Checking in on the Past

Its getting close to the first anniversary of the limey family move to a coastal location (

A lot has happened in that year, yet it feels like its flown past. On the whole we are very happy with the choice we made. We like where we live, we have made some good friends, our daughter is doing very well at her new school, better than we think she would have done had we not moved. We are more relaxed and happiness is up.

There has been one big negative. A dear friend from our last church lost his fight with cancer and we were unable to attend the funeral. Accounts say the church was packed and I am not surprised, he was an immensely popular man and was hugely respected by many of the young people. It was very upsetting not being able to attend but things conspired against us and it simply wasn’t possible.

On a more positive note; other good friends held their regular start of the summer BBQ and we made the trip back to our old town. That was a far more appropriate occasion to catch up with many familiar faces and share stories and updates on the past 10 months. Before the BBQ we stopped by to see the wife of good friend mentioned above. We were pleased to see that she’s being cared for, but adjustment to losing a spouse after all those years and having to deal with an empty house must be hard.

One of the inevitable conversation pieces during the BBQ would be the state of the church we left behind. Some more of our friends have left since we moved, yet the church continues to attract new members so the loss does not appear to be affecting the membership; though the demographic has been affected.

One of the friends who left is cancer survivor. She left because she didn’t like seeing people in corners obvious talking about her in hushed tones. Her illness and survival seemed to change the way some people approached her, specifically those who didn’t know her so well. Her friends of course treated her and loved her just the same and it really was good to see her again. One specific person in the church, who is now a deacon, has very strong literal and creationist views. On one occasion he had intimated something to her husband about sin and illness and the couple were left feeling that they were being judged for her not having claimed her full healing in the Name of Christ!

I think that would likely make me leave a church. I don’t know what the exact conversation was, but I do know that if I’d been the husband on the receiving end of such wisdom I’d have been far less gracious than that husband was.

There was one more shocking account of our previous church to come; this time involving the pastor. In a conversation with another couple where the subject of leaving the church came up (again I don’t know the exact details of the conversation) the pastor’s attitude was that he wasn’t bothered if people left the church. This was especially the case if the issue was on differences of theology. The pastor’s attitude was plainly that he was right and people leaving was because they were not on his side and if it was a theology issue it was an attempt by the devil to devide.

His arrogance in these matters appears to know no bounds. Sadly I am not surprised that this is his view, but I am deeply saddened.

By way of contrast, many years ago, in the early days of our marriage; my wife and I went to our Vicar (this was a Church of England Church) and explained that for all the good church did. It didn’t meet the needs of a young couple without children. He shed a tear and expressed his sadness. That is how one should react when people talk about leaving your church.

On Women in the Church

This isn’t a post I expected to write just yet, but recent events have meant it’ll soon become a source of much conversation.

But first some history

I am old enough to remember when the Church of England voted to allow the ordination of women, about 20 years ago. There was a lot of media attention on the matter and at the time I was never convinced by the arguments against the ordination of women. As a young Christian man, my opinion was that the spiritual qualities of a minister and their abilities to lead a congregation in a biblical were far more important than their gender.

At the time I worked in a computer shop and one of our regular customers was a vicar. A few days after the vote to allow women to be ordained he brought his computer in and he’d set up his Windows to have the most ghastly colour scheme you could ever imagine. Pretty much everything was a different colour and they were all bright and clashed horridly. When a comment was made, his response was that he had attended the vote and during the pre vote debate, so much was said that he considered unpleasant that when he got home he was in a such an emotional state it was the only way he could distract himself long enough to wind down to sleep. He was involved in the organisation of the Women’s World Day of Prayer, so I don’t think it’s difficult to guess which side of the argument he was on.

The Sunday after the vote, the leadership of the Church of England church I attended stated that they considered that the Church had lost something of its essence as a result of the positive vote. I never really understood what was meant by the comment and I never felt confident enough to ask. I was a little surprised though because the church did seem to support women in leadership. There was at least one female Lay Reader and women did preach on occasion as well. There was certainly nothing obvious about the language and the leadership of the church that indicated opposition to women in leadership.

