Show Notes - Episodes 26 and 27
80% of people who don't accept Christ by age 18 never will... and there's a reason why.
Part 1: Birth through 5th grade
Southern Nazarene University
Infants and Toddlers
Children's ministry starts in the nursery
Doctrine-soaked music and videos (Maranatha Kids, etc.)
Adventures in Odyssey
Evangelical Daycare Services
Children are often subjected to religious cartoons and TV shows, music, games, and activities completely without the knowledge or consent of parents. While some choose these services because of their religious affiliation, church-based daycare services are often funded in part by churchgoer contributions (tithes) and are frequently the most cost-effective solutions in the communities in which they operate. Since they don't typically hide their church affiliation, they simply assume that a contract with a parent to provide daycare services within a structured religious environment is understood to mean that the child will have exposure to the religion and its tenets in educational and persuasive ways.
Parental Consent Is NOT A Consideration When Converting Children
Children are often away from their parents when indoctrination occurs, leaving it completely up to the discretion of the people running the class, activity, daycare, or outreach project how to present spiritual concepts to very impressionable minds, and how to frame calls to action to gain measurable gauges of their “successes.”
Pre-K Children's Ministry
Bible stories are given a light, cartoonish kind of slant but often have dark, menacing, and scary themes framed in a way that children can understand.
Scary moments are absolutely intentional
Children are then told that if they believe in Jesus they don't need to be afraid because Jesus will save them
Multiple object lessons and activities that reinforce biblcal concepts
Biblical allegory is often taught as literal truth. These things actually happened.
Elementary Children's Ministry
Vacation Bible School
Trunk or Treat
Royal Rangers and Missionettes (Now girls ministries)
Jesus Camp – Becky Fischer
“More of life...”
“He's pretending to be Pastor D.”
When I was five, getting more of life meant that one of the kids at head start gave me half of her PBJ or I got the last green fla-vor-ice while I listened to a record of Peter and the Wolf. It meant seeing a movie for the first time or going to a relative's house for Thanksgiving. It meant having your first McDonald's cheeseburger and milkshake (and dipping your fries in the milkshake). It was the first time you saw a frog hop out from under Nana's porch or spun out on your big wheel pretending to be Evil Knievel. What more does ANYONE want of life at age five unless someone is TELLING them that their lives are somehow incomplete? And what kind of monster puts it in a child's mind that his life is incomplete before he even sets foot in kindergarten?
According to child psychologist Valerie Tarico, an outspoken critic of evangelical culture, many children of evangelical upbringing don’t turn out so well.
“One of the problems with faith-based teaching is it teaches children not to trust their own reason and intuition, undermining their ability to have confidence in their own knowledge and ability to process information. There is a lot of psychological damage that follows when people are trained not to trust themselves.”
Teen Youth Ministry (usually starts in Middle School)
At the point in people's lives when they struggle the most with identity, acceptance, self-awareness, and autonomy, evangelical youth ministries go for the jugular, attacking virtually everything that teens do from innocuous activities like going to the movies to legitimate concerns like irresponsible sexual experimentation and drug use. The pseudo-logic they apply to these things go way further toward piquing interest in them than it ever does to prevent them and when bad things happen there is never any logical, practical advice or help offered for dealing with them that goes beyond repenting, praying, and staying plugged in to church. Some more progressive churches and pastors MIGHT recommend counseling, but those instances are rare and typically involve counseling provided by a pastor, not a therapist, social worker, or medical professional.
“Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the lord and touch not the unclean thing and I will receive you.” 2 Cor. 6:17
We aren't supposed to watch secular movies or listen to secular music. If you're reading a novel and the author's last name isn't Peretti, Lawhead, Elwood, or Lewis, SHAME on you! The more wishful thinkers out there also didn't mind authors like JRR Tolkien or Madeline L'Engle because they were rumored to be Christians. Beyond that, if you want to read something, read the Bible. Turn off the radio and spend your entire McDonald's paycheck on Christian music you can't hear any other way.
You are sexually perverted if you consume porn. If you are a girl, your choice of clothes, hair styles, jewelry, and makeup are heavily scrutinized and you can be branded with a virtual scarlet letter if you dare to wear more mascara or show more leg than the youth pastor can bear.
