Sunday, July 06, 2008

am I indoctrinated?

Sometimes it's easy to worry that if you hadn't been brought up in a Christian family (which is the case for many Christians, especially in the West), the Christian message would have no appeal for you. Correct me if I'm wrong. Or replace the "you" in that first sentence with "I".

I'm sure there's an element of truth to the idea. It definitely makes it easier in some cases to become a Christian if you've grown up in a Christian family, if you've seen the fruits of a genuine Christian lifestyle, or even, sadly, if you feel pressured to do the same thing as your parents. Growing up hearing stories about Jesus or Bible characters makes it so much easier to understand what the Bible's about, later. Even if this does count to some extent as spoonfeeding, the opposite is true - it's easier to become a Christian when you haven't been spoonfed or indoctrinated in anti-Christian ideas as you grow up.

Besides that idea, though - that everyone is indoctrinated into certain ideas by their parents - it can still be worrying to think that you are perhaps trapped in your worldview, unable to think outside the Christian box.

I met a seven year old girl last night, the daughter of one of the pastors at the student church I attend. She is obviously a smart little kid, quite sensitive, and has grown up hearing Christianity all around her. She showed me her new Bible, which is pink, and the passages she had highlighted. I was especially amused when she told me this was one of her favourite passages:

Egypt shall become a desolation
and Edom a desolate wilderness,
for the violence done to the people of Judah,
because they have shed innocent blood in their land.
But Judah shall be inhabited forever,
and Jerusalem to all generations.
I will avenge their blood,
blood I have not avenged,
for the LORD dwells in Zion. Joel 3:19-21.

:) Rather sweet.

Then she told me she was going to ask her dad a question about something he had said in his sermon on guidance - what exactly was an apostle? She thought maybe it was a bit like in a flock of penguins, some of the strong older male penguins circle round and round the group, keeping the mothers and babies safe.

Well, I'm not sure how theologically correct that is, but this is what it said to me: If a child like this, who has spent her entire life absorbing Christianity, and still hasn't been exposed to much of the other stuff, can come up with an explanation as imaginative yet valid as that, it bodes well for her spiritual autonomy.

There is so much room for imagination within Christianity. One way this reveals itself is in the denominations, although this is often seen as a negative thing that holds us back from unity. But from what I've learnt in my study this year of Stalin's Russia, there's unity and then there's unity. Absolute, unflinching unity of thought and speech is never a good thing among humans, although we can still be the body of Christ, united in our love for him.

Besides that, the Bible is not like a textbook for mathematics; follow these steps and these rules and you will come out with the right interpretation. A single verse can be relevant (in context) to many differing things, without having to cut out all other methods or interpretations.

I would actually say, and I say this thoughtfully, that all my background of studying the Bible has made it a lot easier for me at university to be imaginative in my interpretation of events (History) or writings (English).

Anyway, here's what I think: I am not indoctrinated, although maybe in the past or even now there are things I believe without having thought much about the reasons why. I know my faith is my own. I have an imagination. I can think outside my Christian box. We should all try to get away from believing things "just because" we always have done so. But that doesn't mean our thought is limited any more than the average non-Christian, and perhaps our imagination is even opened up by the things we have been taught in youth.

1 comment:

LEstes65 said...

Wow. So much in this one post. I could write a tome in response. I love this post.

I was indoctrinated as a child. My church family was imperfect and loving but I left that church with some very warped ideas. Our leader was a mess. Fortunately, my parents and other very earnest people in that church are the ones that gave me most of my foundation. So when I rebelled and floundered in my 20s & 30s, I at least did so clinging tightly to God. I doubted almost every other part of my beliefs: the bible, Jesus, among them.

So in 2005, when I was 40, I knew I believed in God. That was the only unshakable thing for me. When I finally heard the Christian message told in a totally different way than it had ever been presented before, I felt like (and was) a brand new Christian.

It has been an exciting journey to re-learn all about God and Jesus. Trish was a huge part of that beginning and continues to be one of my main supports that God has given me.

So I don't know if my experience would support "it's easier to become a Christian when you haven't been spoonfed or indoctrinated in anti-Christian ideas as you grow up," or not. I didn't get the anti stuff while growing up. But I got some very twisted ideals. When I was old enough to realize this, I rejected the "religion" as a whole as people had lied to me. People had failed me. People had mislead me. So I concentrated on just me and God. It took a lot of flailing about trying to marry other beliefs to my Christian ideas until I finally met a bunch of fallible and completely sincere Christians that helped me regain faith in God's people.

Wow. I'm babbling.

But I love this post.

I'm glad I can say that, at the ripe old age of 42, my faith is my own. God keeps strengthening it and stretching it. I have no doubt it will grow and grow. But it's my own faith - it won't be derailed by imperfect people again.