After we got married, my wife and I were briefly involved in a church plant that this same church was involved in. The team put together was mostly women and the church actively supported the church plant and the members of the team.

When we relocated, we started attending a Baptist Church. One active church member, who we worked with in the youth ministry, was anti women in leadership. She was anti to the point where she would not attend a service when a woman was preaching. This included the occasions my wife would preach.

How do you support and work with a person on a close level and yet, due to their gender, don’t consider them worthy of your ear when they preach? The contradiction led to a couple of unhelpful conversations but, again, the reasons for the non-support of the female preacher never made any sense to me.

And so to now

Now we’re heading for the first anniversary of our latest move, gosh how the time flies! We’re at another Baptist church and we’re friends with the minister and his wife, and a handful of others too.

The church has its challenges, it has a far more conservative congregation, mainly due to its older demographic. The church forbids the women to preach, it’s in the constitution. The current minister does not support this rule, but he can’t change it without the support of the majority of the congregation. So my wife will not be preaching at this church any time soon, though she has already started leading worship on occasion and organised a worship group; two things that appear to be appreciated.

So why bring this subject up now?

Well, at the weekend one of the less old members of the congregation approached my wife and asked if they could meet up at some point to have a conversation because he suspected that they didn’t agree on women in leadership and he wanted to have an honest discussion before there was a chance of a misunderstanding.

I’m disappointed that this gentleman is closer to my own age than the traditional older members of the congregation, but I do admire his desire to head off a confrontation and hope that the result will be positive. However, I don’t really see either changing their minds so the result can really only be a return to the uncomfortable friendship previously described at our former church.

This makes me sad, but there is not a lot I can do about it, my wife is a big girl and she doesn’t need me to protect her from this sort of situation, however it is something she could do without. I guess we’ll have to see what transpires and deal with it from there.

Final thoughts

There is a paradox about not allowing women to lead and preach that has always bothered me. Churches (and people) that don’t support women behind the pulpit seem happy with women leading the children’s groups. If what the woman has to say is so unbiblical then why the hell allow her to talk to impressionable children but not to adults who can apparently think for themselves? If a woman is not worthy of expounding the gospel to adults then why the hell is she teaching the children?

I don’t get it.

Communion Forced Another Conversation

Before reading this post, it would a good idea for read the preceding one ( to get the context.

Having admitted my doubts, the very next Sunday happened to be a communion. When I noticed, which was right at the start of the service as its very hard to miss the table all set up like that, my heart truly fell. I wanted to walk out.

I wasn’t ready to face this; I’d not even considered it, not even for a second. After goodness knows how long faking it by taking communion, I now found myself facing my denial square in the face and I had nowhere to run.

As the service progressed I got more and more distracted by the issue. I really wanted to leave and miss the communion part of the service altogether, which would mean missing the rest of the service. I didn’t want to just walk out in the preceding song, if I was to do so I might worry my wife. I could briefly tell her, but that might be just as bad.

“Sorry I can’t take communion”, then leave?

Well, it sounds easy but I couldn’t do that either, it didn’t feel fair to leave her on her own in the row.

So I stayed and I let the plate and glasses pass.

A week later we spoke about it

I kept waiting for my wife to ask me about it. She obviously didn’t want to push me on the issue so I eventually broached the subject myself.

I explained that I felt really uncomfortable being there during communion and that letting the plate and glasses pass me by wasn’t good enough. I was still deeply uncomfortable being there during communion. I couldn’t explain exactly why, I still can’t.

Unequally yoked

We talked a little more about other issues and I raised a concern I had about my current state of faith meant that we were effectively unevenly yoked and I didn’t want that to become a problem or a burden in our marriage. My wife, in her typically wise way, pointed out that over the years we’ve very rarely been evenly yoked. Our Christian walk has very rarely been in step, so why should this situation change anything?

She’s right, of course. She didn’t see it as being an issue so I shouldn’t either, so long as we continue to be honest with each other.

Then there was the next month’s communion

Then the next month came by and another communion service.

My wife gave me a get out and suggested that I could stay at home that day. It wasn’t free though, I had a list of things to prepare for lunch. I gladly took the deal.

