Sunday, March 17, 2013

Before the Lights Go Out

In the house I grew up in, there was a ritual before the lights went out. "Sorry for the bad things I did to you today. Will you forgive me?" These words were repeated between my siblings and I, nearly every night, for years. My mother had told us that the Bible said that one shouldn't go to bed angry and that we shouldn't go to bed with sin not dealt with. "What would happen if Jesus came back tonight and you had sin in your life?" she would ask, before turning off the lights. "You won't be with Jesus. You'll be in Hell."
Trauma can be caused many things, including threatening your children with eternal damnation. In the name of faith and behavior modification, parents willingly give their children burdens that no human can carry. It scared the shit out of me, honestly. If those words didn't matter, then they wouldn't have been spoken. They were spoken, for the effect. One might say, "There was no abuse there! No trauma could've occurred from those harmless words! It was just a way to discipline you and your siblings, and get you guys to get along." To this argument, I would like to respond--If the punishment, whatever it may be, is completely innocuous, as you say, then it's completely unnecessary. It doesn't effectively change anything. However, if it fundamentally changes a child's behavior then it's not innocuous. Rather, it has introduced an element that is sufficiently terrifying to effectively alter behavior. I'll repeat. If it's innocuous, it's unnecessary. If it changes behavior, it's sufficiently terrifying and trauma-inducing.

Growing up in a Christian family establishes a Christian paradigm for life. Everything is understood through the lens of a Christian world view. The Christian paradigm was the only reality that I knew! It was as real as anything else. In fact, it was more real than everything else. Every aspect of my life was Christianized. Everything. When the reality of the situation is established, one can see that what the parent is doing, is essentially threatening the child with death, and the parent takes on the role of the abuser, right before the lights go out.


  1. That does seem like a pretty screwed-up thing to tell your children...

  2. Is it possible that what you are calling "a Christian paradigm" wasn't a Christian paradigm at all, but rather an abusive paradigm that used religion as a tool? I grew up with sort of a moderate Christian paradigm that I later abandoned, and then again later picked up a new understanding of Jesus. But I don't know that I'd brand either of them a definitive Christian paradigm, since my worldview is always growing.