25He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matt 11)
In the story Penelope Potter -- Off To Church We Go I had Penelope ask the children why they believe their parents would send them to church and not attend themselves. I hope you've read that story, and that you saw how the reasons given by the children failed to reflect an attitude of desiring to be a follower of Christ, or to become like Christ, or even an awareness that such is the purpose of being a Christian. And how could the children understand this important concept? To a child church is just another form of entertainment, a place to go, something else to do. It was this way with me as a child, and I saw this same attitude in the other kids who attended my church. Of course there were those who were taken to church, and those who were made to go to church, but I saw no better understanding in them of what being a Christian was like than I saw in myself. In fact, even today, I find PK's (preacher's kids) who grew up in the church who have far less knowledge of the Bible and of what is expected of a Christian than do I. And that is a sad state of affairs.
But I'm afraid I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me return to ashes:
In the story of Penelope the children indicated their desire to come to church for the material things, for food, or because their friends were there, or because they enjoyed the stories. I can relate to this, as I'm quite sure you can as well. We like to hear the story of David and Goliath, Sampson and Delilah, Moses and the burning bush, the plagues of Egypt, the Shekinah Glory, Jesus and His disciples wandering around the countryside healing people and performing miracles like walking on water and feeding the multitudes. These stories are interesting to anyone, even the nonbelieiver. They remind us of the myths of bygone days and of the high adventure movies we love to watch. For myself I remember how it was through such stories as Sampson that I got turned on to mythology, the stories of Hercules, who I thought was Sampson by another name. Ali Baba and the forty thieves was popular at the time, and it seemed to me these people were very much like the characters of the Bible. I really couldn't tell the difference. Because of this confused outlook I read into the Bible what I saw on the big screen. There were other such movies that had a great impact on me, as they did with everyone else I knew. These movies are still highly regarded today, movies such as Ben Hur, the Silver Chalice, the Robe, the Ten Commandments, and spectaculars like these that we, even today, accept as Gospel over and above what we read in the Word of God.
Truth was not something I sought after in my younger days ("younger," for me, meaning up to and including my 50's in some aspects of my life). I didn't care to know the difference between what was real and what was fiction since I wasn't looking for the truth, because I didn't know there was any truth to be had. I heard what was taught, added it to the quicksand images I had already established in my immature mind, and flushed it away with the other items I felt were of no importance. What was important to me at that time was girls (speaking of my childhood), and my comic book collection. Anything beyond these were of little interest to me. Today, although I've pretty well outgrown the comic book stage, I still have trouble keeping straight in my mind what is the priorities of life, girls still very much in the lead.
They say childhood is our formative years, and that what we learn to accept during this stage of development influences our entire life. I've found this to be true. Is it true of you?
Again, I see this attribute, not only in the children in the churches today, but in the oldsters as well. No one looking for truth, just desiring to be a part of something, and to be entertained. They, young and old, open their ears only far enough to insert the filter the school, the government, the club they belong to, or the church they attend at the moment has prepared for them. Why is this so? Why do we readily accept what we're told without questioning the validity of what we hear? For me it was because what I was being told was of little importance, even though I would stand up and fight to defend that which I didn't care about. That's me, how about you?
From the time a child is born it is entertained with stories. Stories are a big part of our life, when we're old as well as when we're young. How often have you heard a child say to someone "tell me a story"? It doesn't matter what the story is, or if it has any basis of fact, the child just wants to hear a story. And it's stories we use to put a child to sleep.
Let's take a look at some of those bedtime stories we tell a child, stories that lull a child into dreamland.
One of the rhymes we sing to a baby is "Rock-a-bye baby." I have little doubt but that you've sung that song to a child to put him or her to sleep, and that you've had that same song sung to you when you were in the cradle. Am I correct? And what happens when you sing that song? The baby closes his eyes, smiles peacefully, and ventures into the land of slumber.
Let's take a look at the words the baby has fallen asleep to, the song that dispels all his fears:
a bye baby
That baby has gone to sleep hearing a song that ends with him having a crushed head. Tell me now, if that baby actually heard what was being said, and understood the words, do you think he would fall asleep? Or would he instead bawl his poor eyes out? And you (or me), would you sing such a song knowing the conclusion of it if it were not a tradition to do so?
