"Back Then" by Harold Shank

“Back Then I Believed, But Now I Don’t”

Harold Shank
National Spokesperson for CCFSA

In the March 1998 issue, Life magazine reported on their visits with 60 kids in six locations around the nation, asking them about God. They chose to talk to children on the edge: a camp for the artistically gifted; a camp for the critically ill; a school for new immigrant children; and a residence for boys separated from their parents.

They talked to eleven-year-old Kurt from Scottsdale, Arizona. They didn’t say much about him, they just reported what he said:

 “My uncle taught me about God. He told me God sent his son to pay for the sins of the people, so when Judgment Day comes, whoever’s been bad will stay, and the earth will become a burning hell. Back then, I believed it, but now I don’t.”

We’re left wondering, “Did his uncle tell him about heaven? Was it the missing message of love that led Kurt to reject his uncle’s message?

It’s a sobering quotation that reminds us that the kids in our care are hearing a message about God. For good or bad, complete or incomplete, focused on hell or centered on heaven, they will leave us with a theology.

Nothing is more important in our work with children than what they understand from us. May the children who leave our care say something different from Kurt.

“Before I met them I didn’t believe, but now I do.”