A wingnut childhood

Imagine you’re 7 years old and from the time of your earliest memories you’ve heard that you were born sinful. And that unless you accept Jesus as your personal savior (whatever that means to a 7 year old??) you will go to hell for eternity.

Now, imagine that 7 year old being told what is sinful and seeing it in your own life (you’ve been known to lie and have violent thoughts about that asshole at school that keeps putting you down) – and hearing that those sins make God angry. You go to bed at night hoping that you don’t die before you’ve had time to confess your sins because you’re scared to death of what God will do to you.

And imagine that you’ve been told from your earliest memories that one day there will be a rapture when all the good Christians will all of the sudden disappear up to heaven. You’re supposed to look forward to this, but it scares the bejeezus out of you. So you think there’s something wrong with you. And when you come home from school and no ones there – your first thought is to wonder if the rapture happened and you got left.  

Now imagine you’re 13 and all the adults in your life are telling you that in order to be a good Christian you need to not only stop sinning, but you also need to read your bible every day, pray every day, and witness to your friends so you can save them from hell. You try real hard, but you usually fail at meeting these standards. So every few months you cry and promise God and those adults that you’ll do better.

Since you’re a christian, you’ve been told that the holy spirit lives in you and will guide you in thinking and doing the right thing. But then, you’ve also been told that your sinful nature is also inside of you and you’re not supposed to listen to “the flesh.” That makes it kinda hard to know, on the tough calls, what’s right and what’s wrong. Is it the holy spirit telling you to do something, or your sinful flesh? And you better get this one right – there’s an angry God watching!!

Is this any way to grow up? Nosiree!! But millions of young people in our culture today do. This is just a taste of what I experienced. It might have been a bit different for others, especially for those who, like some in my family, also experienced physical and sexual abuse at the very hands of those who were preaching all this fear.

So, you want to know what’s wrong with the wingnut crowd? They were all abused as children. All of them emotionally, and some physically and sexually. I don’t say this to suggest that we give them a pass. But when you buy into all this as a child, your emotional development is stunted and I can guarantee you that on the inside, you’re miserable. Attempts to control that misery are then projected outward as attempts to control the rest of the world and to validate how you feel.

I’m not sure I have any answers on how we change the whole world. But until we start raising our children in ways that protect them, nurture them and help them grow into compassionate strong stable adults, I don’t see how we’ll ever get things back on track.    


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  1. today, by how monumentally we’ve failed at learning how to raise children. Everyone’s story is a bit different in how that happens, so I thought I’d share a a bit of my own. But I honestly think that if we’re going to change the world, this is something we have got to figure out!

    • Nordic on January 16, 2008 at 6:43 am

    in many ways.

    Although I did have a nice loving Mom.  She meant well.  I got REALLY into Christianity when I was about 11 or 12, and my Mom thought it was great.  Went through all the stuff you talk about in a short period of time, then when I hit puberty, well then it all got really confusing.  How can you deny lustful thoughts when you’re a 13 year old boy?  Well, you can’t.  I finally figured I’d just give up and put it off until, say, college.  Yeah, that’s it!  I don’t know what I was thinking (surely I didn’t really think I’d quit having lustful thoughts in college?) but I figured in college there might be some kind of social structure that would better support Christians (I’d heard of Campus Crusade for Christ and it seemed like a good idea).

    Of course when I went to college, I’d grown up a lot, and the Christians who pursued me there to “join them” gave me the damn creeps.  I turned into a complete agnostic who couldn’t stand those right-wing freaks.  (this was also  my first election, 1980, and all those so-called Christians were all a bunch of right-wing assholes).  

  2. Work so dam well. And why they are so insidiously evil. Authority figures tapping into childhood fear programing.

    It gives me the willies.

  3. but traveled far beyond this.  I don’t know if all wingnuts were abused children.  I think many of them are extremely critical people and sometimes that’s a birth trait and not an environmental one.  I talk to a lot of wingnuts and most of them respond to kindness and taking the time to listen.  I’m going to that wingnut Major’s house tonight to play board games.  He and his wife are Mormon.  He and I will talk politics and everyone else will tolerate us and we will be decent to each other and we will find our ways and our solutions to peace among us.  He is very kind and decent to his little son.  When his son was frightened by the haunted house that the troop put together at Halloween he picked up his son and snuggled him into the crook of his arm.

    • scribe on January 16, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    I was crouching under the grand piano because I honestly thought God couldn’t find me under something that huge. So I know how powerful the effects can be, of this kind of early cult programming. (what else can it possibly be called?) And yes, when coupled with severe sexual/physical abuse during those formative years involving the only “protectors” one has, the effects can be totally devastating, and take most of a lifetime to reverse. In my own experience, I doubt I will ever reverse ALL of those effects: some I have had to simply learn to “live around.”

    It’s for these reasons, I fear the slow but sure infiltration of religious extremism into our governmental systems with more fear that I could ever feel about any terrorists from the outside.   Those who have never been exposed to any of it’s effects can so easily dismiss this threat as no big deal.

    And that’s what the religious extremists are counting on,  with considerable success..most of which is behind the scenes.    

    • pico on January 16, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    You had me until this:

    So, you want to know what’s wrong with the wingnut crowd? They were all abused as children. All of them emotionally, and some physically and sexually.

    That is most certainly not the case.  My wingnut parents had (relatively) happy childhoods, and though they raised me to be a good (failed!), straight (failed!) Catholic (failed!) boy, not a single thing they did involved any kind of abuse.  

    To raise children without a critical apparatus to approach the world around them with due skepticism may qualify as abuse, but there are plenty of left-leaning, liberal, Democratic parents who do the same thing.  

  4. Think about it. Humans have an in depth knowledge of war and the ramifications of war.  Such things are centuries old.  When the cities die people would flee to the country right?  Ok, how best to self perpetuate control in rural areas?  Ding! religious zealotry!

    Who in the history of mankind too over much of the control after the fall of the Roman Empire?

    Better, how many people have been killed “In the name of God”.

  5. … I know a little bit about your story and how it is very unique in so many ways (and this from what you’ve posted in the blogosphere).

    So yes, this aspect of your story does shine some light on how we treat our young in this society (and not just parents, adults generally — because you got these messages from many adults in your community whether they were related to you or not).

    What I took away from your story in this essay was not so much how religion fucks people up, but that fear can be a terrible parenting skill — and I mean the parents’ fear, transmitted to their child.

    I don’t know if we can change that, how parents treat their kids — but I think we sure can provide other adults in the life of children who give them alternate views and other kinds of emotional support.

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