I’m a little bit country, he’s a little bit…into the occult

A few months ago I was visiting a church when a woman dropped something and mumbled under her breath, “ugh…retrograde.”

Recently, a pastor I know mentioned she keeps her strength fighting for social justice by going in for regular Reiki visits to keep evil sprits/energy away.

A past co-worker at a seminary used to tell me about the astrological signs with which he always got along.

I can’t count how many homes of conservative Christians I’ve been welcomed in to, only to discover crystals or Himalayan salt lamps in a corner or on a shelf.

I have had many LDS mention that their loved ones have shown more influence in their spiritual lives after their death more so than while they were alive.

Now that I’m looking for it, it seems to be everywhere–rarely a whole belief system, but more of an added “flavor” to an already established Abrahamic theology.

Apparently this shouldn’t be news to me.

Americans Christians, and the public as a whole, maintain belief systems in what is academically labeled “occult” whether anyone wants to admit it or not. According to a PEW study from 2009:

    25% of the public overall, and 23% of Christians, believe in astrology
  • 49% of the public claim to have had a mystical experience (twice as high–22%–as in a 1963 Gallup survey)
  • In fact, religious and mystical experiences were more common in 2009 among those who were unaffiliated with any particular religion (30%) than they were in the 1960s among the public as whole (22%)
  • 32% of black Protestants believe in the “evil eye”
  • 39% of liberals expressed the belief of yoga as a spiritual practice (compared with 15% of conservatives)
  • 37% of black Protestants, 35% of white Catholics, 31% of the unaffiliated, and 29% of white mainline Protestants saying they have felt in touch with someone who has died
  • Having been in touch with a dead person is more common among women than men (33% vs. 26%)
  • Upwards of six-in-ten adults (65%) express belief in or report having experience with diverse supernatural phenomena

This was all reported about a decade ago with a startling projection of increased numbers from the 1960s on. Which leads me to conclude that these numbers have probably increased by a good number.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this. As a missionary kid, I grew up with the people around me having a very deep and devoted spiritual/mystical belief system … surprisingly known and some aspects accepted by the church universal (ancestor veneration, for example). But in the U.S. the numbers seem low in comparison–people whisper or apologize for their encounters while society at large (religious and secular) openly mock these experiences.

I know the Reformation, Enlightenment, the Salem witch trials, colonialism, and a long ingrained hatred of women are to blame for this disdain. But it obviously didn’t make it go away. It just sent it underground or to the fringes, passed around and adopted as popular religion or in addition to more accepted faiths.

Or is that even correct?

Some of these beliefs are very biblical. Mothers and fathers of the faith would feel far more at home with an active spiritual world than with what we live in in the United States.

Where exactly is the line between occult/pagan/witchcraft and a world with thin veils and interactive experiences with the non-physical world? I think one of the problems is that people think this line is strong and in black and white. Or that this is an issue for the uneducated or mentally unstable. The numbers, however, show that this world is real for at least a quarter of people in a church pew. That’s millions of people with no answers or safe places to discuss something very real to them.

To be perfectly honest, I have never experienced anything even close to the mystical or supernatural, but many people I love and trust have and it’s just one question I would like to continue to explore here.

As always, dialogue partners, it is my interactions with you that make my questions and exploring so much more rich. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

You like rap? Ever heard of a guy named Shakespeare?!

For the last week I’ve been sitting with my commitment to make our faith more accessible to our 2 year old as we embrace a temporary home church.

I decided to keep things simple and start with the 10 Commandments, but I noticed that most of the websites and posters for “kid’s 10 commandments” used/maintained language that I felt was inaccessible to 2-4 year olds. If my son has a hard time grasping the use of “thank you” throwing around adultery and idolatry isn’t going to go far.

There was also use of what I personally view as aggressive/violent language like “obey” and “kill” (as a woman, I bristle at someone telling me to obey them and my boys will have their entire lives to be saturated with death and violence. They don’t need to start grappling with murder just yet).

I also found myself wrestling with how to introduce “God”. Countless people have spent centuries contemplating the divine and what it means and humanity’s relationship with it–how are you just supposed to drop to “love God above anything else” on a 2 year old and think that’ll stick juuuuuuuust fine?

