Brainwashing or Teaching?

I just watched a disturbing documentary on Netflix.  It’s called “Jesus Camp,” and I had some rough reactions to it. I’m kind of late to the party;, apparently it was all the rage when it was released in 2006, and it even got an Oscar nod for best documentary. 

Anyway, it basically showed how Evangelical children are indoctrinated brainwashed taught ideas about how the world is basically pure evil, including other psychologically dysfunctional fundamentalist concepts. It’s nothing I haven’t read or learned about before, but seeing it was just disturbing.  The scene that sucker-punched me in the kidneys was when this blond-hair 10 year old boy started crying because he knew he was a bad child for doubting God’s existence.  For struggling with really difficult things.

That kid was me. I remember feeling that way.  That maybe if I just tried hard enough, prayed hard enough, changed myself enough, I’d become “good,” and stop being so “bad.” It hurt watching that child cry. Then it made me so angry at the leaders of the Camp for giving children this type of experience, Obviously this has more to do with my own childhood than that of these Evangelical children, but something that surprised me was that I had compassion and understanding for that child and for the others.  A compassion and understanding that I’ve been unwilling, or unable, to give myself.  I’m hoping that I can take that to heart and work on it.  I am, as my blog title suggest, on a quest to improve. 

But it starting making me wonder where the line is between indoctrination or brainwashing and just good old fashioned child rearing.  If I teach my child that she is not allowed to hit someone, is that brainwashing? Am I supposed to sit down with her and explain to her the positive and negative consequences of hitting others and let her choose for herself?

I’m not a parent, but I worry about these things.  The reason I care is because I don’t want my children, or any other children, to have to go through the pain I’m having to go through now as a result of my childhood indoctrination. 

But am I any better than them if I teach my children to be understanding of others? Is that not indoctrination as well?

Or should I just raise my children the way I believe is the best way and forget whether or not it scars them on an incredibly deep level?

Obviously “do my best” would probably be the answer here, but how do I know the things that I value will be beneficial to them becoming functioning, happy adults?

For example, I’m thinking about how much I love music.  How music can heal. How it can put you in touch with spirituality.  How it can make you happy. I would love to give the gift of music to my children.

As I think about it, I even try to encourage everyone I know to have music in their life. (Maybe “encourage” is a strong word.  It’s more like I try to show them how wonderful music is.) The beauty of music is universal, right? Or am I no better than anyone else who is proselytizing their own beliefs onto others. Not only that, but are there not people who believe music is from the devil? Or that it can tempt you to sin or something? Have I then become the person at whom I’m so angry?

Okay. Okay. Okay.  Writing this all out has maybe given me some perspective and insight: So it seems that my anger at the church leaders from the movie, and my anger at the religious indoctrinators of my own personal experience, is really just anger at myself. And maybe this whole issue can’t be avoided.  Maybe everyone inevitably becomes that person in some way or any other.  If that’s the case, it seems like the solution would not be to try to not become that person, as that has been proven to be impossible.  Maybe the solution is to not be angry at those people. If I learn to accept that they’re “doing the best they can with the tools they have,” as I’ve learned from Dr. Brené Brown, then I won’t have so much self hatred when I realize I’ve become that same person.

This all makes sense to me on an intellectual level, but I’m going to have to sit with it for a while before I can actually come to terms with it and internalize it. 

Time to think on it.


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