Kindness, Drinks, and Snacks…My Trinity

June 4, 2015

“Vacation Bible School is pretty cool.  First, we get to sing songs on a stage, then we play games, then we have a boring class about Jesus, then we have another boring class about Jesus, then we have drinks and snacks.  I can’t wait to go back this summer!” ~ Recent quote from my five year old daughter

Although I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of organized religion, I’m a big believer in the good values that Vacation Bible School can teach kids.  I grew up going to church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening.  I didn’t always (or maybe ever, really) look forward to church, but I always enjoyed that one week of VBS each summer.  It didn’t feel like going to church, but instead was just fun.  Like my daughter does now, we too played games, sang songs, and ended each day with drinks and snacks.  Along with the fun, I remember one recurring theme year in and year out: to love and be nice to each other.

Despite not being big on religion, I definitely think there are positive messages in the Bible, just as there are in the Tanakh, Qur’an, Vedas, Tripitaka, and every other sacred text.  I’m far from a religious scholar, but I know one message consistent throughout almost every religion is the ethic of reciprocity, or what Christians commonly refer to as the “Golden Rule.”  Paraphrased, this means to treat others as you would like to be treated.  Regardless of your brand of faith (or lack thereof), it’s hard to argue with this ideology.

Growing up in a Protestant Christian church (Nazarene, to be specific), I remember numerous sermons focusing on hellfire and damnation.  I’m not saying that this was always the subject, but there was plenty of fear and guilt to go around.  Sure, there were times when the pastor spoke about something funny or lighthearted.  I don’t recall the topics, but there were certainly occasions when the nave was full of laughter.  Even on those days, though, our orator would usually end his speech by asking everyone to accept Jesus into their heart, and therefore avoid spending the rest of eternity in a bottomless pit of fire.  Fear and guilt…  Luckily, however, this has not been my experience with Vacation Bible School.

Paraphrasing the Golden Rule a bit more, you could say it simply means to be kind.  This is what I remember being taught when I was at VBS, and it has been the gist of what my kids seem to be learning as well.  I’ve seen firsthand that, although my daughter describes it as a “boring class about Jesus,” she is actually learning about being nice to others, making new friends, and playing (and praying) together.  My kids are being taught about kindness and compassion.  I can only hope that the majority of churches run their summer youth programs this way.

It’s odd, considering every religion stresses the importance of the ethic of reciprocity, that there is still so much hate in the world.  If we are honest with ourselves, we know that being kind to others is very rewarding, and no rational person is going to say they don’t enjoy receiving acts of kindness.  Why, then, does it seem to be so hard for people to be nice to one another?

One of the songs we sang back when I was a kid was “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”  Jesus loves the little children, all of the children in the world.  Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight…, the song insisted.  I think Jesus would still love the children when they grow up, right?  Maybe we need VBS for adults, or should at least shift the focus of church services away from scaring congregations or causing them to feel bad about their actions, and instead concentrate more on human relations.  That means (good) relations with all humans, not just those who view the world the way we do.  Some will disagree, but I personally can do without any extra fear and guilt in my life.

I think the Dalai Lama puts it best when he says, “My religion is very simple, my religion is kindness.”  Because at the end of the day, isn’t being treated kindly about as good as it gets?  I know it’s what I want.  Oh, and drinks and snacks, of course.


2 Responses to “Kindness, Drinks, and Snacks…My Trinity”

  1. facetfully Says:

    Spoken very well. I don’t know how someone could disagree with the fundamental of kindness.

  2. Virginia Brunk Says:

    I completely agree with your concept of kindness. However, Vacation Bible School is specifically meant to be different than a regular church service. VBS is really about the children in the congregation bringing their friends to church to learn about Jesus in a fun way. Yes — there are games, snacks and drinks. But as you’ve remembered from your own VBS experiences, it’s main purpose is to teach children about Jesus and the Bible. Your memories of kindness to one another is Jesus, the most perfect man who ever walked on Earth. Your suggestion for an adult VBS sounds like fun, and one I’d probably like to attend; however, the purpose of a Bible teaching church is to teach about the Bible and the way to salvation. Thanks for letting me share 🙂

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