As a new nana (the moniker I’ve adopted as grandma) I have been thinking a lot about my own parenting journey. There are plenty of things I did well and then there are some things I would do differently. I had a conversation this week with a friend about things we wish we had done differently with our kids. We both raised our kids with some crazy fundamentalist influences as active members of evangelical churches in Canada. I add the ‘in Canada’ because I think we often think that the crazy evangelicals live south of the border. I want to assert they are alive and well in Canada as well.
Tonight I read a guest blogger on Rachel Held Evans blog about her experiences as a young woman in a conservative church. If you haven’t been part of a conservative church culture you might find it bizarre. If you have, you know you have your own version of her story. The post brought back my parenting conversation I just had with a friend.
Both of us were part of church movements that viewed a lot of kids programming as ‘anti-Christian’. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) , Pokemon, Power Rangers and The Simpsons were evil. I believed that allowing my kids to watch these programs would lead them down the garden path to hell. These programs, I was taught to believe, held anti-Christian message, insidious cult references and if I was serious about my relationship with God, I would not allow my kids to watch them.
I remember, being in a department store with my son, he had to be about six years old. We were looking a toys and he saw another boy in the aisle. My son loudly announced, “Look mommy, that boy doesn’t love Jesus!” Horrified, I asked him what he meant and he pointed out that the boy was wearing a TMNT t-shirt. Proof that the six year old boy didn’t love Jesus and was already living a life of sin and debauchery. I was embarrased and made it out of the store very quickly. I was also concerned that my son had made such a strong link between God’s love and a TV program. However, I was also convinced that I was doing a good job instilling good values in my kids.
My kids were not allowed to go out for Halloween – clearly linked to the occult and demonic. Read Harry Potter? Are you kidding?? They were however allowed to watch programs that were somehow deemed to be OK by the church culture. These programs included: Dr.Quinn, Medicine Woman; Seventh Heaven; and of course, Touched By An Angel. No one seemed concerned about the messages in those programs although I did wonder why the pastor’s salary we lived on didn’t provide a home like the one the family on Seventh Heaven lived in!
As my friend and I talked this week, we both can’t believe we were so stupid! What were we thinking? How is it possible that we were that indoctrinated by the evangelical church culture? I remember when my husband was interviewed by the church he pastored for 15 years, the only question the search committee had for me was, “Do you allow your kids to watch Disney movies? We all know how many kids have been destroyed watching the Lion King!
So, what do I hope my daughter does better than I did? I already feel optimistic about her not raising her kids in the fundamentalist Christian church culture. She has seen the craziness of it and left long ago. But she will have her own challenges with whatever sub-culture she identifies with. I hope she is able to hold her own in that context. I hope her values, the ones that will drive the decisions she makes as a mom, will be rooted in love not fear.