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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Sunday School Answers

Listening to Kelly Clarkson inverview with someone is always fun. You kind of get the impression that she has no cpu (central processing unit) and that even she never really knows what is going to proceed from her mouth. She's like a glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut: Very sweet and tasty, but nothing in the center. I don't mean that in a completely negative way. After all, she's an entertainer. She is a celebrity. She could never become her own person. She is our slave, and the product of marketing, advertisement, and commercialization. She is more an image than a person. And I don't mean to be judgmental. After all, who would I be if Kelly and I switched places? Much the same, I imagine.

I'm a bit off topic here.

What I mean to do in this post is exegete one of the lyrics to one of Kelly's recent songs, "Never Again." There is an interesting line about "that sunday school answer":

I hope the ring you gave to her
Turns her finger green
I hope when you’re in bed with her
you think of me
I would never wish bad things
But I don’t wish you well
Could you tell
By the flames that burned your words
I never read your letter
Cause I knew what you’d say
Give me that Sunday school answer
Try make it all okay

What, exactly, is a sunday school answer? This question is fertile ground for much interesting discussion. Sunday school answers are typically nice, neat, clean, and easy. In many cases the answers tend to be a bit out of touch with reality. The answers make us feel good while in Sunday School, but when we enter into the real world of life they have little currency. The result of this is that sunday school becomes a very surreal place. They become something of a simulacrum. Sunday school purports to describe life and the way we should live, however, it rarely coincides with the more difficult or complicated life issues. As long as your life stays simple and fits the ideal then the sunday school answers work. But as soon as life throws a curve ball things can break down very quickly.

From a psychological perspective there is the concept of "group think." No one wants to really argue or disagree with someone else. After all, we are all in church and church is certainly not a place to get frustrated or angry with a person. Much easier to nod and agree with the first neat-and-tidy answer that someone submits.

Little wonder, then, how sunday school could die in this day and age. Life is complicated. Simple answers simply don't work. When sunday school becomes inauthentic and disingenuous it disconnects God from the stream of life. Many in our culture (of the "keep it real" variety) see sunday school as a sham and a hoax.

On the other hand, creating a religious church-bubble does provide an escape for many, and as such it will always be around. Once a week we can put on our sunday clothes and exit the complications of our world to enter into a temple where reality vanishes and we float amongst the clouds for a little while. In this regard church differs little from smoking marijuana and watching old kung-fu movies with some buddies on the weekend. Stress, dissappointment, heartache, insecurity, fear, confusion and underachievement all vanish in a cloud of smoke. In church-bubbles the problems vanish as soon as we step through the doors. Humanity will always create a market for churches that create unreal religion: Disconnect church/religion/god from how I live. Let me do religion for an hour or two each week. Make it surreal.

And so humankind spoke and said, "Let us create a simulacrum in our image." It will be our own little getaway.


Melody said...

Sunday school purports to describe life and the way we should live

When? When has anyone ever said Sunday School was supposed to be that?
We expect pretty Bible stories and trite, ineffectual answers. No one's really going into this and getting scammed and coming out going, "What? Mapping out Paul's second missionary journey didn't have anything to do with life in the 21st century!"

I find it kind of interesting too that you think people are unwilling to get angry with each other in church. How many church splits are over something retarded like...that the coffee table sits in the main hallway instead of a side hallway...or whatever?

And finally...I don't think people really find church an escape. Pretending to be something you're not is stressful...especially when the empahsis is on things like holiness or righteousness.

I dunno, maybe they do. I don't.

Jason Hesiak said...

Funny...seeing as how this post knocks on the market value of contemporary church even more than the previous one...before I ever clicked on the comment and saw who it was who left it...I knew who it would be and what she would say.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Well, this post was just my best guess at defining the term "sunday school answers." No all sunday schools are this way, but I think there is a reason for the term. Do you have a different idea of what this term is referring to? A better way of defining "sunday school answers"?

Melody said...

Jon, no I know you don't mean it for all Sunday Schools...

And I think I agree with your conclusion as to what Sunday school answers are...I just don't agree with your premis of why they are that way.

In general I see it stemming from ignorance more than anything else.

Not nessacerily of Bible knowledge but of how to apply it and how it would play out in an actual life as opposed to an idealized one.