The baby only hears the soft cooing of his mother's voice, and it's the sound of the voice, not the words, that's heard. Someone can tell us they want to kill us, but do so with smile on their face and we don't take their words seriously. At the same time that person can tell us we have a serious problem we must deal with, and say this with anger, and we hear the anger rather than the advice. We say "How dare he" rather than heed the words of warning. Jesus had to deal with this selective hearing in His listeners. As long as He spoke to them gently and told them what they wanted to hear, such as the beatitudes, they flocked to hear Him. When He spoke to them in a serious tone telling them what they must do in order to be saved, they abandoned Him. The Pharisees heard the harsh words of Jesus, and rather than hear what He had to tell them, they wanted to shut Him up so they wouldn't have to listen to His words of warning. We still have this syndrome today in our churches. We go where they speak comfortably to us, where they assure us that we're ok just the way we are. We, in the shrinking churches, no longer tolerate a sermon that tells us we must aim toward perfection. We pay to hear the one supposedly called by God to shepherd us, not tell us what we need to hear, but what we want to hear. So the "prophet" speaks our words in our ear and not the Words of God. We see an excellent example of this very thing in Aaron when the people wanted him to make them a god. This man of God bowed to their desires and did what they wanted, rather than what God wanted him to do.
We say things we don't mean, and we hear what we expect or that we want to hear.
Let's take a look at some other children's songs and rhymes and see if we really mean what we say when we repeat them, or understand what we're saying:
Do you recall the rhyme "Goosy, goosy, gander"? Have you noticed how it ends? Because someone hasn't said his prayers, the goose takes him by the leg and throws him down the stairs. A nice thought, wouldn't you say? Something appropriate for any child of any time period.
How about "Who Killed Cock Robin?" An interesting story of animals who are preparing for the funeral of a fellow creature that has been killed by one of their own clan, and admits to the fact. At the end of the rhyme, the sparrow that admitted to being the murder, was hung for committing the dastardly deed.
How many times have you taken a bus load of children on a long trip? What's one of the songs that will inevitably be sung in order to keep the kids occupied? "Row, row, row your boat," you say. Yes, and there's one other. How about "Ninety-nine bottle of beer on the wall"? What's the implication here? Is it not that by the end of the trip there will be a bus load of staggering kids depart the bus? Is this what we really want to teach our children? Of course not, but we do it anyway. It's tradition, right?
Some, if not a great many of the rhymes we teach or children don't have as bleak a meaning as do the ones above. They merely have a meaning that has been lost to us today. In spite of our not knowing what we say, or why we say it, we continue to do so anyway. There are such rhymes as "Baa, baa, black sheep" that is assumed to have begun as a commentary (complaint) against a tax the government had placed on wool. And again we have rhymes like "There was an old lady who lived in a shoe," a commentary on the highly abusive orphanages of the day. Many of our songs have stemmed from such commentaries. They mean nothing to us, even though we advance them to the next generation through repetition.
Some songs and rhymes we are in fact saying the opposite of what we mean. One such song is "Yankee doodle." a Yank, according to my dictionary, is an American, especially one from the New England area, and a doodle is a simpleton. The song is about an American that is so simpleminded that he thinks by simply putting a feather in his hat it makes him one of high society.
Then we have songs and rhymes where we only repeat a part of the rhyme, and we ignore the rest of it, thereby losing the real meaning. One such rhyme is "Little Bo Peep." Now what can be said against a rhyme about a little girl that lost her sheep? After all, they will come home, wagging their tails behind them. In fact we learn from the rest of the rhyme that the "little girl" did find the tails of the sheep, but they were detached in that the sheep had been slaughtered and were found hanging up to dry on a line. Bo Peep then proceeded to try and put the pieces of her sheep back together again.
There's an interesting underlying story behind the tale of Little Bo Peep. Bo Peep was in fact a real person. She lived in an area noted for smuggling. When the smugglers came to shore, Bo Peep would drive her flock of sheep over the tracks the smugglers had made in the performance of their illegal trade so they wouldn't be discovered.
An extension of this story is that of Heaven's Gate, the cult of 40 people who committed suicide believing that Jesus was coming to pick them up in a comet (rather than a cloud). The leaders of this cult called themselves "Bo," and the other one "Peep."
What we believe can easily influence our actions, but our belief, if not properly placed, can lead to destruction. The Jews in the wilderness fully believed they deserved to be led into the Promised Land without being tested. They died in the wilderness clinging to their belief. We find this very same attitude in the Christian churches today, people who believe there is no test, that we will be taken up to Heaven in spite of our disobedience. I believe we can fully expect the same result from our belief as was given the Jews. "I change not" God said. Since He won't change, it is up to us to do the changing.
