Passing the Torch of Rebellion

My freshman year of college, I stood in my dorm room, looked at my roommate and gravely announced, “I’m going to do it.” I was, after all, a grown-up now.

She came with me to visit my first haunted house.

Well, maybe first should be qualified. I had been to a church-sponsored event… during October… that depicted a twisted drunk driving crash and followed the victims into their unfortunate afterlife. It was a way to simultaneously warn against alcohol and encourage the sinner’s prayer.

But at nineteen years old, my Halloween experience had been limited to church carnivals dressed as Queen Esther with aluminum foil balls paper clipped to my ears. I’d never been trick-or-treating.

After all, evangelicals don’t really do Halloween. 

At age twenty, I bought an edited version of an Outkast CD at a used CD store in Little Five Points, Atlanta. It was my first ever non-Christian CD purchase. I just couldn’t get enough of “Ms. Jackson.”

I should confess that I had owned a cassette tape of a Spice Girls single in high school. I promptly threw it in a bonfire during youth group one summer. 

I love culture. It’s kind of the bread and butter of my blogging. And those unique, but shared, lenses through which we see the world fascinate me. The sociologist in me just can’t stop examining our cultural perspectives.

Of course, here’s the thing about culture. It’s often so hard to recognize your own. After all, the way I see things is just “normal.”

Discovering Addie’s blog that boasts the tagline “How to Talk Evangelical” was like stepping into a childhood home after a long absence. She reminded me of SYATP mornings, early Monday prayer breakfasts and that feeling of being “on fire” for God.

I’ve been reflecting on that part of my life recently, especially because I just programmed the Christian radio station in my car. The fact that they are still playing the same songs I listened to when I was in high school is both comforting and annoying.

Because now that I have kids, I find myself wanting them to have a similar evangelical upbringing to the one I’ve been tip-toeing away from for so many years. The thing is... I think I feel this way because that culture protected me.

Sure, I spent a lot of time worried about falling off the tightrope of God’s will, but that fear and faithfulness kept me from a lot of things I may have regretted today. And I never felt like I was suffering for it. I had fun and funny friends. We didn’t just sit around debating the Bible. Rather, we just had good times together and generally stayed out of trouble.

I want that for my kids. Healthy, positive friends who are trying to love God and grow up unscathed. I want their biggest rebellions to be haunted houses and an edited hip hop CD.

But I’m also aware that I walked away from more than that when I left high school. I started getting to know poor people… and people of other ethnicities with different Christian experiences and expressions. And I found a lot of my pat, church answers lacking.

If poverty was directly correlated with laziness, then why wasn’t God “blessing” my hard-working, urban neighbors?

And even if I did meet a person not exhibiting a good ‘ole Protestant work ethic, how could I love them so much more than God apparently did?

How could someone love God deeply yet still wrestle with addiction, poverty and violence?

How did the structural racism and injustice I was clearly witnessing fit into a Biblical worldview that I had understood solely in an individualized context?

What did it mean to be a leader and a woman… when the messages surfacing in my mind was that these two identifiers could not co-exist?

Honestly, some of those things were probably not the actual espousing of the Evangelical tradition. In fact, when I consider the true words of my parents, my friends or my youth pastors, I don’t hear those messages. Still, somewhere along the way, I had internalized them, and I was now saying them to myself.

So while I maybe want my kids to have some of protection I experienced in Evangelical culture, I’m discovering I don’t want them to be sheltered in other ways. I want them to know that faith is not a checkbox, but a journey. I want them to tangle in the grey of living out a life following God in a broken world. I want them to witness God in the diversity of Charismatic expressions, high church liturgy and Jewish faithfulness. 

These are the rebellions I hope to pass on to my children.

Did you grow up in Evangelical culture? Write your own post about when you were “on fire” and link up with Addie’s synchroblog. And you may also be super excited (like I am) about her memoir that releases today!

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  1. "Sure, I spent a lot of time worried about falling off the tightrope of God’s will, but that fear and faithfulness kept me from a lot of things I may have regretted today." Wowzers. I can certainly relate! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am loving reading all of the While We Were on Fire link ups!

  2. wow, this is incredible. I'm pouring through the list of WWWoF posts, and I'm finding so much "me" in these other stories. it's amazing, I thought I was alone, and now I know I'm not. this is just....incredible.

    I hope my daughter is a rebel like me, like you, like Jesus.

  3. Yes. I struggle with this too. It's a question I keep getting asked, "So how will you raise YOUR children," and I'm totally at a loss. Like you, I see the beauty in the way I was brought up -- but also the naivete. Hoping to find a way to keep the good while embracing the hard questions. Thanks so much for sharing here!

  4. Thanks for hosting the synchroblog, Addie. It's been great to consider this season of my life and the way that unique culture has affected my worldview and now my parenting.

  5. Yes, this. Exactly. I find myself turning off my beloved country music in the car because I hear the lyrics through my 1st graders ears... yikes! And I want to buy the GT and the Halo Express CD's (I had the tapes!) because they have Bible verses set to music that I can still sing verbatim.
    But I don't want my kids to have their head stuck in the sand like I feel like my mom does and she tried to have me be. I was so innocent I was naive. I don't want that for my kids. I want them to be aware and wise in that awareness.

  6. I totally had the GT and Halo Express tapes and I can still sing them, too! And yes, I recently looked them up on Amazon. But I'm with you... "wise in that awareness." Well said!

  7. Unless you want the tapes - used... I would buy them directly and not through Amazon. They are like $80 if you buy all the CD's at once. On Amazon it's almost double that!

  8. You know... now that you mention it... I do recall them being quite expensive on Amazon, which helps to explain why I didn't order them. Thanks for the advice - I'll look into it!

  9. I saw that you participated in Addie's synchroblog and wanted to invite you to participate in a monthly synchroblog that I am a part of.

    It's made up of a home-grown group of bloggers who like to write on topics of post-modern faith & life. This group is open to anyone who is interested in participating. We value respectful conversation and dialogue while honoring our differences. We share links & try to learn from each other.

    Some of the people that originally participated in the synchroblog no longer blog and I am trying to reach out to people like you who are currently passionate about blogging in order to keep our monthly synchroblog relevant and vital.

    If you are interested in joining us you can join the facebook group and receive monthly invitations to the synchroblog. Here is that link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/114506961937378/

    And you can find our website (which you can subscribe to if you want to receive an email when we post the monthly theme announcement/invitation) here: http://synchroblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/link-list-november-2013-synchroblog/

    (You can see all of the themes that we have covered in the past on our website in order to get an idea of what we do)

  10. Thanks, Ginger! I'm so glad you stopped by and I'm looking to checking out your blog, too. :)

  11. "I hope my daughter is a rebel like me, like you, like Jesus." I love this. I second this! Thank you so much, Rachel. And I totally agree... these WWWoF posts are incredible!


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