Brainwashed?

My son horrified me the other day.

While we were playing video games, he casually told me about what he described as an encounter with God. On a recent stormy night, the rain was keeping him awake and he was getting frustrated about it. In his exasperation, he issued the following command: ‘In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, STOP RAINING!’ and it stopped.

I suppose there’s no reason his interpretation of events couldn’t be correct, but me of little faith, I call it coincidence – like when you’re at a red light and in a hurry and snap your fingers to get the light to change, and it does!

… 45 seconds later.

But there was no cynicism or skepticism in Ian’s belief that God calmed the storm because he asked Him to. He’s entirely convinced. His faith is that pure; that genuine.
And I don’t know whether to be proud, envious or ashamed.

When I was his age (nine), I’d had much less exposure to Christianity than he has, but I’d had enough to know that I smelled a rat. The historical veracity of the Bible was very much in dispute in my mind. I was pretty much convinced of the existence of God, but was very much in doubt about how directly He was connected with this Jesus fellow, or this musty, hard-to-read, 2,000-year-old book about vineyards and shepherds. I’d come to view the Big Four Children’s Bible Stories (Noah, Joseph, Goliath and Jonah) along the same lines as the Ugly Duckling and Hansel and Gretel – interesting fables that contained wisdom, but pure fiction.

But if pushed to explain his beliefs, I have a feeling Ian would cling pretty tightly to the literal truth of the Bible. He might even suggest that the universe is thousands – not billions – of years old. And he’s getting pretty old for that kind of Sunday School Faith; that unquestioning trust in whatever adults tell him in school-type settings as pure fact.
On one hand, I’m proud that he’s embraced this Christianity stuff so wholeheartedly – and a little jealous of his blind faith. He doesn’t have to wrestle with his doubts and ultimately choose to put them aside; he simply doesn’t have any. Oh, to be that sure about anything!

But at what cost?

For my money, faith isn’t real faith if there’s no doubt. We each have to struggle against our own rationality and embrace the Truth of the Bible regardless of how factual it is (and isn’t), with our eyes wide open. We need to explore the Godless wilderness before we can truly choose His garden, don’t we?

I’ve had my wilderness time and I’v become an enthusiastic garden dweller. And Karen and I have worked hard to give our children a solid green-thumb foundation.

But have our passion and devotion to Christ been so compelling that they’ve washed away all room for doubt in my children’s impressionable young minds?

Put another way, Karen and I have worked hard to instill a belief in the Truth of the Bible in our children. But have we oversold it, and inadvertently hoodwinked them into thinking it’s Fact? Have we brainwashed them into being unquestioning automatons?

If so, what happens when their hormones kick in and they enter their rebellious phase? When they come to grips with all of the very legitimate reasons there are to doubt what they’ve been told for their whole lives, will they throw Baby Jesus out with the bathwater?

Ian’s Sunday School Faith is huge, and as the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall!

Or, perhaps the sky isn’t falling. Maybe Ian – as smart as he is – simply hasn’t developed the capacity to distinguish between Truth and Fact yet, because it hasn’t become an issue in his life. Maybe necessity is the mother of growth just as much as invention.

There’s something to that counterpoint, but when certainty is what I’m after, maybes are pretty cold comfort.

***

Thankfully, warmer comfort came a few hours after I wrote the above paragraphs. I’ll explain:

Oddly enough, I’ve generally had the opposite fears about Ian’s big sister Katie – that despite spending her whole life in churches and Sunday school, attending a semi-private Christian school for a year and a half, going to Christian summer camps and even being part of a friend’s church youth group for the past year, Jesus isn’t really real to her.

But that changed this past week. She got back from Camp Caroline Saturday with a hundred stories to tell about ‘this one time, at church camp… .’ And one of the stories began, ‘Camp Caroline sorta changed my life… .’

You see, Katie gave her life to Christ on Thursday night. Translating the like-likety-likes and o-no-u-di’n’ts of her tweenagespeak into English, she felt called to take this step in faith by her God; not her fellow campers, the camp pastor or any of its leaders.

And I’m SO proud, happy and relieved.

Not that Katie’s experience of Christ is necessarily more grounded in cynicism/skepticism/realism than Ian’s is. In fact, her faith might be less rational than Ian’s. But this new step forward grew out of mature-ish love, joy and community. She saw Jesus in the actions and faces of her cabinmates, counsellors and camp organizers and decided she wanted to know Him better.

The decision was an emotional one, but she made it herself – not to appease Mom or Dad or teachers or youth leaders. The way she describes it, there wasn’t even peer pressure, or some big, schmaltzy altar call. The pastor gave some sort of sermon about dedicating your life to Christ, and then continued with the chapel session. That got Katie thinking, and she later decided she wanted Jesus, so she and two leaders went outside and said a little prayer and then hugged.

Not that I’m saying this is a once-and-done transaction, or that her eyes are fully open to what she’s signed on for. I’m especially not saying that as her teenage years progress, she’ll never question, or even rebel against, her God. But this was a choice she was completely free to make or not, and she made it. For her, that’s huge.

Especially since unlike Ian, Katie’s hormones have kicked in. She hasn’t fully entered her rebellious phase, but it’s starting.

And now she’ll have Jesus to help her through it.

Before, I said ‘brainwashed’ like it’s a bad thing. But maybe more kids could use this kind of brainwashing.

Peace be with you.

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About robpetkau

Communications professional by day, amateur musician by night, worship leader (at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Calgary) on weekends and aspiring Bible teacher in my dreams. Grateful husband to the woman who completes me. Doing-the-best-I-can dad to the son and daughter who keep me on my toes. Striving disciple of the GodMan who came, taught and died for me. Thanks for stopping by!
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2 Responses to Brainwashed?

  1. Karen Petkau says:

    Well said, Rob. Thanks for being a shepherd with me.

  2. robpetkau says:

    The pleasure’s all mine!

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