Faith Matters: ‘You’ve got to be carefully taught’

  • The Rev. Marguerite Sheehan. Staff Photo/Julian Mendoza

  • The Rev. Marguerite Sheehan. Julian Mendoza

  • Trinity Church in Shelburne Falls. Staff file photo/Paul Franz

Pastor, Trinity Church
Published: 10/3/2021 11:59:20 AM

(Each Saturday, a faith leader offers a personal perspective in this space. To become part of this series, email

It is mid-October, and we are still in “back to school” season after a long pandemic time of being schooled and also “churched” from home.

Will our schools and churches and other public buildings be closed up again this fall or winter? We don’t know. What we do know is that whether we are “back in school” or “back in church” buildings or not, we are given some important teachings that we all need.

I remember a song about teaching from the musical, “South Pacific.” I heard this song when I was in high school and it touched my heart and mind. The song itself dates to 1959. The most famous line is this one: “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year. It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear. You’ve got to be carefully taught. You’ve got to be taught.”

The teaching that was being referred to has to do with racism. People “whose skin is a different shade.” What a teaching; then and now, that racism, and all other kinds of discrimination and “othering” does not come naturally! It has to be taught. And it is. On social media. In schools. In homes. In churches. In everyday and not so everyday encounters we are being taught to hate.

Because this is true, we need to be taught something else. We need to be taught to love. Then and now and I believe forever. That hate curriculum was “on the books” a long time before 1959.

This past year I read a blog about churches that are called out and in to become schools of love. We need each other and this alternative education. We need to become schools of love.

The author, the Rev. Cameron Trimble, talks about communities of faith that are based not on fear or hate. She calls on all of us to create and be active participants in these and other schools of love. I am paraphrasing her words here. The parentheses are mine.

Congregations (can) create a space for awe and wonder. Not a place to understand and control all things/people but space for awe and wonder.

Congregations (can) call for vulnerability and our full selves to show up. We don’t show up picture perfect. We come, sometimes worn out and often broken and in need. We come risking being seen and hoping to be transformed. Transformation moves at the speed of trust.

Congregations (can) create a context for deep social bonding. Just as Jesus’s disciples were called first as individuals, we are, too. And yet, soon they became a group. (A school, perhaps?)

Cameron says that it’s time to expand our consciousness of who belongs and how they belong. In this new moment in human history, we need a conversation that bravely goes beyond questions of musical styles or language. We need a deep rethinking of what we wish to create in the world. What kind of future are we shaping together?

As I look around at the faces of the people who have been able to come back to in-person church, wearing masks and practicing physical distancing — I am grateful to be part of this alternative education where our full selves can show up and be seen and loved and transformed.

We come, just as we are, and we are loved into becoming who God and our neighbors need us to be. Something beautiful. Something true. Something of love.

If what you are seeing in the world does not look and smell and sound like love, there is something wrong and you need to re-think your teachers and the teachings. Because it is true that just as we have to be taught to hate we also have to be carefully taught to be students of love.

It is time to go back to school.

About Trinity Church

Trinity Church is located at 17 Severance St. in Shelburne Falls. We are a “village church” associated with four denominations: the United Church of Christ, the American Baptist Church, the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church. We are open and affirming to all, including LGBTQI people. We meet for Sunday worship at 10 a.m. (nursery care provided) and during the pandemic we are following public health protocols. We are the longstanding home of the West County Community Meal, serving a free dinner every Friday evening. At present, we serve the meal outside from 5:30 to 6 p.m. We also offer a free community clothes closet and host other community groups. For more information, call 413-625-2341


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