Most of my kids’ friends are living or were raised in staunch Fundamentalist Christian homes. These kids have so many struggles. Some have nothing but hate and disdain for their parents and/or church leaders. When they tell me some of the things their parents/teachers/pastors say and do, it’s just appalling.
One friend of my son’s, a kind, soft-spoken, talented young man, has been held up as an example in his church’s youth group as a sinner and someone not to aspire too. His youth leader even suggested that he was possessed by a demon. Even though he says that he knows that isn’t true, he struggles with depression and anger and I really think there is a part of him the wonders if there is something really bad about him. His parents, both pastors of this church, force him to attend their and have made it clear he is expected to serve there, in spite of how disappointed they are in him. If he does not, they will not pay for school and he will be kicked out. He is 19 years old.
Just recently, the music teacher, at my son’s high school, told another friend that if she thinks about her boyfriend more than Jesus, then she has a problem. The truth is, she does think about her boyfriend more than Jesus and I believe a small part of her believes what this teacher says—that she has a problem.
Those a just a couple of examples; there are many more, but getting to know these kids and having a chance to have discussions with them has convinced me that these kids need someone to talk to, someone that tell them they are okay. They try to laugh it off, but ,from their behavior, you can tell if affects them. I do have encouraging discussions with a close circle of my son’s friends, but there are so many kids out there that feel helpless, hopeless, angry, confused and sad and have no safe sounding board.
If I could reach all of the kids that are struggling in a Fundamentalist home and/or church, this is what I would want them to know:
- Don’t lose heart. This is not forever. You’ll become independent and be out from under your parent’s and your church’s control and have plenty of opportunities to find your way in the world.
- Life is a journey and you don’t ever have to decide exactly what you believe, ever. I still don’t know and it changes. It should, if you are to grow.
- You are perfect just the way you are. Just because you don’t fit into Christianity’s idea of good or right, or beautiful, you are ALL of those things.
- Your sexual desires are wonderful and NATURAL. NOT having them would be unnatural. You aren’t a pervert.
- You’re going to make mistakes. Everyone does. Own them and learn from them.
- Believe me when I say this. There is no personal God up in a heaven that is blessing and/or condemning you.
- You are your own “god.”
- Most importantly, although your parents and/or church have threatened you with the idea of eternal punishment, there is no Hell. There is not. I promise you.
- So learn and grow with an open mind. Question everything and don’t feel guilty about it.
- If you don’t get the answers you need, keep asking.
- Be kind to yourself first and then be kind to others.
- Embrace your humanity.
- Love and be free.
I truly feel such a burden for these kids. Perhaps because my own children suffered under fundamentalism and I feel so very bad for the burdens I placed on them and how I made them feel that my love was conditional, and sadly, in some ways it was. I can’t change that now, but I can learn from it and continue to strengthen my relationship with my kids and look for opportunities to encourage other kids as well. They need a safe place to vent. I want to be that safe place.
I have no cute ending, but at least I posted. Three days down, twenty-seven to go!