Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nineteen and Foundationless...

This weekend while Lindsey was down, we rented a particularly disturbing movie entitled "Jesus Camp." If you get a chance to rent it and watch it (it's at your local blockbuster), you most definitely should. It's very eye opening. It takes place in my home state, Missouri, which makes sense now that I think about it.

Anyway, the movie follows a few children (ranging from ~8-13) who are part of a Pentecostal youth ministry. The movie shows a lot of interesting facets of this ministry. I'd just like to lay out a few of the more disturbing quotes from the movie:

It's no wonder, with that kind of intense training and discipling, that those young people are ready to kill themselves for the cause of Islam. I wanna see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam. I wanna see them as radically laying down their lives for the Gospel as they are over in Pakistan and Israel and Palestine and all those different places, you know, because we have... excuse me, but we have the truth!
-The kids' youth pastor

And while I'm on the subject, let me say something about Harry Potter. Warlocks are the enemies of God! And I don't care what kind of hero they are, they're an enemy of God and had it been in the old testament Harry Potter would have been put to death!
Crowd: Amen!
-Same youth pastor

Did you get to the part yet where they say that science hasn't proven anything?
-One of the kid's moms while in a home schooling session

There is a part in the movie where they go into how impressionable kids are, how they can use them so easily. They don't think about what the authority figures are telling them, they just buy the whole thing. That's exactly why they do what they do.

It breaks my heart to see these kids sucking up everything that is said to them, six year olds imitating adults who are crying and speaking in tongues during worship, nine year olds preaching the absolute Truth to people without knowing why other than the fact that their parents told them to.

By the end of the movie (Lindsey will back this up), I was in the fetal position. Not just because of how the kids are treated, but mostly because the entire movie reminds me a lot of my childhood. Watching it now, I can see that it's really messed up, but if you would have shown that movie to me in sixth grade, I would have wondered what was wrong with it. I can recall going to revivals and crying and raising my hands because I felt like I was wrong if I didn't. Later, I remember not being emotionally affected and thinking that I was broken or that God didn't love me, that the other kids would see that I was a phony or a fake while I stood stoic as my friends convulsed on the floor. It's all very surreal now, but it was very real at the time.

I'm afraid that the kids are going to end up like me: nineteen and foundationless. I was force-fed that message for so long that I built every aspect of my personality on it. I felt that I was wrong and broken because I wasn't feeling this "holy spirit" like the rest of my friends and family were. Now that I don't agree with the message anymore, it's still hard to let go of the feeling that I'm broken and wrong. Worse still, my foundation of spirituality was shattered.

Perhaps that's a good thing. I'm somewhat of a blank slate now. I'm just afraid to get into religion seriously again because I don't want to end up duped into the same situation. Who knows what will happen. I just thought I'd share a piece of myself with the community today.


Anonymous said...

It's interesting to see you write about your childhood at retreats and stuff, because we were like the same person. The only difference is that I was the guy who was standing tall amongst my peers who were "filled with the spirit". I remember feeling like I was broken when I saw people crying on the floor, but I guess I always just felt like that wasn't really for me.

In regards to being afraid to get back into religion, I don't really know what to tell you. I don't consider myself to be a very religious (or even a very spiritual) person, but if I could tell you one thing, it would be to take it easy. There's no reason to dive headlong into any particular faith. Take your time, because you've got enough of it. :)

lindsey said...

First of all I want to say thank you for putting yourself out there. It's not easy to share things like that with the people you're close to, yet alone the internet "community", so thank you. And thanks for watching the movie with me.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the experience of the "spirit", specifically mine. While there are some instances I can't account for (and sometimes feel embarrassed talking about), I realized that often times what might be called the "spirit" was actually me giving myself a head trip.

I did some things I'm not proud of, I'll admit it, and when the camp is 2 hours into a worship service with music and testimonies about repentance and how good it feels to be forgiven my conscience would do a number on me and I'd find myself crying on the floor.

That's not to say that the divine wasn't involved in that experience some how, but rather that it was mostly me and the environment I was in causing that reaction.

I also think sometimes that those people who are rolling on the floor and speaking in tongues are faking it just as much as you felt you did...for the exact same reason.

I think the divine touches us all in different ways. You are not broken or wrong or unloved...you just need to be reached in a different way and that is more than okay.

I know this isn't easy for you, but I'm here for you. It's something you have to do for yourself by yourself, but you don't have to be alone.

-Lindsey Ann

PS: I'm starting to think my brilliant idea to watch "The Notebook" was a little instantaneous karma for making you watch "Jesus Camp" ;-) Let's watch only happy things this weekend hmm?

All Things said...

dude, i am so glad you wrote that because i had no idea. i feel bad now because i totally misjudged you when we were in class together. that would be a really, really hard obstacle to overcome. i guess everyone had something like that. i just wish i had been able to put that superficial judgment aside and be able to be friends with you sooner than i did! this post was very insightful, and although i usually have a policy of not talking about my past anymore, i can see how it would be relevant in this instance to bring it up and let it be healed.

rob winger said...

hey mark,
come see me sometime. i'd love to listen and dialogue.
thanks for being real.

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