Monday, August 13, 2007

Dabbling in Religion

Those who have been reading here for a while may remember my post about hating Sunday School. But it maybe was also partly fear of sin and of having people tell me that God new absolutely everything that I not only did but that I thought as well. I was happy for Father Christmas to know when I'd been naughty or nice because I knew that if on balance I was more often good than I was bad, then chances were that Christmas Day would be a good one. But it worried me what God might think? I mean how was I supposed to know what was good and what was bad and more importantly what weight was put on each of the things. I never knew where I stood on the scale of goodness and badness and that was scary.

But at a young age and growing up in a God fearing if not totally devout family, God was there, lurking in the background, waiting to judge me, and I'm sure there were plenty of times I thought about disobeying my parents but didn't because I was scared of judgement. If I couldn't always be totally good, I wasn't gonna be bad and start getting a heap of black marks against my name. So everynight I'd kneel beside my bed and say my prayers even knowing that I hated Sunday School.

As my sisters and I got a bit older, Mum and Dad finally gave up on forcing us to get up early on those Sunday mornings, so if we weren't out visiting family for lunch on a fortnightly basis, we'd be able to sleep in, and there were many days when I could just lie in bed and read my books or comics.

My next real experience with religion was around third form [Year nine for those of you closer to 30 years old than 50] when a group called MOC [Melbourne Outreach Crusade] got a hold amongst some of the kids at school. Two I remember who were pretty heavily involved at the time were MarkMitchell and Kim Silverman. They spent many a recess and lunchtime standing on seats in the school quadrangles preaching from the bible and talking in tongues. It was pretty exciting times for young impressionable kids and pretty soon they both had a fair following. Kids would come to school each morning and talk about whether during their prayers they had babbled in tongues.

We'd all gather in a big circle and pray together several times a day. Now as with a lot of things I did, I was pretty much a fringe dweller here. I participated because some of my mates did and it was easier to be involved than not be involved. Some of them made it a way of life for a while attending prayer meetings out of school and on weekends. There was no way I really ever wanted to get that involved but I guess it didn't hurt to have a couple of bob each way. If God was really still making marks against my name, maybe I could pick up a few brownie points by getting involved during school hours at least.

It all seemed to peter out as soon as it began, by fourth form [Year 10] we'd moved onto hypnotism and for some that was actually letting the devil in. For most of us, it was a passing fad that was a bit of fun at the time.

Now I have no idea whether these two blokes, Mark and Kim, still regard themselves as Christians, or whether as budding teenage evangelists they embraced God because they genuinely believed at the time or not. I always thought they did. I can say though that both have pursued some very interesting careers since leaving Burwood High School.

Mark Mitchell has become one of Australia's finest comedians and actors famous for a number of characters he created including Con the Fruiterer.

On doing a search for Kim Silverman tonight I found that he graduated from Monash University in 1977 and, now a doctor, he is Principal Research Scientist for Apple in the US. He also happens to be the President of the Society of American Magicians.

Amazing really that two people from a middle class background attending Burwood High School in Melbourne who were so caught up in an evangelical movement all those years ago have both gone on to become famous and well respected in their chosen fields. Those days of schoolyard performances obviously stood them both in very good stead.


paisley said...

well they both remained "showman" in their own right,, and maybe that was the real calling for both of them after all.....

Jeff said...

What a grim view of God. I would have hated Sunday School, too, if that was the message I got. For me, it is like reading a two sided T-shirt, but only reading the front side.

The front side says, "God sees everything." However, the back that we missed was, "And loves us anyway".

I love how you explore your memories in your blogs. Keep up the good work, mate.

HollyGL said...

I agree with Paisley about them remaining "showmen".

My view of God has always been more of a loving friend than judge. From the time I was very small until now, I talk to God all the time. Its just that my all around spiritual perspective has opened considerably with experience - in my old age.

Loz said...

Quite right Paisley in both cases looking back it was seeth the boy seeth the man.

It was grim Jeff but the strict orange methodism that I grew up with was like that and I have never fully embraced religion since.

Steph - I also think that there are some major cultural differences between OZ and the US particularly in terms of religion and I suspect that has a lot to do with our different histories. We had no slavery, but were a convict society. We had no War of Independence or Civil War - our soldiers have shed their blood on foreign soils, and the law of the gun has never taken hold here as it has in your country. There's probably a whole book in that topic let alone a single blog post

Nick Phillips said...

I'm a god fearing man, always have been, always will be, but I hated Sunday school too, I used to pull all kinds of pranks to avoid getting up and going for it. I think in the end my mom got pretty fed-up of my pranks. Now as a parent myself, I make sure my kids attend Sunday school (and thank god they don't pull pranks like me ... LOL).