Sunday, October 25, 2009

Religious Ramblings . . .

Lat night I attended a Harvest Party that the church where I work was having. It was the church I grew up in. The church I was saved in and the church I learned Biblical truths in. I no longer attend there for several reasons. Many of which I really don't want to get into, but mostly because I can no longer attend a LARGE church that makes me feel awfully disconnected and that does not meet our needs as a family with a special needs child.

I was watching a presentation that was running in the large gathering area where we were eating. I came across a quote that struck me . . . "88% of teenagers raised in an evangelical home leave the church at age 18 never to return (Ray Comfort)" This has made me think since I read it last night. As I think about all the people I grew up with in the youth group (pretty large group) I have lost track with a lot of them, but the ones I still have contact with pretty much meet this statement. Why?

As I see it, I think it has to do with sheltering and tolerance. I suppose that I think that because it is my experience, and others may have a different thought. I think about a couple kids in particular that I was quite close to . . . they were very sheltered girls. They were not even allowed to watch the movie Adventures in Babysitting because they "said bad words". These girls were taken out of public school and put in a local christian school. They knew nothing other than what their parents chose to expose them to. When the oldest girl was a Freshman in high school, they allowed here to go to her neighborhood high school. She was exposed to the world . . . she rebelled. She smoked, drank, did drugs, slept her way around our friend base. She did all the things her parents were afraid of. She was free and she was thrilled. She still went to church and went through all the motions. She appeared to be the perfect, beautiful child.

I, on the other hand, had always attended public schools. I was always exposed to the "evil world". It was not new and exciting to me. We had the same friends and we were close so we were exposed to the same things. I didn't make the same choices as she did. I didn't sleep around, I rarely drank and I did not smoke, and remained drug free. I was probably the most "goody goody" of all our friends. Why were we different . . . for one thing, I was a consequence oriented kid and always worried about being caught. Secondly, my parents never tried to hide the world from me. They allowed me to experience it and guide my choices lovingly and with patience. Once her father told me that he didn't like me hanging out with his daughter and "exposing her to all the evils the world has to offer". I was traumatized, but I didn't tell him that it was perhaps the other way around.

She and her family is what I think make up that 88% for the most part. These kids are sheltered from so much that life has to offer and told it is BAD over and over that it becomes something they cannot wait to do. They also think that in evangelical homes, everything is BLACK or WHITE and there is no middle ground. I think so many of those growing up in evangelical homes think that once you screw up you might as well keep going because what's done is done. In my experience there is so much guilt and condemnation involved with screwing up that you just turn your back on everything.

As for me, I think that tolerance plays a huge issue. Having tolerance for other people and their ability to make choices for themselves is something was not taught in my years growing up in the church. I don't believe you have to agree with their choices, but they are their choices to make. I cannot make someone chose my beliefs. I cannot make people follow my God's rules and regulations if they do not accept my God's omnipotence. This is something I think the church fails in. I have no issue with telling people what you think is the absolute truth, but they still have the ability to accept it or not. Here's where I struggle with the church in most instances . . . just because they don't accept it, doesn't make them less of a person.

I think that once teens realize that someone who doesn't believe EXACTLY like they do and yet they are a good and generous and happy person, their entire belief system is rocked and they turn away from their evangelical roots.

So what is the solution? I don't know. I hope I raise my kids with tolerance of others and their views. I hope to instill in them the truth that just because they don't accept what we believe that it does not make them bad people. If they indeed are bad people, it is not because they do not believe what we do. I also hope my children value justice and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. I hope they learn to stand behind what they believe in and while they may not back down they will still appreciate other's opinions. I hope they are good listeners and are respectful of others and their views. I hope they treat others as they would want to be treated. And lastly I pray that they learn Biblical truths and know that Jesus died to save them. I pray they act more like Him than most of his believers do.

4 comments:

Cindy said...

Great post Sheri...you're spot on. If my experience and that of my 3 older kids is worth anything, sheltering is not the best way to raise thinking, compassionate, tolerant kids.

You do a great job with your kids...there will be great juicy fruit from your labors. I hope the Church will begin to change...I know it is, there are so many christians trying to break out of the standard evangelical box, but it's gonna take time and not a few heated arguments!
peace to ya girl!

John Good said...

Nicely done, Sheri.

DynamicDuo said...

I hear what you are saying, our church, Catholic is also losing many of our young people, not because they aren't exposed to the real world, most go to public schools in the area a few private and some homeschool, in our case as a small rural parish we are losing our youth to the ever increasing pressures of being involved in too many other activities, sports etc.. that church and youth groups have taken a back seat. For us, we are fortunate that our daughters really like to go to church and participate in services and activities. They may not be getting the "God and Jesus" messages due to some of their disabilities, it is one of the few socially safe places for them to be. We are protective of what our girls are exposed to, we also speak real truth when they ask questions about what they see and hear at school. Our girls don't fit mainstream and going to public schools has left them quite vunerable, we could limit their social exposure even further but as you recognized the real world will be waiting for them and they have to learn how to react in that world - we hope safely.

Lisa said...

I do understand your point here. I have several kids who are very socially immature, emotionally immature and physically right on target. They can pass for "normal teenagers", but are so out there with their illogical thinking and naive responses to typical teenage behaviors that it's downright scary. I do shelter them, I admit it. They are truly boy crazy in the worst way and I do not doubt the 16 yo would already be pregnant if she lived with her bio family (we adopted her from foster care at age 2, her brother was 1 and her sister as a newborn). We've tried christian schools, public school, charter school and home school. One is currently home schooled, one is in a public school EI class and one is in Christian school. None are good students, but they didn't go to school to learn anyway, they went for the social aspects (and they are attracted to the worst behaved kids imaginable). While I want them to continue loving church when they grow up, I think that they'll have to make their own way in that aspect of their lives the way they will in every other way. I know they will struggle immensely in all areas when they turn 18 because the world has told them they are adults at 18 and can do whatever they want - well, not in my house they can't, but I'm sure that won't stop them. I think that following any religion blindly is a bad idea. I have always thought differently on some issues of whatever our church taught at the time. We currently go nowhere because I am overwhelmed by the hypocrisy I see int he everyday lives of the people I've had to deal with inside the church. I want to go somewhere I feel comfortable and where my kids can be safe from - well, everything. I think it is WHO you are, as opposed to what you've been taught that makes a difference in your adult relationship with the Lord.