Each summer we attended Vacation Bible School. We kept score. You received a point for attendance, a point for bringing your Bible, a point for bringing someone, a point for learning your verse…and so on. The final night, there was a big pile of prizes and the person with the highest points got to pick the first prize (invariably a white pseudo-leather Bible), the next highest took their turn and so on. The poor loser with one or two points was left getting a snake balloon animal.
In AWANA we got trophies and badges and pins for performing activities. We went to AWANA Olympics (like Special Olympics for Christians) where points were kept.
We went to Bible camp where each cabin competed against the other.
(The first time I ever went to Bible camp was when I was 12 or 13. Camp Barakel. No friends went with me. The only person I knew was my brother, who ended up being in a completely different camp, so I only saw him once during the whole week. Not having any friends, I was shunted to THAT cabin. The one for all the lonely, nerdy losers-- the prequel to Revenge of the Nerds.
We were the Black Donkeys. This meant a leather string tied around our neck with a plastic…black…donkey. Our camp counselor (still in college, but “adult” to us) pointed out on the first day that his cabin had won the camp championship every week so far, and he intended to keep up the tradition. God help him…
We played baseball. We sucked. We had swimming competitions. Many of us drowned. We played Basketball. The counselor wept. There wasn’t a competition we weren’t beaten, pummeled and skunked. By mid-week we couldn’t have won the championship if the rest of the camp caught chorea and the plague.
We broke our counselor. One night the camp director appeared and indicated he would be staying with us while the counselor got a few days rest. We didn’t know what happened, but in our 12-year old minds we suspected he had snapped. Carted off to the looney bin. As it turns out, he was able to return for the championship ceremony.
Turns out the big winners got….[drum roll please]….a watermelon. wow. Even we nerds realized that was pretty lame.
The very last day, our counselor took our donkeys back. Because these were leather strings, knotted, and immersed in water a few times—the only realistic way to get them off was to cut the leather. I still vividly remember the counselor’s face as he approached my neck with what looked like a 12 inch Bowie knife and all I could think was, “He’s gonna cut my throat for costing him his watermelon!”)
Getting older, we still kept score. We counted attendance. We counted offerings. We even counted cars in the parking lot! We kept track of building funds with thermometer posters.
But most importantly, we kept Moral Score.
Yeah…yeah…we talked and preached and teached about Christianity being different because it is the only religion in the world that did not require salvation by works—yet boy did we watch each other’s works. If you smoke or drank or didn’t attend church regularly enough…your score was knocked down. You weren’t earning points; they were probably even being deducted! But if you didn’t masturbate (even though you were tempted), or didn’t have sex (even though you were really tempted), or went to church or helped pick up after Sunday School—then you earned Moral Scores.
One never spoke of Moral Scores. This wasn’t said out loud. We simply gravitated to those with similar scores. If drinking alcohol didn’t deduct points—you hung out with people who drank alcohol. They couldn’t take points from you; you couldn’t from them.
We rarely spoke regarding heaven’s particulars (it would be gauche) but the general idea was that we were ALL getting in—some of us would have bigger mansions. Larger crowns. Better parking. Because our Moral Score was higher. We knew there would be judgment seat. That there would be cries of “Why didn’t we do better?” If you had a higher Moral Score, there would be less crying. Lower score—worse housing.
We knew Mother Theresa and Billy Graham were going to have HUGE houses—indoor pools and ambrosia fountains in the bedrooms. We didn’t plan to ascertain those Moral Scores. That guy who was saved at the last minute…well…he might not have a huge Moral Score, but he didn’t get any deductions either. Nice suburban house with a carport.
The fellow who cursed and swore and had extra-marital affairs? If he made it in…(what is heaven coming to if those riff-raff make it?)…the best he would get is a single-wide in Heaven’s trailer park. Really…it’s what he’s used to anyway, right?
The wonderful thing about being saved by Grace is that you don’t have to do anything to be saved. The terrible thing is that without keeping score—how do we know who is the better Christian?