So, as sacrilegious as some may find this, I decided to approach the 10 Commandments in a way to plant the seed of the idea to make it more accessible to my little ones.

I am that English teacher trying to make Shakespeare cool by tying it to rap…except I’m even cooler because it’s religion now and I’m not tying it to popular culture at all!

Here is what I have come up with so far with a few caveats–(1) I used the Jewish/Protestant breakdown just because I liked it better for this purpose. (2) I have included some “titles” so you know which ones I’m trying to boil down. And (3) I’d like particular feedback not only on whether I’m introducing God in a good way, but I’ve been playing with “thou shall not steal” as an introduction to consent. (4) I’m waffling between making “adultery” about mommy and daddy keeping their promises to each other or making it about cheating.

OUR 10 COMMANDMENTS FOR KIDS

(1) Love God with all your heart

You have another parent like mommy and/or daddy who loves you very much and we show our love back by being nice to everyone.

(2) Idolatry

No toy, cartoon, movie, book, or friend is more important than loving God and everyone we meet.

(3) Do not take the Lord’s name in vain

Your words matter: no lying, swearing, or using God’s name to show anger/frustration or to hurt someone.

(4) Remember and keep the Sabbath

Naps, bed time, and resting are important and we all need to make sure to have quiet time.

(5) Honor your father and mother

Listen to and love mommy(s) and/or daddy(s)

(6) Thou shall not murder

Don’t hurt yourself or others

(7) Adultery

Don’t cheat: winning or getting what you want is not the most important thing.

-OR-

Parents keep their promises to each other.

(8) Don’t steal: if it’s not yours don’t take it. Don’t touch another person without their permission. No one is allowed to touch you without your permission

(9) Bear false witness

Tell the truth

(10) Coveting

Don’t be jealous of other people’s things. Be happy about all the toys, book, and things that you have.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, dialogue partners.

If nothing else, I encourage you to think about how you would approach this exercise. As is often the case in these situations, we learn more about ourselves and our outlook when we try to teach than the other way around.

* (photo from “The Story for Little Ones”)

My Pew is a Stained Couch

I belong to a wonderful church that is super welcoming to families and even has paid staff for their nursery so that parents can enjoy church while the littles are having a great time.

I’m never at church though.

Sorry. It’s the truth.

From the distance, to the fact that their service times are during nap time, to the reality that I lose a clump of hair whenever I have to load up my tribe to go anywhere substantial…it just isn’t happening any time soon. One day they’ll be old enough to not make everything a live action Oregon Trail–but that day is not today.

**Sidenote: I know that there are countless other moms that have managed to whip up their brood and make it to church with no problem…I, however, am not made like them.**

Because of where I am in my life at this moment, I have increasingly wanted something to hold me over while I’m home just trying to make it through the day.

I don’t think I’m alone.

I think there is power and kindness to give to mothers by saying, “it’s ok that you can’t make it to church, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still claim a focused portion of your Sunday (or any day that’s best) to teaching/preaching God.”

I believe in the priesthood of all believers and I want parents to reclaim their right to teach, preach, and evangelize…at home.

I believe the greatest (and most difficult) mission field is the home and family. It’s time to encourage faith formation (especially to the very young) outside our church walls.

I’m starting from scratch though. I have found the resources limited (so much that is out there does not align with what I consider healthy, life giving, non-toxic theology), not for the very young, or just plain bad. But that doesn’t mean it’s not out there.

This is a journey and I go into this with heart and mind open. I would love feedback or ideas as I begin to build something for progressive Christian parents to claim for themselves.

Thoughts Bouncing Around My Head:

  1. Should be less than 10-15 minutes and be able to involve both parents and kids younger than 5.
  2. Should it follow liturgy?
  3. Or does just bringing in the basics suffice for these times? 10 Commandments and Sermon on the Mount?
  4. Should definitely align with forward thinking Christian theology.
  5. What are good Christian children’s books for very young children? This is what I have that my two year old has gravitated:

Would love your thoughts, dialogue partners! Let’s encourage the most effective missionaries we have and meet them where they are…knee deep in dirty diapers and swimming in piles of laundry!