Monday, November 23, 2009

Eyes Wide Open

You know, Algernon had a post that knocked me on my duff. I actually took that lesson to church with me, to discuss with my kids. They have a fascination with the end times and Revelations. It's been a struggle for me, because I am not a Revelations kind of gal. I figure that the end of the world falls directly into God's responsibility, not mine, and so I don't give it a lot of thought. My responsibility is simply doing His will in the time that I have been placed in. Period.

But those kids are talkers, and the conversation eventually gets turned around and headed into that direction no matter what my carefully selected topic is. That darn Left Behind series has turned the apocalypse into wholesome family entertainment, and Nostradamus and Quetzalcoatl have only added fuel to the fire. But as usual, I digress. And as a side note, this is exactly how my classes always wind up in a discussion about the end of the world. Crap. I digress yet again.

Anyways, I finally decided that having their undivided attention was more important than staying in my own comfort zone, so a couple weeks ago, we discussed Jesus' description of the end times, a time that we are warned that we will be confronted by false prophets and liars. How do we tell the difference between a Godly person and a liar? For a class that has been sternly schooled in 'Thou shalt not judge,' the idea that I was asking them to do just that was astounding. They were intrigued that they might, one day, meet a false prophet face to face. How would they know? What were the warning signs? What about me? Am I a false prophet, a teacher who lies? Why? Tell me why you think that. So the debates have raged for a couple weeks. For these kids, debate in Sunday School is a new thing. They have come to my class from other classes where their little hands are folded on the table as they listen to someone tell them what the Bible passage means and then they do a craft. In my class, I expect them to figure it out, to come up with their own answers. They are not prepared to have a teacher tell them that she does not have all the answers, and has an aversion to crafts. They are not allowed to raise their hands. They are young adults now, I tell them. They are expected to listen when others speak, and when that person is done, they are welcome to speak their piece. And it works out pretty well. We sprawl around and have some great discussions. We have a pile of brightly colored flip flops. If people get off topic, I throw a flip flop at them, if I notice. Usually, sadly, I don't, but there is always a kid to gleefully point out that we've gotten off the topic.

In any case, Sunday I began with this: 'If you saw a man walking down the street wearing a tee that had a picture of our president on it and read 'Pray for our president. Psalm 109, vs. 8-9' what does that shirt say about that man? And they all decided that he was a holy man, a good person, a person who prays, a Christian, someone that they would be glad to spend more time with, etc. It entered none of their minds to look that verse up. They hunkered over their Bibles when I told them to look it up. They read it out loud. And slowly the scales fell from their eyes. For the very first time, I think that they got it. They finally understood what I was trying to say the previous week. Just because you know the Bible does not mean that you know God. And I told them that in Somalia this week, a divorced woman had been stoned to death for adultery as two hundred people watched. We talked about the dangers of religious fanatics who believe that somehow, God's judgement has become their right and responsibility. For the first time, I think that they saw how it could happen. Even here.


steviewren said...

Bravo Debby for teaching kids to think for themselves. Like Paul said in praise of the Bereans (paraphrasing) they were worthy of copying their example because they didn't mearly listen to Paul teach, but afterwards they went home and searched the scriptures to make sure what he said was true.

Karen said...

Go would never command or suggest us to pray for harm/ill to come to any person, regardless of the political views we adhere to. I may not have voted for Obama, but I still pray for him to do the right thing for our country. Thanks for encouraging even young minds to embrace that idea, Debby.

Alli said...

I have been reading a lot regarding these Pslams over the past few days. Out of curiosity I looked it up (I admit I am not overly religious) When I read it and having it pertain to your President. I thought to myself how do you call yourself a Christian and wish harm on someone?
Congratulations in the way you are teaching!
Alli xx

Karen said...

Sorry about the misprint above...The first word in my post should be God.

Lori said...

Brilliant analogy Debby!

A Novel Woman said...

Love you for this post, and for this line in particular:

Just because you know the Bible does not mean that you know God.

Fanaticism, no matter where it originates, scares the bejeezus out of me.

Bill of Wasilla said...

Thanks for the link to Algernon. That was quite a revelatory post.

And your Sunday School class sounds more fun than most.

Do you ever hear from parents later?

Debby said...

Bill~ I never have. My teaching methods may be a bit unorthodox, but I'm not really controversial. One of my students is (I am not making this up) a cousin of George Bush. Even though I am a Democrat in the middle of Republican-land, I cannot believe that any of the parents would be defending that shirt. If they do, I'd love the opportunity to speak with them about it.

jeanie said...

I want you to be my Sunday School teacher!! Not that I ever had one, but if I did, I would want it to be you.

There is spouting the word and there is living it. The latter is the way to go, isn't it?

Algernon said...

Great lesson plan! Thank you for making a tangible and positive difference.

quid said...

Call me irresponsible.

The Bible is a book. I love it in the same way I love any colorful and mysterious book. Quotes can be taken out of context and used to the cause of those who take the quotes.

My higher power needs no book of quotes to explain her (his?) meaning.

Pencil Writer said...

I think a lot of people get the "judge not" thing a little twisted, wanting to be good and magnanimous. But we have to judge whether or not some things, or people, are good for us to be around. If we see a group of people, for instance, that are involved in felonious behavior, we might want to steer clear (and call the authorities). Judging is something necessary, but like Matthew 7:1-2 states, we need to be ready to receive judgment by the same standards we use to judge others.

So, I don't think you're wrong to have your class consider/judge whether a saying on a T-shirt is a good thing or not, or the person wearing it is doing something good or not, without some introspection and knowledge, i.e., check out the scripture verse so you know the context, etc.

Teaching scriptures w/o allowing students to really ponder what they mean, to have the Holy Spirit guide them to what God would have them understand, makes the whole exercise rather sterile and unproductive, from my perspective.

I've been in classes where one short scripture read/shared/pondered by a group of 15 or 20 of us students was understood as it applied to each of us a little differently, but all of those nuggets of light were valid and enriching to us as individuals and as a class.

So, Debby, keep the discussions going. Keep you young adults rooted in the scriptures and praying for guidance and I'm sure they will benefit greatly from the experience!