Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sunday School, Confirmation, and a Liberal Arts Education

I am teaching an adult Sunday School class, which is interesting in many ways. We're working our way through the same book I've been doing with my Mom's Facebook experience: 40-Day Journey with Madeleine L'Engle. We've only just started the book.

It's interesting to hear how other adults understand our faith. We come from a variety of backgrounds. So far, we've all been women, women except for me whose children (and grandchildren) are in Sunday School. I try to keep the conversation open, to talk about the different theological beliefs that are out there, to not assume I know it all.

We tend to return to the life of a parent as a metaphor for God, although we don't always follow through.

For example, on Sunday one woman said that she feels that God sends us difficult/horrible life experiences because there's some life lesson we need to learn.

I couldn't disagree more, but I understand that this idea is prevalent, even amongst the mainstream churches.

I expressed my disagreement, and I could see that most of the class disagreed with me. I said, "Think about it in terms of parenting. You don't take your darling child's hand and press it against a hot burner so that she understands about the danger of stoves and heat. No, of course not. Now, if your child burns her hand, you'll use it as a teachable moment as you comfort her, but you won't press her hand against the burner so that she more thoroughly understands the danger of hot stoves."

Quirked eyebrows. Agreement or disagreement? I pressed on: "God wants only good things for us. God doesn't have to send us disasters. We do a good enough job of arranging disaster on our own. God is there with us in our suffering, but God doesn't cause our suffering."

We moved on to other dangerous topics, like free will and divine plans.

It's interesting to me how Lutherans can say we believe in free will, but so many of us still want to believe that there's a rigid celestial plan for our lives, that God has it all mapped out for us. So, which is it: free will or divine plan?

To me, free will explains a lot. If I believed in a celestial plan, I'd have to say that God isn't a very efficient manager.

I might even go further and say that I don't believe in an all-powerful God, but that idea seems very radical in my Sunday School class. A God who creates a world committed to free will has abdicated a lot of power, if indeed, God ever had all the power.

One of the advantages of being a rebellious teenager and twenty year old is that I had to examine what I believed and why I believed it. And I've done a lot of reading and studying, so I understand various theological ideas, the strengths and disadvantages of each argument. I understand the history behind a lot of these ideas, and the fact that some of these ideas aren't rooted in much at all.

I don't know that my background makes me a good Sunday School teacher. I certainly wouldn't teach Confirmation classes. Until recently, I'd have said that I'm not Lutheran enough to teach Confirmation class. I know that I would approach Sunday School from an intellectual/liberal arts approach, and that method would infuriate some parents. I don't need those headaches.

1 comment:

Mrs. M said...

This exact topic has come up for me a lot lately-- at our weekly Lectio Divina, of all places. It's generally cross-talk, which isn't really appropriate to start with, and so I don't respond as you did (because then it's all cross-talk, and prayer goes right out the window), but it's frustrating to me. I'm glad you said something.