This can’t be a long term solution though. I don’t know what the long term solution will be, we still need to work that out. In the meantime this month’s communion is looming, this Sunday I think. I guess we need another discussion.

Whatever happens, I know the worries I had about my marriage being affected by my state of belief are pretty much exposed as being over nothing. That’s a major relief.

My Part Time Vicar Friend got Married Last Weekend

* warning: this post contains words of a rude and crude nature. It is not something I make a habit of in my normal language and this blog reflects that. However, in the context of this post, the swearing is essential.

 ** note: this is quite a long post and I am not sure what etiquette there is with regards to long blog posts and if they should be split into parts or not. If you have a comment or suggestion to make on that, especially if you think this post would have benefitted from being split, then I’d love to read it.

A good friend of mine is a part time vicar (PTV), he spends the other half of the week doing his day job. We’ve been friends for the past 20 years. We’ve not really seen much of each other in the last 10, partly due to us now being separated by many miles. This happens in long tern friendships, people move away, get married and their life changes. Some friendships disappear due to lack of contact, some manage to survive and some simmer along, never really going away, but also never managing to remain at the same level of quality.

That latter part defines this friendship well. PTV and I had a very strong friendship many years ago, we’ve both shared deep and personal things and talked the world away late into the night during varying stages of brevity.

We’ve both moved away from the town in which we met, both got married and both become parents. Our lives now revolve around very different people and places, but we’ve managed to retain a tender connection and it was a wonderful pleasure to see him get married last weekend and stag night three weeks ago.

PTV is most definitely the one person in my circle who I could tell about my current state of thinking towards Christianity and know for certain that I am still a valued friend and that I am not being judged. Maybe I will tell him soon, I am certainly entertaining the idea of confiding in him before being more open to my wife about it.

PTV’s first marriage ended traumatically and he is very critical of the lack of support his in-laws provided to the marriage. To his mind, the decision to terminate the marriage was made very early and his wife’s family simply took the view that termination was better than salvation. Her family is very wealthy and he stood no chance in a fight and so his only choice to turn belly up and surrender to the inevitable. He is especially bitter about not being given a chance to salvage the marriage; he’s not even sure what went wrong or what he could have done differently to prevent it.

Sadly, I was not around to provide support to PTV during those dark years, but he did have other close friends so he wasn’t totally without support, just without the support he needed most, which I could not have provided either. In hindsight I wish I could have been in touch with him regularly enough to help him, and I know that if he’d turned up on my doorstep I’d have accommodated him without question. However, that’s water long since flowed by and no amount of wishing can change the past, so its pointless trying.

Right now the future looks wonderful for PTV and for that I am immensely happy.

The totally Irreverent Stag do

It had actually been a few years since I’d seen PTV when I attended his stag do. Something that I hope never happens again. It was a good night out, which basically revolved around drinking in several pubs and finishing the evening around a pool table, by which time I was the only sober person in the group.

PTV likes his booze, and hanging out with him that evening reminded me of the days 20 years ago when we’d have parties round my flat on a Saturday, sing popular songs badly, get drunk and generally behave like the immature 20 years olds that we were. Then of course on the Sunday evening the same flat would be tidied up, the guitars would come out and we’d all sing good Christian worship songs and have a bible study, like the mature responsible 20 year Christians that we were.

The stag do started with a quiz, written by PTV, to test the music knowledge of those assembled. Being a stag do, there was a very male centric element to the questions. Sporadic conversation during this opening hour also turned to PTV role in the church and those he answered to, there was some catching up to after all.

PTV was wonderfully unreserved and unashamed in his comments and opinions. He is a no nonsense guy and this is one of the qualities about him which I dearly love. I was very glad to be back in his life again.

I saw some of the 20 year old I knew so well that evening, a 20yo that has managed to be unpolluted by the experiences of the past 20 years. He let slip that there had been more than one bishop that he answers to that he has told to ‘fuck off’. Now I’m not sure if he meant that literally or figuratively, but his use of the phrase and the context leads me to believe that its far more likely to be literal. One should not ignore the influence of alcohol at this point, but PTV is precisely the sort of chap who I believe would and could tell a bishop to fuck off.

