over to confirm that it was adapted from a book by Ray Comfort. The booklet goes on with the basic fundamentalist drivel that God doesn't want you to be punished [even though he made the system]. It also re-conveys the story of Jesus via a short tale of a man who had a son who was "really bad" and did bad things like lying and stealing. This boy soon found himself in trouble with the police, who said he'd have to pay a $50,000 fine or go to prison. The boy couldn't pay the fine and was about to go to jail when his dad stepped in a plopped down his life savings so that his son could go free. "That's how much he loved his son."...blah blah blah...accept Christ or burn in Hell...blah blah blah...live forever...blah blah blah...
The final page mentioned something about "Read your Bible every day--it's full of incredible stories". That really made me laugh. "Incredible" is right. The back cover was honestly the reason I decided to begin speaking out. It depicted a human brain with a thought bubble containing the words "...for kids who like to think".
And honestly, I hope the kids who caught a copy of this booklet really DO think. It's logic and reason that got me to where I am today: religion-free. I was "saved" by reason. Actually, taking this tract's advice and reading the bible is a great way to start.
Sorry if this rant was too long, but some things you just gotta say.