Of the four church services my family attended when I was a child, one of them was a young people's church service. That meant that the "choir" was made up of the children of the church members. You really had no choice about it. It was very bad form to attempt to evade choir service. It brought shame and reproach on your parents and just wasn't worth the hassle you would face once you got back home.
After the song service there might be some little skit involving those same kids, always with a message geared towards using Christian principles in our daily lives. Sometimes there might be a contest. Little prizes would awarded in a Bible Answer Bee. We would line up and answer Bible questions until only one child was left standing. I won a fancy pencil on one occasion, I think I was 5 or 6 at the time, when I "answered" the question "Who climbed up in a tree in order to see Jesus?" I shouted out the answer "Sycamore," bringing sustained laughter from the congregation. They awarded me the prize pencil anyway, because obviously I knew the story.
Finally, as with the adults, there would be a sermon. This was usually something scaled-down but every bit as ridiculous (sometimes even more so because you can get by with much more when you are dealing with young minds) from a reasonable standpoint as a regular church sermon.
But let me go back to that choir. Ugh, the song service! How I hated it. How it embarrassed me to sing these simplistic ditties as the adults looked on with a mixture of smug satisfaction and unrestrained joviality. And we would have to perform the hand gestures as we sang.
One song in particular has stuck with me all these years and is emblematic of the Fundamentalist Christian view of God. The song was sung to the tune of If You're Happy And You Know It. I'm sure just about everyone know that song and the tune. The song we sang at every single young people's meeting went like this:
Oh, be careful little eyes what you see,
oh, be careful little eyes what you see,
there's a Father up above looking down with tender love,
so be careful little eyes what you see
Now this continued along to the various body parts. Be careful little ears what you hear; be careful little tongue what you say; be careful little hands what you do; be careful little feet where you go. You get the idea. And the reason for all this careful attention is because God is watching you and every thing you do. (In my opinion, our parents had just as great a need for this song, but they never sang it!)
I've never forgotten that song, even after all these years.
When I got older, say my teenage years, and began to go through puberty and discovered sexuality in a whole new way, I was tempted in the same way most young boys are. And I always felt guilty after my quality alone time. It was sinful! I had lusted after other women (usually just pictures of women I had snuck into the house, provided by my fellow friends who had raided their father's stashes of girlie magazines - my Dad never bought or kept them).
I would pray long and anguished prayers asking for forgiveness, and promising God I would never "do it" again. Well, that was a lost cause, and brought me much vexation.
Not that I didn't fail the song in other ways. Obviously I wasn't always careful about what my hands were doing! My tongue failed me, too, especially when I was in the company of my unbelieving friends. My ears found enjoyable some the devil's music which blared from the radio - when I was out of my mom's and dad's ear range. And my feet also often snuck around to places I wasn't supposed to be.
More guilt, more sin, more repentance, more failings.
I look back on this now with humor. If I were still a member of the religion of my youth, I have to confess, I would still be going through all that. In fact, that is why we all know so many hypocrites. There are just more "thou shalt nots" than human nature will allow!
For most people it seems religion is like dieting. It seems that just about everything that is delicious to eat is either unhealthy or just bad for you diet-wise. And just about everything that brings us ease or pleasure is somehow either sinful or at least unvirtuous from a religious standpoint.
Now, as I've written about before, I finally boiled down my religious commandments to just one: treat everyone else with the same consideration I expect from them.
I no longer entertain the idea that there is a sky-god concerned or angry about what else I might do in my shower besides shower, or cares if I tell an occasional white-lie - "Hi Doug, how are you today?" "Fine" (when in fact my back is killing me so much I had trouble dressing that morning - or that gets bent out of shape if I watch a move or TV program that has a little nudity or cursing, or that cares that I let an occasional four-letter-word slip out, etc.
But in case there is such a God as my youthful religion depicted, let it be known that I'm watching him/her, too. And I'm not impressed with the cesspool that this world is. Children raped and abused, the elderly raped and abused, the rest of us raped and abused - or at least in constant danger of it, killings galore, corruption and hypocrisy to the hilt, etc.
I guess this sounds arrogant, but if God is indeed governing this world, as the major religions tell us is so, I submit that I'm doing a much better job tending to my affairs than he/she is his/hers.
So, yes, I will keep myself and my body members in check. I will do it for my own sake and for the sake of my fellow humans. I don't do it because I see a reason to please a deity who doesn't seem to be very pleasing, all things considered.