Displaced Stay At Home Californian in rural N. Carolina

The Many Faces of Joy

The Many Faces of Joy

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Religious Experience

I knew this guy when I lived in Spain who is now an Adventist youth pastor somewhere on the East coast. He is also a friend of mine on the social networking site, Facebook. He is a very social guy, has lots and lots of friends and he often posts things related to being a pastor. One day not too many months ago he posted his sermon topic for the youth group and the title read something like this: Why do so many young people leave the church?

My mother is a devout Seventh Day Adventist. I remember once complaining to my friend Heather's dad as we sipped wine that over the years she hasn't let up at all, if anything, she refuses to let her religion age with the times. He actually stood up for her and said it was refreshing. Too many times we see people who change beliefs due to different reasons. Many Adventists eat out on Saturday now and pay with credit cards whereas 50 years ago, buying and selling on the Sabbath was a no-no. The same holds true with jewelry, 50 years ago, Adventists did not adorn themselves with jewelry, trading wedding rings for wedding watches. Until he made those comments I had not even looked at my mother from another perspective, she is after all my mother.

I stopped going to church when I was 18 years old. I had begun to separate myself from the rigidity of my mothers rules and her religion at the age of 15 but by 18 I was through. You must remember that my mother's rules have remained constant and to a teenager they were nothing but controlling and ridiculous. I was not allowed to bathe from sundown Friday night until after sundown Saturday night. I was not allowed to listen to the radio or read secular reading material. I was not allowed to swim, ride bicycles, sing songs or play games that were secular.

Once the Sabbath was over the rules still continued - no putting any food in your mouth until prayer was said, no opening your eyes during prayer or else you were spanked after prayer, daily morning and evening worships, the list is long. There were even rules that could be embarrassing like when we went out to eat we had to bow our heads and bless even that food, even if we didn't like everyone staring at us and tried to pretend we were just resting our eyes. We would sometimes try to leave our eyes open and hope that we didn't get caught, just so we could look like everyone else in the restaurant.

As a girl, I had even more rules, for example I wasn't allowed to wear pants with zippers in the front of them as they were classified as boys clothes and girls were not allowed to wear boys clothing or vice versa. I fought until high school to wear jeans and even carried them in my backpack to school and changed once I got there. I was not allowed to wear clear nail polish or jewelry of any kind. I was not allowed to wear makeup of any kind.

My mother is now raising 2 of her grandchildren. Let me back up, neither of my brothers or myself go to church, my sister goes to services but not a church per se, she is in prison. My mother is raising my sister's 2 kids and she is raising them exactly the same way she raised us. I asked her once why she would do the same thing twice when obviously the first 4 kids didn't turn out exactly as she had planned and she gave me a very long explanation on her faith and what her faith means to her and how she lives her life with her faith and her God leading her. I didn't feel like she exactly answered my question. But I believe I have answered my Facebook friend's; Why do so many young people leave the church?


Mike Stankavich said...

Oh man, this post brings back so many memories that I managed to repress over the years. For example I could never understand why it was OK to walk on Sabbath, but not to swim. I guess swimming was too fun.

I grew up in very much the same type of environment with very much the same type of rigid arbitrary rules. By the time I was in my teens I had no use for the whole Adventist experience.

But as I've grown older, I've come to understand that my parents and yours truly believed in what they were doing, and honestly felt that there were negative consequences for not following those rules. Still, it seems to me that it would be better to back off and allow a bit more latitude for kids to make their own decisions once they are in their teens.

I heard from A. that you and she were talking to Mom about possibly having H. move in with you and go to school there. I hope that you can find a compromise that assuages Mom's concerns, but also allows H. a little bit more room to breathe. From what A. said she's going to end up turning into a total rebel if she stays in her current situation, so maybe you can wind that down.

runlikejoy said...

So true Mike. Remember the Sabbath verse and the consequences for not memorizing it? Ahhh the things that people believe in and what they will do to get their kids to believe in it too!

A and I talked, it might be hard for H because we most likely will most soon. I'll keep you posted!