Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s I was surrounded by a lot of fundamentalist Christian rhetoric from both Focus on the Family, Family Life radio and numerous other organizations that the average evangelical family listened to without thought. My parents did what they thought was best, doing what many Christian parents did who could afford to do it – sending me to a private Christian school to protect me from the secular world. Ironically, I’m doing the same thing now with my children, and I have misgivings at times. However, my children come from years in the social services system and I also see the need for a stable and small environment of friends and teachers, which a small Christian school can provide. I just watch the curriculum like a hawk.
When I went to Christian school, I don’t think my parents were aware what aBeka curriculum taught, but from third through twelfth grade my history classes consisted of U.S. history being American exceptionalism and all our founding fathers being Christian. World history completely overlooked ancient history, substituting the book of Genesis in the Bible for thousands of years of the ancient world— just because so many cultures practices did not align with what was considered a Biblical worldview. I ended up minoring in history because I loved the subject and I also felt there was so much I had missed.
In science I was taught to memorize the key tenants of why evolution was wrong and to be able to tell anyone who would listen why a literal seven-day creation was the only correct interpretation of the world’s beginnings. I’m now a theistic evolutionist. Who says God couldn’t use the evolutionary process to create the world?
For anyone aware of the aBeka curriculum it’s associated with Pensacola Christian College. An ultra conservative Christian college where women workout in a separate room from men, women must wear skirts no shorter than knee length, no unnatural hair colors and no more than two ear piercings are allowed. Goth dress and short hair would definitely not meet their modestly standards at the college. At my high school this was the only college we were forced to listen to an admission presentation from. I got out of it because I had to teach kindergarteners Spanish. Thank you kindergartners!
The school’s environment was so restrictive- down to the type of shoes we could wear, the socks and nail polish color that it created an environment where my class found small ways to rebel both in school and then after graduation. I honestly feel like it stunted our ability to critically think and, for me, an over achiever and perfectionist has taken me into my 30s to begin voicing and becoming who I feel I really am.
Now, I’m a mother of two elementary age black adopted children. I’m not raising my children to be whitewashed, as best I can I’m surrounding them with black mentors and talking about their culture and exposing them to it whenever possible. They come with their own set of burdens that are so hard to deal with most of the time. Especially when I have to deal with my own baggage. Yet, I love them dearly. We’ve been a family for a year and I know with time we’ll continue to bond. However, I get frustrated when I hear comments from conservative Christian kids to my kids saying “Oh so and so like you- but you could never go out with him because he/she is white.” Children have been conditioned by their parents to accept diversity but only to a certain extent. I’m not saying I want my children dating they’re kids but they can’t even have the joys of childhood without a child from a fellow Christian family (more conservative than ours) making a backhanded racist comment.
My life has additionally changed a lot as I’ve broken free from conservative Christian life in personal ways. I’ve wanted to shave half my head and have the other side long for years. I began dying my hair red a few years ago (first act of freedom). I asked a colleague in my university department if he thought I’d get in trouble he gave me a weird look. I realize just how bizarre my background is to most people. Of course, in my profession no one cares what I do with my hair. I went for it, and I love the style. I get compliments all the time.
I’ve worried too much about what conservative Christian culture has thought. I worried after college what the church thought when I knew I didn’t fit into the mother and wives club at our old church. I was different and it depressed me. Instead of seeing that perhaps I need to accept who I am and not look at others (which I’m still working on). I cared too much. I had those voices from high school still in my head “Your skirt is too short.” “You don’t measure up.” “You’re not smart enough” and my entire life I’ve been trying to prove them wrong. I’m nor my family is going to be chained down by conservative Christian society’s legalistic standards anymore.
3 thoughts on “No Chains”
Christy, I commend you for your courage, faith and life choices. I had a different perspective in inner city schools but was still scarred by much of what you write about in our home Church. Unfortunately, it took me turning my back on God for a short time before I could come back around full circle and realize that there is power in thinking for one’s self and more than an uber-conservative approach to life. My husband has been scarred by the Catholic church in a similar way and struggles with making a decision to follow Jesus and be “labeled” (partially because he probably has to struggle against other labels as a black man).
Christy you have always been precious to me. Your comments are thought provoking. I love your struggle because you are seeking the truth.
When I was in my twenties, I found a church called Free Methodist that had a more open, principled-based doctrine than I was used to hearing. Granted, not every person who claimed to be Free Methodist was open minded, but I felt a true freedom in this doctrine that was coming out of the general church denomination.
Your struggle between legalism and grace was felt right off in the early church. We have freedom in Christ only through grace. Wow! Yet we are to be righteous. Jesus says, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” Yet righteousness is through Christ.
Romans does a good job of going through this struggle. We are free in Christ yet we should respect our weaker brothers and sisters who need to be more legalistic to keep their faith.
Some of what we see as unchristian is truly part of our culture. We all have cultural expectations whether we recognize them or not. It makes life simpler and more difficult at the same time. The question is whether it is sin or just against cultural norms. The Bible is clear about what is sin and sin goes beyond culture.
As far as children are concerned, they are like our weaker brothers and sisters. They do not understand abstractly and are very black and white. It is important to role model well to them even if I have the freedom to do more than what I am doing because it can bring confusion.
You sound awesome. Well done.