One week before the Main Street trick-or-treat event, the Blue Mountain Baptist Church announced that they had “...worked together to assemble two thousand bags containing twelve thousand pieces of candy.” What the cheerful Facebook post failed to mention was that the bags also contained disturbing, child-targeted indoctrination booklets.
The cartoon booklets, featuring a clownish character named Albert Brainstein, were zip-locked inside sandwich bags of Halloween candy. That’s an undeniably intentional effort to target children, knowing that a great many of them come from families with differing belief systems. Inside, the booklet outlines the Ten Commandments, including the following statement:
“The Ten Commandments show us how bad we are, and how we need to be clean before the Day of Judgment. On that day, God will punish everyone who has broken the Ten Commandments. They’ll be sent to a terrible place called ‘Hell.’ ”
To whomever thought it was appropriate to deliver this message directly to my little boy (and 2,000 other kids), here’s what I have to say:
If children are not receiving this message at home, that’s a purposeful parenting decision, not an oversight. I have intentionally omitted the threat of Hell from my son’s life; how dare you — a total stranger — attempt to sneak it past my parental judgment in a bag of candy?
You had a separate table offering coffee to the adults, which seems like the obviously better place to distribute religious material. I would have been unimpressed, but not remotely angry, if you had offered the booklet to ME, instead of dropping it into my 4-year-old’s pumpkin bucket.
The cover of your booklet identifies the audience as “kids who like to think.” I find this sadly ironic, considering that you’re presenting dogmatic belief as irrefutable fact to be accepted without critical thought. But I’m not writing to criticize the practice of indoctrinating children; the approach makes sense for those who want to raise kids with a faith-based worldview. I fully respect your right to choose that style of teaching for your own family, but you don’t get to choose it for mine.
Who are you to tell my child that he was born a “bad” person? Well, I believe that your children were born GOOD people, but I would never have the audacity to maneuver around what you’ve chosen to teach them. The only thing you know about my son is that he wore a Jack Skellington costume for Halloween. You don’t even know his name, and yet you feel qualified to approach him with existential lessons about God?
You certainly have the right to exercise free speech but, according to your Oct. 24 Facebook post, the goal was not merely to express your beliefs, it was “to share the love of Jesus with (your) community.” So I’m writing to let you know how gravely you missed the mark with my family. Your Facebook post also referred to “strategic planning for how (you) can better love (your) community.” In support of that goal, I would like to offer the following suggestion:
If you’re sincerely concerned about my son’s eternal fate, talk to his parents. Don’t assume that we’ve casually dismissed such concepts as the Ten Commandments and hell. Ask us what we believe. Have an adult conversation. And when we remain unconvinced of our son’s inherently “bad” humanity, respect our role as his parents and don’t interfere.
For the record, my husband and I committed to raising a religiously literate child who will someday determine his own truth: not one that we indoctrinate, and certainly not one that you fed him with cartoons and candy. When he’s old enough, we’ll begin accompanying him to explore different churches, a synagogue, a mosque, a Mormon temple, and a Buddhist sanctuary. For now, we openly share our own non-theistic views and we encourage him to challenge us. My husband was raised Baptist, and we would happily bring our son to Blue Mountain to hear your message and ask questions. But we resent your attempt to undermine our approach with your fear-based propaganda.
I believe you had good intentions, but what you demonstrated was profoundly poor judgment. Halloween is supposed to be a joyful event for kids of all backgrounds to enjoy together. It’s not your personal soapbox from which to evangelize to minors without parental approval. Preach to me if you must, but keep the “hell” out of my son’s Halloween candy.