Growing Up Super Christian.
I grew up in the church. Not like, oh I went to church most Sundays and spent time with my church friends on occasion. Oh no. I went to church every time the doors were open. Every vacation bible school, every disciple now, each falls creek trip, every super summer, I was there. I loved every minute of it. I couldn't get enough of church. I was in deep.
In case being at church every day doesn't give you a good enough idea of how socially awkward I was, I was also homeschooled. As a hyperactive kid who lived in a not so great school district, my parents thought the best option was to home educate me. Other than a paralyzing fear of other humans and a general distrust of the outdoors, it has worked out fine.
And if at this point you hadn't already guessed that my first job was at Chic-Fil-A, you need to try and keep up.
It wasn't until I was in my early twenties and starting to see the outside world on my own, that I realized not everyone had the same upbringing as me. Not only did other people grow up differently, but the upbringing I had was also considered strange by most. I wasn't the norm. I was the outlier.
Here are some ways you look at the world differently when you grow up in an ultra-conservative environment.
1. The outside world was "Secular"
Anything outside of the realm of Christianity was considered secular. Just about anything can be described as such. Music is the best example. Music was divided into two distinct categories. Christian, and therefore acceptable or Secular and therefore not acceptable. Whereas a more normal person might not attribute any specific religious affiliation to music, we in the Christian world were always quick to divide everything into two camps. One was virtuous and good, the other was "of the world" and most definitely bad.
2. We were suspicious of everything.
The particular denomination I was a part of had a long list of things we weren't allowed to take part in. Some of the things we were to avoid were decided by the larger organization, some of it varied church to church, and some of it was person to person. In general, there were a number of things that were probably secretly evil. Things like Pokemon, Harry Potter, and even the Smurfs. Everything was potential for secret evil.
Also, during my time in the church, it was decided that Disney movies were no longer wholesome and secretly trying to convert all of us to blindly follow the homosexual agenda. What that agenda was, I will never know. It's a pretty bold move to decide that Disney is evil. Even as a child, it seemed like a strange place to draw the line.
Not only did I get to be the weird homeschooled kid, I also got to be the only adult in my social circles to not have seen the majority of Disney movies. You don't realize how often people reference Disney unless you have no idea what they are talking about.
3. We were expected to stay "pure"
I have never encountered a group so obsessed with sex. We had an entire ceremony in which purity rings were given out. Countless sermons and pep talks were given on the subject of keeping yourself abstinent until your wedding day. Saying nothing about the long term implications of sex-shaming teenagers, that is just super weird.
There are countless reasons to not want young people jumping into any and every sexual situation their hormone-driven hearts get them into. Of those reasons, eternal damnation should be at the bottom of the list. Those who were unable to fulfill their commitment to abstinence were often ridiculed and thought of as less-than.
4. Evolution was a lie from hell.
Think evolution is well thought out and universally agreed upon theory? Think again. It was actually a secret plot to undermine biblical teaching. It was only by the influence of the devil himself that the majority of authorities in academic and scientific settings had come to the conclusion that life evolved. In the mindset of my church, the earth was created approximately two thousand years ago. Not only was the creation of the earth fairly recent, it was also done in seven days. Seven twenty four hour periods is all it took to create earth and all of its intricacies.
I am no theologian nor am I a scientist. Even still, I think we could make an argument for intelligent design AND evolution. That sort of thinking was heresy in the church and shut down at every opportunity.
5. We were Republicans
Growing up in the evangelical church, they hand you a purity ring and voter registration card with a big R on it from day one. It is expected that you are going to vote for and vocally support Republican candidates. Even when their values may run counter to biblical teaching. Like not believing evolution, voting Republican was a moral absolute. There was little room for dissent.
The only thing that would cause you to have an issue with voting for a republican is if they seemed to left-leaning for our liking. For instance, if a Republican candidate had voiced support for a woman's right to choose, then and only then could you then mention not voting for them.
6. Alcohol and dancing were strictly forbidden
Alcohol was a big no. It was said that it would do irreparable harm to your life. One beer and next thing you know you are doing lines of coke off of a bathroom toilet. It was that cut and dry.
Granted, there are a lot of pitfalls when it comes to the consumption of alcohol. Often people can find themselves in the grips of addiction. Even if it isn't addiction, it is well-known people's decision-making process can be impaired by drinking. That wasn't how it was presented, however. It was a sin. Sin displeases God pure and simple. It was off-limits unless you are okay with making God cry.
You may wonder how this could be the case given the near-constant talk of drinking wine in the Bible. Cognitive dissonance is how. According to my church, it was actually just grape juice that was mentioned in the Bible. Why the Bible actively warns against drunkness caused by excessive consumption of grape juice, ill never understand.
Dancing was off the table because it was believed to cause lust as most of it was thought to be simulating sex. The theologians that came to this conclusion were either dancing very differently than I am or they were just really bad at sex.
All in all, things in my life have changed drastically since my time in the church. Some of it for the better and some of it for the worse. I wouldn't change anything about how I was raised. If I could speak to a younger version of myself, however, I would say something like this.
"Hey bud, it's me. From the future. Listen I know you are sure that you have found the one true religion and the fate of the entire world for all eternity is in your hands, but uh...it isn't. Like at all. And that's fine! You aren't Neo. You can just be a kid. Everything is going to be a little grayer when you get older. There is going to be a lot less black and white. That is totally fine. Don't stress about it. Find your own relationship with God, find your own happiness. No one group or one person has a monopoly on faith.
Oh also, learn Spanish. You are going to wish you had done that. K Bye!"