As early as I can remember, I was at church on Sundays hearing the preacher man preach, going to Sunday school, seeing bible studies hosted at our house, going to prayer meetings. I was not a preacher’s kid, but I grew up right alongside a few. I was inundated with church culture, from the radio I listened to, the TV I watched, and even to the toys I played with. I fell asleep each night listening to Focus on the Family, and had Adventures in Odyssey on every Saturday morning. There were TV shows I wasn’t allowed to see because they promoted witchcraft or some other evil practice.
I grew up in church culture, and church culture is what I have had to deconstruct as I have tried to rescue my theology and faith.
Church culture wounded me in so many ways. The churches I attended left their marks as well. I am bitter, hurt, angry, and deeply, deeply broken from my time in church and her culture.
Now I have two boys. While I want them to get to know Jesus and hear about his love, grace, acceptance, and justice, I am afraid of them growing up in church culture the way I did. I am afraid of the wounds they will receive at the hands of the church. I am afraid of the anger they will feel, the bitterness they may hold. I am afraid of what theology they will have to unlearn as they get older, and what messages of self-acceptance they will (or won’t) hear.
I am afraid of my kids growing up in church.
Now to be fair, there are differences already in their upbringing. My family is pretty far removed from church culture. There isn’t worship music playing 24/7, we don’t go to prayer meetings, and while we are careful about what TV our kids watch, we let fantasy speak for itself. Heck, when the time comes, we will start reading Harry Potter at bed time, along with the Chronicles of Narnia. We aren’t a church culture family at all.
And we have found a good community of people that are trying to walk with Jesus. The church we attend is about service and grace, and that is modelded in the lives of the people in the pews. While I worry about the theology Veggie tales may be telling my kids, I do believe that the church congregation tells mostly the good theology of love and grace.
Still, I am afraid for my kids.
It’s hard believing Jesus. It’s hard talking to my kids about Jesus. I constantly wonder what kind of example of following Jesus I am setting, or what I should be doing to show what a devoted follower of Jesus looks like. Should I be doing morning devotionals? Should I be more active in church? Should I be watching the music I listen to and the TV I subject them to?
I want them to have a faith of their own, but I am afraid of the church giving them a faith they will have to deconstruct.
I guess, at its heart, I am afraid that they will live the same paths that I have walked down with the church and her culture. And that’s not fair to them. I have to trust that they are their own people, with their own stories to live out. I want their stories to be with Jesus, but I am afraid that I can’t pass faith on to them when mine is so badly wounded. So we need the church, the community of the people of God, to help me teach my kids about Jesus. And that scares me. Even with a good church like Kaleo, it makes me afraid to entrust part of the faith of my children to a congregation of church people.
So much of this is outside of my hands. I don’t like it, but I have to embrace it. I don’t want to let my fears, wounds, and anger pass off onto my kids. They deserve better than that. So I guess I have to face this fear, lean into community, and trust the Spirit to lead my children to Jesus on their own path, with their own stories. I pray they aren’t hurt like I have been, but I can’t stop it. All I can do is try to show them the faith I have, as shaky and wounded as it is. All I can do is try and introduce them to Jesus and his story, trusting that the Spirit will do the work of leading them to truth, the work of giving them their own stories.