There are hidden meaning in the Bible as well as in the rhymes and the songs we repeat. The Ichthus (a Greek word meaning fish) that we use so openly on bumper stickers and such, and that I have on every one of my web pages) was originally a secret sign used by the early Christians to indicate their calling. Due to the persecution of the saints, such signs were necessary. We continue the practice today, although the full intent of the symbol has lost its significance. If you belong to a club or organization, the chances are you're expected to give a secret sign to indicate your membership in said organization.
London bridge is falling down. What is this song talking about? Why, of course there's a bridge in London that was falling down. That's clear and above board, is it not? Just for the fun of it, let's take a closer look at what's being said in this song:
We see where there's a watchman placed at the bridge with orders to watch over it. But is the watchman on the bridge? Or is the watchman under the bridge? "What difference does in make" you say. And for good reason.
In many places in the Old Testament we read where God condemned a certain activity the heathens had made a practice, that the Jews had adopted as their own. One such practice was the passing of their children through the fire. This practice was commonly performed in the Valley of Gehenna, just south of Jerusalem, the valley referred to in the Bible as "hell" where the fire is never quenched. This valley is also where the people of the city threw their garbage, like our city dump, and where the bodies of executed prisoners and the poor were dumped.
Passing children through the fire was not the only abomination the Lord was appalled at. Along with this practice they would take their children and bury them, often alive, under the cornerstone of a building with the belief this would protect the building and make it sure. It's thought by some that this is what had occurred during the construction of the London bridge, and that is what is meant by the "watchman."
None of this matters to us in this day and age however. What happened then has no bearing on us now. We don't bury our children under buildings, we don't let them live that long.
I pointed out how we sing a baby to sleep by telling it that it's going to take a great tumble. Let's look at another such rhyme:
and Jill went up a hill
Isn't that a nice little children's riddle? The kids are going to split their head open, and we think nothing of it.
Long ago, nearly 50 years in fact, I witnessed just such an event. My young cousin was climbing a very steep hill of sand. Nothing to this, kids do it all the time. The problem was that at the bottom of the hill there lay a row of very large stones. And rock can be very hard on a body. Because of my fear that something might happen, I climbed the hill after him with the intent, that if he was to lose his footing, I might be able to hinder his fall. My attempts proved futile, although my premonition was correct. The boy stood up, then began to run down the hill with the look of glee spread across his face. I was too far away to stop him (which I could have never done anyway) and I watched in horror as my cousin headed straight for the rocks, with the momentum of a speeding Mac truck.
Fortunately my cousin missed the rocks, but the memory still remains with me. When I think of Jack and Jill I have a picture I assume no one else has. I think I can see it for what it is really saying, not what could be assumed is being said.
Lavender blue, dilly dilly. I like these words. I don't know why, but to me this rhyme gives me a pleasant feeling. I like the word lavender, although until I was well in my thirties I didn't know what lavender looked like, or what it was.
What is this song about anyway? As it turns out it's a song written in the 1600's celebrating drunkenness and sex. It's about a man trying to seduce a woman he's attracted to. Of course we can't see this meaning because it's hidden.
Did they hide such things back then? Surely not.
Are any of you old enough to remember when there was a lot of commotion about lyrics being reversed in the songs we listened to, which was intended to have a subconscious effect on us? There were also split-second flashes of images displayed on the movies screen, often times portraying a soda or pop corn, with the intent that they cause us to desire something from the lobby of the theater. Like with anything else, this topic became a big issue, confusing fact with fantasy. The chances are we believed all the fantasy, and dismissed all that was real.
Going back a few hundred years we have these words spoken by Jesus:
10And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. (Mat 13:)
We know the Pharisees and others of the ruling class were intentionally (or maybe unintentionally) closing their mind to what was right before them. They didn't want to know the truth, they were satisfied hearing what they wanted to hear, what they felt they already knew, what tradition had taught them.
Before we point the finger at these people and their ignorance, let's keep well in mind that we do the very same thing with the nursery rhymes we're looking at. And if we're able to do this with something as obvious as Rock-a-bye baby, what other truth are we concealing from ourself, some truth that might effect us far more than a baby's night sleep?
