A LETTER TO MY GRANDDAUGHTER:
Dear Darling Girl,
I am still gettng flashbacks from our road trip and the more I contemplate, the more incredible it seems that we were able, on the spur of the moment to get ourselves together to take that trip! It was a week to remember in so many ways. I loved watching you revel in your new-found freedom and release from the adedemic stress of 4 long years at the Air Force Academy. Everything delighted you, even being with your aged traveling companion.!
I have been thinking about our conversations--especially the one where we were talking about the pro's and cons of Sunday School and church, and teaching children values etc. I felt that I kind of left you hanging on that. . . .and I have been pondering on it ever since.
Looking back on my own early religious training and the funky little Baptist church I attended, it seems a miracle that I did not wind up permanently scarred. The pastor was hard core fundamentalist, which means that he preached 'fear'. I was afraid to drink Root Beer because I thought the bubbles meant it was intoxicating! We were taught that everything was a 'sin'; going to movies on Sunday, dancing, playing cards and of course, drinking. Remember this was in the '30's and the era of Prohibition, and the Women's Christian Temperance Union! We got blasted from all sides on these issues. It seemed to me that everything was a sin! I was being brain-washed in a big way!
All these things confused me, especially when my dad was booted out as choir director because he smoked! I could see what the smoking was doing to his body. He developed a bleeding ulcer (most probably from post war stress) and was advised to give up smoking, which he did. He was in his '40's. He became an avid non-smoking advocate after that. But his smoking was a personal choice and it was not the business of the church to judge him. He also loved to play cribbage and the church held him in contempt for that also, and he was judged unfit to lead the choir.
I wass rescued from total destruction when I was about 15. The old pastor retired and a new enlightened man, Rev. G. Moyer, came in as our new pastor. He completely opened my eyes, and got me thinking 'outside the box'. His concepts, his interpretations were like a breath of fresh air, and completely changed my perspective, and that of my whole family. By listening and observing this man's attitudes, actions and seeing his great humility and humanity I learned what being a Christian really meant. There was nothing fake about this man. He was totally real.
Thinking about these things has led me to the conclusion that my beliefs are the result more of influences of my parent's attitudes and of people like Rev. Moyer than what I was taught in Sunday School. My parents were always able to set me straight when I came home confused about the viewpoints and the narrow teachings of my SS teachers. I know now that most of those teachers in those days had not even a high school education and yet were recruited to teach Bible concepts to vulnerable youngsters. After Rev. Moyer came we were exposed to a wider variety of speakers and educators within the Denver Church Conferences.
The one positive thing I recall from my association with the little Baptist church was that it was there that I learned to sing. The Baptists lost their inhibitions when the lady sat down at the piano and began to play! The place rocked! My best sermons came from the words of those old hymns. It was from that language and those melodies that I developed my concept of God.
I can fully understand why young people today don't buy into religion. There is too much hypocrisy and sham evident within the church these days. But we should not throw the baby out with the bath water. Every institution has its flaws, mainly because it is made up of flawed human beings, but a diligent seeker is more apt to find high-minded, idealistic and positive people in churches than anywhere else. Good people coming together to help each other, to pray with and for each other and to collectively support humanitarian causes cannot be a bad thing.
I remember you asking what would be the best way to instill values and a concept of God in your children, when you had no trust in churches. . . . I have given some thought to that question.
If you think about it, most of us have learned these profound concepts at our mother's knee. I believe that our knowledge of right and wrong, along with a perception of God, is learned at home, gleaned from the attitudes and disciplines of daily life and experiences. This is where we absorb our values and mores. This is where we learn to say our first prayers.
Associations with youth groups and church activities should be an enhancement to what is taught at home, but one cannot say enough about a nurturing, love centered family as the prime source of teaching children what they need to know; the setting of the moral compass....and the belief in a Supreme Being.
Beth, these are the things I wanted to say to you that day while riding in the car, but I needed to process and distill my thoughts and define what I really did believe. I am glad you were the catalyst to turn on my thinking machinery. I can't tell you how much I treasure that beautiful week together, the sharing of our ideas and the bonding that took place in the process. It means the world to me.
I love you forever. Gramma B June 2007
note: Beth had just graduated from the Air Force Academy and she wanted and needed to unwind.
She drove, and I went along on a long safari into Southern California, visiting aunties, uncles and cousins on the way. We visited Joshua Tree, Yosemite and points between. A memorable road trip.
Betty L. Owen journals