One of my friends was literally called a hussy by her youth pastor because, among other things that identified her as a normal, well-adjusted teenage girl, she went to several proms one spring and the gowns she chose weren't all floor length. Um... she accompanied me to mine and we never even kissed. Oh, and I went with her because my girlfriend at the time was not allowed to attend. Her parents cited, “the atmosphere at prom is sinful” as the reason. I went to prom and never even got a kiss goodnight. From the Newburgh youth group's resident “hussy.” Please. She was a good kid. She had magnetism and she had loads of both male and female friends because she was likable, friendly, and had a level of confidence you don't often see in girls that age. She had a sense of self and she was a good friend. People liked being around her and those of us who had the honor of having her as our prom date that year were given some great memories, none of which involving anything sexual. That wasn't the point. The point was to have fun and participate in a basic teenage rite of passage and that's what we did. That's ALL we did. In my case, she made it possible for me to even HAVE that memory because there was no way I was going to prom alone.
If you're a boy, it's much simpler. You're a roiling maelstorm of hormones who needs to stay away from my daughter. Your sex drive is your biggest enemy and your right hand offendeth thee. You're constantly asked if you have “problems” with porn, masturbation, or sexual urges and are repeatedly coerced into coming to the altar to repent of being the sexual being “god” made you. Consensual, safe sexual contact (like heavy petting and dry humping) with someone of equal or close to equal age is treated like rape even when the participants are responsible and exercise enough restraint to simply enjoy a little clothes-on exploration with someone they like and trust, and stop before things go too far (and by that I mean beyond levels of responsibility that someone that age can or should be expected to manage – like making babies, having abortions, or managing STDs).
They shame teens for having normal sexual urges and rather than teaching them how to deal with them constructively and how to protect themselves should they decide to do a little experimenting, they frame very natural, normal, and HEALTHY sexual urges as dirty, dangerous, and self-destructive. While those last two COULD be consequences of poor sexual choices, sex and sexuality are not, in and of themselves either. With proper education and assurance that these urges are normal, it is much easier to curtail self-destructive sexual behaviors and encourage people to learn about themselves in a self-affirming kind of way.
In short, they HIJACK your sexuality (“True Love Waits”)
Dating is VERY complicated and sometimes impossible. You are made to feel dirty for having a sex drive. Many evangelical girls are not allowed to date until they are either 18 or out of the house. I had a friend who got MARRIED and and still allowed her evangelical mother to coerce her into COMING HOME AT NIGHT for a while after. I know people who never had ANY physical contact with each-other before their wedding day.
NO PC rule @ WOL.
They steer you to church whenever your peers are off doing normal teenage things
They stigmatize you for liking secular music, movies, TV and more
They provide very low-rent alternatives to normal youth culture activities (christian music, christian movies, even Christian streaming services) 80s Christian rock WAS pretty cool...
They impose impossible rules of conduct that promote (BEG) rebellion and then blame the teenager for just trying to be normal.
(editing movies for viewing at parties)
They make you feel isolated while providing avenues for inclusion, but that inclusion typically entails being trapped in nothing grander than an elaborate Habitrail. Sure, you can create an entire separate life “out from among them” but you can still see out. You KNOW the world is bigger, but you're taught to FEAR it. Stay in your cloister. It's safe here. The world is evil.
“The Village” - the ultimate “come out from among them” tale
Pray for self-control. Pray for the right boyfriend or girlfriend. Pray that god will help you know yourself better. Acknowledge your sin. Come back to the altar. Come back again when you fail to keep your “sin” under wraps. Rededicate and recommit. Commit to “secondary virginity” if you've “failed” in the area of sexuality. If you get tired of youth group and don't come for a while, you're a backslider, but don't worry, we'll send our peer care mafia TO YOUR HOUSE to make sure you know we're watching you and hit with you with a little “positive peer persuasion.”
If your church offers an alternative, you should choose that over interacting with friends and other people your age outside church. Why be a boy scout when you have royal rangers? Why go to the movies when there's a lock in this weekend at church and we're going to watch christian movies? You don't need to go to parties on the weekends because we have a party at church every Friday night including music and munchies and games.