Remember "Ring Around The Rosie"? Sure you do. I have no doubt it's still played today on about every school ground and in every park in America. Isn't it cute when the kids reach the last stanza, and they fall over backwards in the grass? Today I suppose it looks a lot different than it did when little girls wore long, puffy pink and blue dresses with lots of lace rather than skin tight jeans, or shorts shorter than the bathing suits we used to wear at the beach. Oh well, such is progress I suppose.
What are the children reenacting I wonder. You do know that's what they're doing, don't you? In the same way I as a child would watch my Hopalong Cassidy movie on the 9 inch screen, then take my cap pistol and reenact what Hoppy did to the bad guys, the children are reenacting what has occurred long ago. Did we playact in the 40's and the 50's? Yes, we did that way back then as well. We pretended we were the hero presented on the boob tube. Of course that was in the days when the good guys were very good, and the bad guys were very bad, and never the twain intermingled. Today the bad guys are the heros, the ones to be imitated, and the good guys are wimps and suckers. Ah well, such is progress. But back to reenacting history:
Long time ago there was what we call the Black Plague. I doubt any of you can remember back that far, I surely can't, since fortunately I missed the big black spot in the history of the world. There were certain signs that indicated a person had contracted the plague, and was on their way to becoming a part of history. The sign to watch for was a ring around a rosie, that is, a rosy spot on the skin. A pocket full of posies is what people carried to ward off the smell of death all around them. When a person died, the body and the house the person died in was burned, which is a way of preventing the spread of the disease. We see this in the law governing leprosy in the Old Testament. All that remained of the person was ashes. And of course, when a person dies, what do they do? They fall down. Look at the little girls all in pink, ribbons in their hair. Of course they don't have a ring around the rosie, but they act like those who did have such a mark hundreds of years ago.
There have been times in history, and still today in other lands, where death is a part of life. Children played with the concept of death because they knew that they, or someone very near to them would die soon. War has this effect on us, as does famine and plagues. Today, in this country, death is relatively rare. Old age is an expected part of living, and for it we prepare. This has not always been so. And the day is near when the commonality of death may well become a fact again.
me a story Mommy."
Do you recall the story? Of course you do. It's a story of a wolf that eats up a grandmother, then a little girl, and then a hunter comes by (other versions say a woodsman) and cuts the wolf open and lets the girl and the grandmother out. Lovely story, is it not? Who couldn't get a good nights sleep listening to a story like this? It's much like being rocked to sleep to the tune of War Of The Worlds or Hellraiser (am I dating myself?).
Another interesting story that fits in with this one is the story of Goldilocks and the Tree Bears. We know the story, at least the story as it has been changed to match the times. In the original story Goldilocks was not a little girl, but an old woman. And the woman was prying into places she didn't belong.
Stories, rhymes and parables are allegories, they tell a story by way of another story. What we see is not what we get. If we settle for what we get, we don't have what has been given to us. The Bible is full of these allegories. As children we're taught to read on the surface. The Bible is presented to us as a picture book, as a comic book. If a story can not be put into pretty pictures, it isn't told to a child. Noah can be drawn and told to a child, and the child is entertained. But the story of Noah is not a story of a man and his family being in a boat and floating on the water. It's a story of an angry God destroying every living creature in the world. David and Goliath is not a story about a small boy who's good with a slingshot. It's a story of a full grown man, having already established a reputation as one who is a brave warrior. The purpose of the story is not to show how brave a person can be, and how a person of small stature can conquer a giant merely by having faith. It's a story of how God will work through those who trust Him. We see little David ready to sling his shot in the picture. We rarely see him using the gigantic sword he took from Goliath's sheath and cutting the giant's head off.
Jonah in the whale makes for an interesting drawing and story. But what is Jonah trying to teach us? What do you see when you picture Jonah in the whale? Chances are you see the same thing I see, and that is Geppetto lighting a fire in the belly of a whale as if the innards of a whale is a cave rather than the digestive system of a large mammal such as we are. Jonah is a story of a man who was sent to save the lives of his people's worst enemy, a people who were cruel and heartless. Jonah had much faith in the grace of God, and that is why he ran the other way. He knew if he was successful in his mission, then what he wanted least of all in this world would come to pass. How would you like to have to go a long way out of your way to save the life of someone who would rather cut your eyes out than to look at you? That's what Jonah had to do. As an allegory Jonah foreshadowed Jesus having to spend time in the ground for having delivered a message of deliverance to a people who hated Him. Jesus didn't run the other way as did Jonah, however. He faced His consequences head-on.