There was some other discussion about church policy and the risk of him being defrocked if his language and attitude didn’t change. PTV’s summary of the situation was along the lines of ‘The Church of England is so bloody liberal that whatever you tell them you believe, that’ll say its fine’, and of his job prospects, he shrugged his shoulders and suggested that they’d never try to sack him.

Later on in the evening I raised the Adam and Eve issue (, it wasn’t really the time or the place to have an in depth discussion with him, but he did unreservedly acknowledge that it causes a problem for original sin and subsequent salvation through Jesus. I have no idea if I’ll be able to have a proper grown up type chat with him on the subject, we shall see.

On to the Wedding.

The wedding was Saturday afternoon, it was a busy weekend for us as the family limey are now on the countdown to our big move and change of lifestyle. My in-laws are also moving to the same seaside town, they move next week, so plenty going on in that part of the family too. My brother and his fiancé came to stay with us for the weekend too, they marry early next year, so lots to talk about and arrange their too. So basically, life for my family is vary full these days, which is wonderful.

This meant that only I attended the wedding. There was no chance I was going to miss the wedding, PTV is an important person in my life, even if the main parts were a long time ago, it was very important for me to go, but the whole family could not go due to the amount of stuff going on, so only I went.

The bride looked fabulous, her long white gown and short train looked elegant on her and she radiated beauty from the second I saw her, in fact she probably radiated long before that. I brought to mind that PTV had admitted to getting to know her through a Christian dating website. She had contacted him within a few days of him signing up. I had to smile at that, because, if you’ll forgive the blunt male talk for a second, a woman with a figure and a face like hers is never going to have a problem finding a suitor. Then of course I remember the key word, Christian, ahh the murky waters of Christian mixing of the sexes! A little bit more on that later.

The service was overly Christian, and all the songs I knew well, so sang them as I would normally. The second song was a well known “Be Thou my Vision”, played with a rousing drum rhythm and I sung it with gusto, I was here to celebrate this union and the happiness of PTV, my friend; so I sung it loud and I sung it heartily and I enjoyed it. I hope my neighbours appreciated my enthusiasm.

Both bride and groom lifted a hand skyward during the song and I recalled the events of the stag evening and I smiled as I remembered another muttering of PTV on the evening of the stag do.

PTV had been asked about living together and he’d said that he would have not had a problem with living together prior to the marriage, but that there were members of his congregation who most certainly would have had a problem, so future Mrs PTV would not be moving in until after the honeymoon. I briefly pondered on the most stumbling of issues that comes up when Christians get married and decided that yes, PTV and future Mrs PTV have indeed engaged in PMS. I shall not judge, for I don’t care, and I shall not ask because its not my business.

The Wedding car!

This is really very cool and so I have to mention it.

The two parties in this wedding are each bringing two children into the new family that is being created. This required a genius choice of transport, to get from church to reception place. The children were a major part of the wedding and so the transport had to accommodate. The transport which turned up, which I already knew about as it had been revealed at the stag do; was an A-Team van. A proper GMC van, with burbling big capacity engine and the right colour scheme, blasting out the A-Team theme on repeat. Oh it was wonderful! You could see all the kids, eyes bulging with excitement, and all the fathers wishing they’d had the balls to book the same thing for their wedding, while trying to act unimpressed in front of their wives.

Oh the dancing!

The evening reception was a fun shindig, food was a finger buffet, speeches were intentionally light, just being a toast and a thank you, no amusing anecdotes and no mysteries from the past. Bride and groom each made their thanks and then the best man proposed a toast to the couple. That was it and it was on to the dancing.

Every wedding has one! The lone dancer with seemingly endless energy who will out last everyone on the dance floor and will be carried protesting when the last song ends. He, for its always a he, will get so animated in the heavy beat tracks that one will wonder how his head remains attached to his body. His shirt will be dripping with sweat and when he’s not on the dance floor, he’ll be outside cooling down in the night air. If you’re not a dance floor regular, you’ll know the person in question because as the evening progresses he’ll get more and more hoarse as he shouts out the songs that accompany his gyroscopic gymnastics.