CYO (TEC, confirmation retreat)
AG Youth Group, sectional rallies, etc. - all designed to jab at teenage insecurities
Word of Life Island – TALK IN DEPTH ABOUT THIS, ESPECIALLY THE MEETINGS – running up and down the aisles, the collegians, the constant plugs to attend WOLBI
AG Youth Camp
AIM – HS and College and home missions Summer Outreaches
Grad banquets (prom alternatives)
Harvest socials (just say NO to Halloween)
Valentine banquets (bring a date but don't touch her)
Older youth leaders who still act like teenagers – social awkwardness that borders on (and sometimes crosses the border into) inappropriate interactions with much younger people. YOU SHOULD NOT STILL BE RELATING BETTER TO SIXTEEN YEAR OLDS THAN YOU DO PEOPLE WITHIN YOUR OWN PEER GROUP WHEN YOU'RE PUSHING THIRTY.
Socially awkward young people are a HUGE target
Christian Share Group / See You At The Pole
Retention: College and Career Ministries
Various campus groups (Cru, BASIC, etc.) - emphasize the concept of separation while trying desperately to emulate secular social programs and services. The concept of anchoring to one's faith that is central to groups like these is the final hail mary to entice the fence-sitters and prey upon the lonely, the socially awkward, and those with various mental illnesses that affect their ability to relate to their peers. This is where you will find acceptance, friendship, positive social interactions and love. “We are a peculiar people. (1 Pt. 2:9)” They are told that they are different and should therefore gravitate socially to people who share their signature brand of weirdness.
The way that evangelicals proselytize and indoctrinate young people (with initiatives that literally begin at birth) is one of the most divisive things I've ever seen, and I've seen it AND participated in it. I know what the mindset and motivation is behind it. The INDIVIDUALS who get involved in converting children and teenagers, by and large, do it with good intentions. They believe that they are doing good for young people because they have been fed the same lies and had their own senses of selves skewed by the same messaging.
Most of the people I encountered as a child and teenager were ones of significant personal character. They had real, honest, and sincere concern for the spiritual well-being of the young people they chose to serve – often without compensation or reimbursement for the time, money, and things they contributed. Some of the best people I knew in evangelical circles were the ones who worked closest with the youth group and with children's ministries. I liked them. I appreciated them being there when I was a youth member, and I REALLY appreciated the help as the one responsible for running youth ministries. Good, enthusiastic, and involved volunteers are GOLD when you are a burnt out, overtaxed, and fed up youth minister. They can really motivate leaders to shake off some of that stress and keep moving forward. This, in and of itself makes me angrier than anything and here's why:
What if some of these people worked with secular teen pregnancy prevention and support agencies instead of chaperoning true love waits rallies? What if they volunteered as tutors or mentors at their local community centers instead of wasting countless Friday nights chaperoning youth group meetings? What if they taught driver's ed instead of driving a church van? What if they coached little league or volunteered with local town and civic groups to carry out practical, relevant sports programs for kids that teach values like teamwork and how to manage both victory and defeat instead of spending countless hours refereeing post-youth meeting volleyball games or twelve-hundred rounds of “Wink?”
Imagine with me a world with secular groups who understand and accept the natural courses of human development being the entities in charge of helping young people find their identity as opposed to framing every last little part of their young lives that goes counter to perceived “biblical morality” (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) as on-ramps to the highway to hell. What if we just stopped trying to lead young people to Jesus and guided them into healthy avenues of self-discovery and accomplishment? What if we stopped telling children that there's something missing in their lives and simply allowed them to experience life with all its joys, heartbreaks, happiness and pain? What if we just let young people make mistakes and provided objective, productive avenues of help when they happen? What if we simply taught young people how to manage their sexuality instead of demonizing every avenue of non-platonic interaction and making them feel like there's something wrong with them for so much as wanting it? What if churches simply stopped using the bible as the remedy to every problem and question and allowed young people to be comfortable enough to engage in open, honest conversation with caring adults who have been there and can offer sound guidance, mentoring, and advice without the fear of being shamed and vilified? As far as I'm concerned, the remedy here is very simple. Take god out of the equation and let young people simply discover their own ways to “get more out of life” and watch how quickly young people in this country and everyplace else that attacks impressionable youth with divisive, oppressive, self-denegrating evangelical dogma from birth forward start getting and staying unbound.