Few of us are given to see the truth, and those who are given sight, such as the disciples, are only given glimpses or segments of the whole picture. When we see a little, we think we see it all. This can easily be seen in the churches. A person joins a church, and they are given a tiny taste of what God has to offer. But rather than being told they are given a taste, they are told they have the whole meal, that there is nothing more to desire or to strive for. The Bible is filled, cover to cover, with rebuttals to such thinking, but we refuse to see what the Bible says, and we cling to what we want to hear. The nursery rhymes we have just looked at are evidence of this blindness.
In our daily lives we're confronted with other, even clearer examples of this blindness, and this on a yearly basis. For instance, we dress up our children in clothing representing the worst of creatures and send them into the world to beg, and this in the darkest of the dark. Of course it's all in fun, harmless pretend.
On Christmas we celebrate what is supposedly the birth of our Savior, not by worshiping Him or supporting the poor, but by giving gifts we can't afford to people we hardly know or even dislike, and we shower our child with material things that cause them to expect (and demand) that life owe them a living. And what day do we choose to do this thing? We celebrate the rising of the sun, when the sun god awakens from his sleep and begins to light up the world again. This is the day pagans calibrate the solstice by acting their worst, by drinking themselves silly, and causing a ruckus. Is this what Jesus wants of us on a day we say is His? Really now, think about it. What is Christmas really about in your mind?
Earlier I said that s a child I would reenact what I saw on television or at the movies. This is natural, it's the way we're built. It's the way I still am today, at least in my mind. In my imagination I'm a blooming hero. And in reality I'm a blooming coward. It's because of this human characteristic that fashion is so successful in every field. In commercials they try to convince us that everyone uses their product, and that whoever chooses to use their product will live long, will be popular, and will be beautiful and healthy. Sell rat poison as a beauty cream that everyone uses, and we'll rush out to buy it.
We looked at a simple child's game of ring around the rosie. Nothing to it really, because we don't know what we're doing. But how about when we see the violence, the sex and the bad conduct in general in the movies? How about a baby who spends most of its time watching and hearing all the things it should never see or hear even as an adult? Whereas I, as was common in those days, was only allowed a brief period before the radio or the TV, children now are placed before the tube in school, all though the day and well into the night in many cases, either as reward, or punishment, or both at the same time.
Our games teach children to disobey their parents, to steal, to hate, to kill, and to do every other thing that we least want them to do. We give the same type games to our children as is used to train service men to spot and to kill their enemy, and we wonder where our children pick up such bad behavior.
In school, what do they tell us we need to do if we want to learn something, if we want to make it a part of us? We're to repeat it. The more times we repeat something, the more ingrained it becomes into our character. We become what we do. And the more times we do something we originally believed to be wrong, the more right it becomes in our mind. Solomon said, raise up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it when he is old. The reverse of this is equally true. If you want a child to be other than the way you want him to be, then let him repeat the thing he shouldn't do. And what will happen? He won't depart from it when he is old. I can testify to this principle being true. At 72 I'm still battling the habits I developed when I was a preteen. Problems don't go away just because you want them to, even if you want them to with all your heart.
Repetition is used as a form of enchantment. Hypnotism is one such form of enchantment. We've seen how the hypnotist will use something shiny like a dangling watch upon which a subject concentrates while the hypnotist repeats words such as "You...are...get-ting...ve-ry...sleeeepy" in order to put the subject under his spell. We learn to do this with Eastern meditation as well. Chants are used by primitive tribes to stir up the courage of warriors before they go into battle. Rhythmic drums add to this enchantment. Before a football game you see the players dance around and yell in order to psych themselves up for the game. We can convince ourselves of anything, given time and opportunity. How often have you seen programs and books that try to sell us on the concept that if we think something, it will become a reality? There is an element of truth to this concept, but only an element. If we think we can do something, then we can believe it is so. I can think about being able to fly all I want, even to the point of fully believing I can fly. But when I jump off the tallest building in town thinking I'm Superman, it won't take me long to realize that I have only been fooling myself.