Well, this weekend, it was my turn to be that guy!

It turned out that I really was the only man there without a partner, in fact I think I was the only adult there without a partner. Not that I was looking for them partner related action, in case anyone is wondering. It just meant that getting onto the dance floor meant not having someone to dance with, so caring went out the window and a fun boogie was had.

It turned out that a there were a number of ladies who enjoyed dancing too, though their partners were not so keen. So I spent a lot of time on the dance floor next to half a dozen ladies dancing together but never exchanging any eye contact! As it happens all the ladies concerned (and their partners) are from the bride’s church so were good Christian ladies. Ouch, that reads quite condescending, that’s not how its intended, so pleasure bear with me.

I’ve been to end of year parties with work colleagues of mine and my wife’s and dancing with other people partners (not slow dancing I might add) has never been an issue and nor has being in a group with ladies I don’t know, there is always eye contact and a smile, but never any hint of inappropriateness.

Yet that evening I was frustrated by it. Is it really such a crime to exchange eye contact on the dance floor? I don’t know why it suddenly became.

In the end I spent a good deal of time dancing with a two teenage lads, who were cousins of the bride, and the girlfriend of one of said lads. These were people less than half my age and I had a good deal of fun with them and found out a bit about them. Yet the Christian ladies sharing the dance floor with me couldn’t even look me in the eye.

Thinking back to it, I feel very sad.

Maybe my enthusiastic exertions marked me out as someone to be avoided. That was the wisdom spoken by my brother the next morning at breakfast.

I didn’t even get much chat from the husbands when I helped clear up the hall and pack the chairs away and the end of the evening; so who knows what was going on. Its just weird and sad that I can have more fun at a celebration like that with teenagers I have never met am old enough to have fathered than with people my own age.

Well, this post is way too long already so I’ll just finish with the promise of the intention to keep PTV as a greater part of my life. I will be writing to him soon to post a CD of the 200+ photos I took during the day and maybe to let him know my status of faith currently, I’m still deciding on that last bit.

A Christian’s Duty is to Procreate?

I can’t remember exactly who said it, what exactly was said, or even what the context was; but sometime in the late 1990’s something hit the news about it being the duty of all married Christians to procreate.

I know it was the late 1990’s because I remember where my wife and I were living at the time and we only lived in that flat for 3 years. I also remember raising this issue on a Christian newsgroup at the time, this was in the days before internet forums and blogs became the method by which opinions were discussed and recounted.

The source of this statement must have come from the Church of England, because it wouldn’t have hit theUKnews headlines if it had come from any other church demonization. A brief internet search has failed to find the source, but then searching for anything over ten years old on the internet is practically impossible these days.

At this time, my wife and I had been married for about 5 years, were childless through choice and were both very involved in our local church. I was involved in the youth work and my wife both the youth work and the worship group. Our commitments were to a level that would have been impossible if we had children.

Its unfortunate that I don’t remember exactly what was being reported on because that information would be helpful now in putting my reaction into context. What I do remember is not very much balance in the response of the Christian leadership that was interviewed on this story. They all seemed to make an effort downplay the potential offence of this dictum, while not actually saying it was a wrong thing to say. At least that’s my memory of the story, and it could by that my position at the time was slightly biased.

For me, the biggest issue was that it was not the message I had received from any of the churches I attended and no one I knew personally backed up this message. However, what was also clear, looking around me, was that my wife and I were most certainly in a minority, being married for so long and still being childless.

Offended, hurt and upset

I found the statements, as reported on the news, upsetting. How dare these religious leaders dictate how I should live my life when they know nothing of the context of my life. I also could not reconcile the instruction to procreate with any passage in the Bible. Yes there are passages about having children, but there was no insinuation that a marriage without children was an incomplete marriage.

I brought up my feelings on the Christian newsgroup I frequented, I remember it being a specificallyUKfocused one, but in reality I can’t be certain how many of the posters were actuallyUKbased orUKnationals.

