My daughter goes to a Baptist youth group* on a Friday night because it’s a chance to spend time with her good friend from primary school who goes to a different high school. Each week when I pick her up from the church I ask how the night went, did she have fun and what was discussed. We then talk about how the ideas that were explored can be understood in the light of the way we understand the world to work, I quite like that this means we are talking regularly about what it means to be a good person and to how live well and all that good stuff.
Tonight, however, I could not find anything in the message that Caitlin relayed to me that made sense. They’d been told a story about someone having a beautiful perfect rose in their possession and then that rose being handed around to many many people and by the time it came back to the owner it was damaged, dirty and worn out and no longer perfect or beautiful. All of which was a preamble to the idea that when you are born you are perfect and beautiful and life wears you out and makes you grubby and leaves you damaged etc and isn’t it wonderful that at the end of all that there is still someone (Jesus) who wants and loves you. Which presumably is remarkable because one assumes that no other person wants the damaged, dirty and worn out rose.
Putting aside the remarkable similarity of the rose story to abstinence only sex ed stories I’ve seen, I reject the idea that life inevitably makes us less than, damaged, diminished and unloveable. Life is growth and enrichment and the accumulation of a rich tapestry of experience. Life is relationships, love, friendship. Life is learning and teaching, discovery and exploration. Life can be hardship and misery as well as abundance and joy. What it is not is some kind of ruination of perfection.
This was not a message I ever came across in my years growing up in the Uniting Church, I find it quite bizarre and off-putting that my 12 year old and her friends are being invited to think of themselves as well on the path to being damaged, dirty and unwanted.
*My answer to the slightly quizzical look now on your face and the “but aren’t you an atheist?” question is that it’s her choice (she identifies as atheist at present) and we are not afraid of ideas.