Repetition in songs has been become more and more popular. In fact there are some songs that appear to have no more than five words that are repeated over and over. This is not only true in the secular world, but in the churches as well. I have been to churches, and I mean very traditional churches, filled mostly with people my age, where the visuals and the "music" was so trance like and loud (another form of hypnotism) that I would have sworn I was in a discotheque (another ancient word, but one that I think will be understood even by the youngest of reader). Music of this sort is intended to put people into a trance-like condition. In fact there is an element of this sort of music called exactly that- trance. Why, I wonder would a church, a Fundamental church, want to use secular means to put people to sleep? Why does the hypnotist desire to put his subject to sleep? Have you come up with the answer?
"It's easier to believe a lie you hear a hundred times than it is to believe the truth you hear but once." Truth is no longer truth, nor is truth what is sought after. What we want is popular opinion. If we agree with the masses, then we fit into the crowd. If we stand on truth, then we stand alone. And who would want to do that? In the Bible we read of some such people: we have Moses, Abraham, Jesus, and the Apostles. Is something right just because it's the most accepted? Ask the Pharisees their opinion on this question, or better yet, check out what God has to tell us in the Bible. I can assure you, what you'll read is not going to be a popular opinion, regardless of which of the hundreds of denominations you belong to.
Which is better, Coke or Pepsi? Have you noticed, besides trying to convince us that everyone prefers their product, their attempt is to push the name on us more times than the competition? They'll have us put their name on bumper stickers, on our shirts, even tattooed on our forehead if we would allow it (and have us pay for the "privilege" of doing so). Repetition, repetition, repetition, that's the key to the big sell. Tell people something enough times in visuals, in jingles, in songs, and in every other means by which to reach our senses, and when we become thirsty, we think of Coke, or whatever. When we think of the Word of God, we remember the movie we saw, or the songs we sang over and over, and/or we think of what the preacher said in his sermon. What we don't think of is what God said, because we never really bothered to read what God has to say.
Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, and other such nursery rhymes have a hidden agenda. They're not just simple stories to entertain children. They're intended to teach children to be afraid of the big, wide world. Stay in where it's safe. Don't venture out on your own. Don't think for yourself. You might get eaten by a wolf. We do this with our children in other ways as well. We put a fence across doors so the baby can't venture out and see what's on the other side of the walls. We say "go here and no farther," and hope to keep full control of the child, only loosening our hold as the child matures. But at the same time the child grows, we hope the child doesn't mature out of our grasp. Organizations have this same kind of barrier as part of their makeup. They establish walls their members must remain behind. As long as a person remains behind the walls, and doesn't venture into unacceptable areas or mingle with those not of their ilk, they are considered in good standing. Have a free thought not accepted by the organization, and you're considered a rebel or a fool, if allowed to remain a part of the organization at all.
Before I move on, I want to clarify what I said about confining a child as he or she matures. Of course we have to follow such a regimen for the child's sake. It's when we do this same thing, and we allow this to be done to us when we become an adult that we handicap ourselves and deny ourselves the chance to grow and become what we were intended to be.
Perhaps you've noticed the racks of books in the store shelves. If you haven't, please do so the next time you're shopping. Observe the covers of the books. Notice how there are very few books that are designed to teach a subject. They're mostly (highly so) directed toward leisurely reading. They're fiction intended to be mind candy, as is the music we listen to and the programs we watch. They're what's called "escapism." When a person has finished reading an entire stack of these type books they know no more about anything than they did before they began (and maybe even less). Watch two people, especially women, when they discuss books. They speak of books in the same way they talk about the TV soap opera they watch (which generally is all of them it seems). We seek to be entertained, not to grow. We wish to remain status quo, and still be told how brilliant and forward thinking we are. We stand before the mirror, and the image reflected is so large if does not fit in the glass, yet we still desire to be told how attractive we are.
I said "the women." No, I don't think men have the same problem with books as the women do, nor with the soaps. They confine their obsessions and their escapisms to big games, both in sports and on the lake or in the field with a rifle or a bow.
Children's books: About 20 years ago I was doing a great deal of research into the juvenile book genre because I was in the process of writing a series of books ("Blood Brothers") where the main characters were early teenagers. I wanted to know what kind of books were selling, what was being bought by what age, and what publishers were looking for. I found some very nice books such as the Boxcar Kids and others like them. I also found some stuff, very popular with the young readers, that I don't believe even adults should be reading. This was 20 years ago. Considering the lax direction every aspect of life is taking, I think I'd be afraid to attempt such an investigation today. It might be safer to peruse the shelves of an adult book store than the local food market where juvenile books are displayed. How much more so is the library a wealth of misinformation directed toward young minds (which, by the way, is where I found most of the books I researched).