In my post of complaint I recounted how my wife and I were devout and how we both enjoyed making ourselves available to the church and how we served it lovingly. The decision to have (or not have) children had not been made, we were simply enjoying the life we had as a couple and the available we had to our church, which would be much more limited if we’d had children.

The responses I got were even more hurtful. This is the only time I can honestly say that I have been hurt, upset and offended by the Christian community; the fact that it was over something so personal made it doubly worse. I think of the many people on that list, only two made a positive comment back to me, one describing our attitude and ‘lovely’, the rest backed up the premise that as married Christians, my wife and I had a duty to bring children into the world.

I have no idea if the on-line Christian culture at the time was mainly from the more is fundamental Christian or if this really was what the mainstream believed and I had simply missed it. Either way, it deepened my feelings of betrayal by those who I felt should have been understanding and supportive.


Still a dedicated Christian

In hindsight its easy to point to this event as a starting point in my move away from Christianity and in the narrative of this blog it probably gives that impression. The truth is, I don’t think that’s the case. That point was almost 10 years away still. What this event did do for me was form a distrust of entertaining on-line Christian discussions. It wouldn’t be long before I abandoned using that particular newsgroup altogether and I didn’t actively engage in any other Christian resources after that.

That Certainly is Convenient

My last post ( had me thinking about coincidences and happening of convenience. When my wife and I move to the town that we currently live in; it was due to my job. In the months building up to the move several things combined to give us the distinct impression that God was guiding us.

In no particular order;

–         The minister of the Baptist Church in town was a friend of the Curate at the Church of England Church we’d been attending previously.

–         A friend of my brothers was dating a girl who attended that same Baptist Church

–         A girl who grew up at that Baptist Church had married my cousin inZambia, which helped me to get back in touch with that part of my family. (something we wouldn’t actually find out until after the move)

–         A girl who I knew, who attended my Mother’s Baptist Church had married someone who grew up in this same Baptist Church we would end up attending.

–         Despite resistance from my wife to moving to this town, attempts to buy a house in neighbouring towns failed. Either we couldn’t find a house we liked or we were outbid on the properties we did like.

–         When my wife eventually consented to looking at houses in this town, we found a flat that was new to the market, viewed it and made an offer all in one afternoon. Our offer was accepted.

There are probably a few other moments that could be added to this list, but the years have not been as kind to my memory as I would like them to be. The point is, that we interpreted all these things as evidence of God’s hand in the move and that it was most certainly His will.

We’re still in the early stages of our next big move, but the coincidences have already started.

–         Our house is being bought by a retiring Minister. It’s a cash purchase from his church organisation. This means there is no chain of people before him, to complicate the moving process

–         The house we are buying is a new build, not something we expected but the value compared to older houses is good and we won’t need to spend money redecorating. Also, buying a new house means no onward chain to complicate the move.

–         After an original concern over when the new house would be completed it turns out its going to be ready in August, which just so happens to be the month our purchasing minister retires and will need our house.

–         The father of one of the ladies at our current church used to be the minister at the Baptist Church in the town we are moving to.

–         When we visited the church a couple of weeks back, we found it a relaxed and less formal church than our own. There did appear to be a need for a worship group and it just so happens that my wife is gifted musically and on the occasions that she leads worship at our current church, she is always appreciated.

Of course we’ve discussed that there have been some rather fortunate moments in our plans to move. Neither of us has brought up the God at work assumption though. Certainly in years gone by I would have already been interpreting this as God’s will, but not now. Coincidences happen all the time.

Now I prefer to express it in the words of the great Tyrone from The Backyardigans; “That certainly is convenient”.

Where does a Child’s Theology Come From?

The most obvious answer would be, from the parents, but who else could have such an impact on a child in those early year that they shape the child’s beliefs for so long?

As part of the process of moving from Christian to Atheist, I spent much time pondering on where my firmest beliefs came from and what triggers, if any, there were in seeding them.

Since my entire school life was spent at boarding school, many of the beliefs I formed and were influenced, not by my parents, but by my teachers and the other children I went to school with.