We seek two things in life beyond our comfort, health and happiness. We want to be entertained, and we want to be accepted for who we are, not what we should be. If an organization such as a church can provide these elements they can be fairly confident that they will survive in this age of dwindling churches. In the story, Penelope, we have a church that is providing, as are so many, a means by which to bring the younger set to church in order to help insure a future for the church (this is not to say the church also has an altruistic reason as well, I'm sure they all do). So many of the churches have become what is referred to as "Que tip" churches. That is, they are all filled with white-haired people with very few young people in attendance. There are too many distractions in the world these days. And with so many religious TV and radio programs and other such material readily at hand, many of those who once attended church consider themselves sufficiently involved when they, in their pajamas, watch a half hour program on the boob tube. If the parent doesn't come to church, then how is the child supposed to feel the need to go? And even if they, the child, wants to attend, for whatever may be their reason, how are they to get there?
Is the number of pews filled a good indication that a church is successful and God's instrument of truth? If this should turn out to be the case, then I suspect the Megachurches will have proven themselves to possess the truth in all its glory. But consider: some of these megachurches have 12,000 people in attendance. This is in an air conditioned building where every creature-comfort imaginable is supplied. Let's compare this to one occasion where Jesus preached to the multitudes. On a hillside, far from town, 5,000 men, not counting the women and children, remained to listen to Jesus even though they were very hungry (for three days on one occasion). The best of what we have today falls far short of what Jesus has to offer. What is successful in our eyes? What indicators should we watch for?
According to Jesus, success is to be just like Him. How does your church compare? Is it going in the right direction? Is your church striving to reproduce Jesus in its congregation? How about you? How do you compare? Is your church spurring you on to perfection? Or are you being entertained with children's stories?
Age of consent. Are you aware that each country and each state has an age of consent statute? Do you know what the age of consent is for the state in which you live?
I suspect most of us think the age of consent is eighteen years of age. At that age a person can join the military and be taught to kill, and be sent overseas to be killed. Eighteen however is not the age one can drink, only kill and be killed.
Not every state has set eighteen as the age of consent, where a "child" becomes responsible for him or her own self. Whatever age the state has set for this momentous occasion, until that age the parent of that child is responsible for any damage or agreement made by their child. In the state of New York the age established for having reached adulthood is 21. Until a child is 21 he is still the legal responsibility of the parent. I for one am mighty glad to be single and have no child I have to worry about until he or she is 21 (or even 12 for that matter). I can't conceive of being able to control a child in their beginning stages of puberty, leastwise through the years of their rebellious adolescence when their hormones are raging. No, it's hard enough to be responsible for myself without having to take responsibility for the actions of a child bigger than me who has been taught by society to be irresponsible.
I think most of us would agree that 21 is rather old to still be called a child and under the jurisdiction of one's parents. On the other end of the spectrum however we have the early years of this nation when the age of consent was 7 years old in certain states. That's right, 7, like halfway between 6 and 8. To me that's a bit young to be on one's own. At 17 I left home, and even though I was ten years older than the 7 year old, I was barely able to support myself, and I was making bad decisions right and left, and head over heels. At the age of 19 I joined the Army to escape the difficulties I had created for myself (and for my parents if I had wanted to drop my problems in their lap to take the responsibility for).
Most countries have set the age of consent at 16 years of age. There are a few who have dipped to as low as 12, but not many. For myself I suspect we can't really go by chronological age because I've seen some preteens who are much more mature and capable than some 30 year olds I know.
What does the Bible have to say about the age of consent? We see where those 30 years old have referred to themselves as a child. Paul spoke to his audience, all of them, of any age, and referred to them as his little children. At the age of 12, or whenever a girl began to have her period, she was considered of marriageable age. We see this of Mary, the mother of Jesus. It's assumed that Mary was only about 12 or 14 when she conceived. I have a cousin who was married when she was 14, which was the talk of the town at the time. She has gone on to prove that her marriage was appropriate, having (and still doing so) lived a healthy and successful life as a mother and grandmother.