Sowing Seeds

I have already mentioned that the first seeds of creationism were planted when we were told to cross out a paragraph referencing evolution in our text books ( This event aside, I can remember no other moment when either creationism or evolution was specifically spoken about by a teacher, either at missionary school in Zambia or at secondary school in the UK. Conversations with fellow pupils I can remember, but no specific teaching on either subject.

One specific conversation I can remember was as a young teen at school in the UK and asking a friend to try and explain where we came from and where our ancestors came from etc.. we ended up at fish in the sea, at which point I burst out laughing. So its clear that by this point I was utterly sold on creationism. What puzzles me is that I am fairly sure that evolution should have come up in science classes at some point in the UK curriculum of the 1980s. Yet I can not remember any references. This could be because the school in question was a Church of England Secondary school. However, I doubt very much that any curriculum specification would have been ignored. So I wonder if any evolution references were too mild to cause my creationist values any problem and so they were simply forgotten.

Certainly I never had any discussion with my parents on the matter, in fact school work of any description very rarely came up with my parents due to the boarding school life.

What about other theological points?

Given that I went to two boarding schools which had a major emphasis on Christian teaching. What other things in my life come from those roots?

It would be too much to try and list Christian theological points and try and find the source for each on in my upbringing.

I recall very few specific theological points being taught as a young child away at school. Though, there was a very real Christian ethos everywhere, story time was often in a parable style, with the story and then how it referenced Christian teaching. There was a weekly walk to the local church. Daily assembly had prayers, songs and other Christian anecdotes. All this extra curricular Christian teaching was done by the school teachers, with occasional guests from the local area, or another students parent. When at home, I would of course go to the Sunday School, while my parents remained in church. So again basic Christian teaching and theology was being planted in my young mind by people other than my parents. The only decision my parents made was who was doing it, due to their decision on where they sent me to school or where we went to church.

All these lessons would form the background to my later beliefs. By the time I was old enough to be able to pay attention to a sermon, many of my Christian values were already in place. A sermon would either reinforce those early opinions, where they matched or cause some confusion, where they didn’t. Confusing messages would be ditched and that usually meant the longer held belief won over.

This is something I would see in later life when I spent time as a youth volunteer working with teenagers and giving them information that conflicted with their already held views.

Cause for concern?

When put in this context and looking back, its concerning, that my early and impressionable mind was fed important information that led to me forming incorrect opinions that would take years to undo. Objections about the truth of Christianity aside, should people, untrained in Christian theology and teaching, be left to tell young children the stories that lead to them forming their opinions, before they get the chance to hear the authoritative versions in a sermon?

I think specifically about my own child, going to Sunday School while my wife and I sit in Church. I am an adult and can make my own decisions; I can choose to filter out what I hear from the pulpit. My child does not have that same ability and is too young to be able to determine the questionable from the acceptable. The Sunday School teachers are enthusiastic church volunteers with no training other than the mandatory child protection training that the government has mandated. Even if I were still a Christian, how do I know that my child is learning what I want them to? Do I even know when questionable theology is being fed to my child?

Throw out the Baby with the Bath Water?

One thing I certainly am thankful to my early teachers for is the respect and consideration for others that has been so ingrained into me. This is something that my parents certainly backed up and something I would want my child to have as well. Okay, good behaviour does not require Christian teaching to enforce and encourage, but it does come as part of the package.

Now I need to be careful what I say here so as not to be misunderstood, ‘Christian behaviour’, as an ethos is a very desirable thing in people. The ‘doing onto others as you would have done unto you’ way of behaving is something I still strongly hold as an attitude that people should adhere to they interact with others. This specific policy, though, is only something I have encountered in Christian circles. Now I am not saying that non-Christians have lower standards of behaviour or poor morals, just that this specific message of behaviour is succinctly put and one I think Christians do a good job of promoting.

Yet despite those good points, the sad fact remains that in our Churches (and in my case schools too) young children are getting a basic grounding in Christian theology by people who could be unwittingly seeding ideas that in the future could become platforms for incorrect belief that could prove hard to correct. This is not just because I now reject the Bible and the concept of God, but also because I have a lot of friends who are Christians and I see their children going to Sunday School and I wonder, do they actually know what their child is getting told in there? I know I don’t