Although men of Biblical times could marry (be emancipated, that is, have reached the age of consent) when he is about 13, the age when he is capable of procreating, the common practice was to marry at the age of 30 or later. Isaac and Esau were married at the age of 40. Jacob on the other hand married at 47. It was the custom of the time to first establish a career, a means by which to support a family, before actually beginning one. This is no longer the practice in this country, nor was it when I was young. When we feel our hormones acting up, we immediately seek one to marry and cause us to feel complete. In this country a person might expect to marry when they graduate from High School. Perhaps that's why I never married, I never graduated from High School.
Age of consent. We've been looking at some established ages at which a person can be considered emancipated. We've looked into the secular world, and in the Bible; what does the churches have to say about the age of consent?
I've always heard it said that a person becomes responsible for themself (Spiritually) when they reach the age of 12. Before the age of 12 God had to take you in to Heaven in spite of your being rotten to the bone. Once you've hit that magic number, the next day you can be the sweetest person on earth, but if you haven't been baptized in the right way, in the right church, having said the right words; it's to hell you go. That has always seemed a bit extreme to me somehow, and not quite like the loving God I had been taught to worship. But the church said it, so it must be so. They're the ones with a pipeline to God, so how can I question their decision?
Twelve years old. Where did that age come from? Who chose that age to be the dividing line, and were did they find the Scriptures that support such a decision? My question is in earnest, I have no idea because I see nothing to support this age in the Bible other than the examples already given.
Let us turn to the Bible and see what God has said about the age at which a person becomes responsible for him or herself. We find the age of 12 has been mentioned, and this in reference to Jesus. At the age of twelve Jesus was in the Temple, having accompanied His parents to the great feast. Jesus is listening to, and asking questions of the teachers of His day. I find nothing pointing to Jesus having become emancipated at this time however. Instead I read that He went with His parents back to Nazareth and was obedient to them and learned under them. This to me is far from evidence that 12 is the cutoff age.
In the wilderness we find God giving instructions to His people. Since we refer to ourselves, that is the church, as the people of God, I would assume that what God says to the Israelites is meant for us as well. We find where those from the age of twenty to fifty were considered to be suitable for war. We say 18, God says 20. New York says 21.
What we're looking for however is not the age when a person can go to war, but when they become responsible for their own actions. When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they proved themselves to be rebellious and unwilling to follow the commandments of their God. What did God have to say to this uncooperative group of people? He told them that they would bleach their bones in the desert, and their children, those under 20 years of age would be the ones to enter into the Promised Land. It seems to me that 20 is the age God considers a person to be emancipated, to be accountable for their own actions.
A few months ago we had two baptisms performed in the church I attend. Keep in mind this is a church which stipulates that a person is responsible for their actions (Spiritually) when they reach the ripe old age of 12. The baptisms I'm speaking of here were of two children, one about 6, the other 7. According to the law of the land, these two children can not make a contract because they've not reached the age of accountability. We know a child of that age can not legally marry in this country. Consider: Here are two children who are in essence making the greatest decision any person of any age can possibly make. They are not signing a contract stating they will pay for a BB gun or a doll, they're interring a marriage contract with God that can not be broken, and that will not only effect their future life, but their eternity. Tell me, in your opinion, should these two children have been allowed to take such a step? And this without much counseling?
Children are being baptized every day I'm sure. Even babies who have barely opened their eyes are being baptized, and have been for hundreds of years. The baptisms of these youngsters is not my concern, nor are they a part of what I'm trying to express. In this regard it matters little if the person entering a contact with God is 7 or 70. As the Israelites in the wilderness discovered, to their great loss, making a contract with God is not something to take lightly. Jesus said we must first sit down and count the cost if we have enough to finish what we've begun. The Israelites did not, and they perished. Today we take the Word of God and His commandments so lightly we don't even bother to read them, leastwise follow them. Church is just a plaything, something to do and to belong to. We've caused the Christian religion to be looked down on by those we consider beneath ourselves. The Atheists deny there is a God. We insist there is a God, and we claim to follow the God we believe in, but don't. Which do you think God will look upon the most favorably; the ones who deny Him because they haven't been called? Or the ones who claim to have been called, but don't do what He tells them to do and treat Him like a toy or a servant?
Those who had a confrontation with God, and who feared God, clothed themselves with sackcloth and ashes. Does it seem to you, as it seems to me, that it's high time the churches take a good look at themselves and the direction they're taking before God calls down his wrath as He did on those who He brought out of Egypt, and treated Him as we treat Him?
6He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. (Mark 7:)
[See "Penelope Potter -- Off To Church We Go" for the story this commentary is in regards to.]
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