Millennials, Spiritual Abuse, and My Children

white church

Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of blog posts about Millennials leaving the church.

For those of you who may not know what Millennials are,  they are all the people who were born between 1981 to 1996!

Apparently, many of the Millennials who were born, raised, and grew up in evangelical churches are leaving it in droves.

I have two children who were born in the 70’s, they are my Generation X kids.

I also have six Millennial kids born in the 80’s and 90’s and my last son was born in ’02.

My Gen Xer’s and three of my Millennials don’t go to church and neither does my youngest!

Actually, my husband and I don’t even attend church anymore, either and we are baby boomers!
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Way back in the 80’s and 90’s I  believed that if I raised my children in the church, taught them that they needed a savior, educated them at home, and protected them from evil and worldly influences they would  grow up to be the most perfect,  spiritual, and saved  Christians on the face this planet!

What loving mom in her right mind wouldn’t want to protect her children from burning in hell?!

Our whole family faithfully attended every church service available.

In fact, we frequently traveled up to 80 miles away from home on Sunday nights just to attend special “Sister” Church services in distant cities.

Our kids attended Sunday school, children’s church, and youth group.

We fellowshipped with other like minded families and of course, we homeschooled our children*

My husband and I were quite strict.

The boys could not wear all black.

They couldn’t play with the wrong toys, listen to the wrong music, read the wrong books, or watch the wrong movies.

Even though we were so strict out of love and concern for our children’s well being, we also had our “super spiritual” reputations to uphold.

We didn’t want any of our church friends to get the wrong impression of us!

We wanted to avoid being judged or scrutinized by any of our fellow church members.

How embarrassing and humiliating it would have been for us, if our children didn’t look, speak, and act exactly the way everyone at church would have expected them to.

What my husband and I didn’t realize was the pressure this was putting on our children.

We had no idea that some of our kids were terrified if they died suddenly without repenting of some long forgotten “sin” that they would go straight to hell!

We didn’t realize that our children lived in fear of being “left Behind” in the “rapture”.

My husband and I didn’t know that we were causing some of our children to lie and be deceitful because they were hiding forbidden “evil” things like secular music tapes and videos!

We did not comprehend that it was our strict, stifling, and self righteous parenting style that was driving them into “rebellion”.

And lastly, at the time, we didn’t realize that what we were doing to our children with the best of intentions, was actually spiritual abuse!

It is horrifying to now know that our misguided intentions could so screw with our children’s minds in such a devastating manner!

I do now publicly apologize to my five oldest boys for putting them through such unnecessary fear, distress, pressure and unattainable expectations.

It wasn’t until after our daughter, Bethany, was diagnosed with brain cancer, and we were so traumatized, shell shocked, and exhausted from the whole ordeal that all our self righteous religiosity went right out the window.

Suddenly keeping up appearances was shallow and all that crap became so ridiculously trivial and unimportant.

Consequently,  I, my husband, and our four youngest kids also joined the ranks of the (gasp!!), unchurched!

We ceased  enforcing strict movie, book, and music rules as well as arbitrary and unnecessary dress codes upon our youngest kids.

In fact, we pretty much kind of gave up on rules altogether.

Funny thing is we discovered that the kids were quite capable of staying out of trouble without our interference!

Our four youngest children Rachel, Rebekah, Bethany and Jeremiah have been spared the religious abuse that my husband and I had unintentionally inflicted upon our five oldest boys.

Today our five oldest boys still do not go to church.

Neither do I, Malcolm, Bethany or Jeremiah!

Rebekah is married and attends church with her husband and Rachel attends church in Japan where she lives and works.

But I want you all to know, so let me shout it from the rooftop!!

All 9 of my children have grown up to be awesome, beautiful, kind, generous, caring, socially conscious, decent, good, law abiding citizens with many good things to offer society!

*Please note:  I do not now and nor have I ever considered homeschooling to be spiritual abuse, unless… you totally isolate your children from all society, whip your children into obedience, teach your daughters that they can’t wear pants, that the only godly vocation for girls to is to grow up to be submissive helpmeets to their future husbands and that they must be prepared to defer all thoughts, opinions, and decisions to their future husbands as well- and teach your sons that they will be superior to and able to treat their future wives as property! 

Colossians 3:21- Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

*A version of this post was originally published on 8/5/2013.
I’m sharing this post at Create With Joy: Friendship Friday!
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23 Replies to “Millennials, Spiritual Abuse, and My Children

  1. I think it is a difficult line to walk. We want to expose our children to Church/God/Faith but we don’t want to give them nightmares. I still worry about going to hell and I am in my 40’s 🙂 I think it is beyond awesome that you and Malcolm together realized that you were ‘keeping up appearances’ rather than living your true faith. And your kids are simply the best so I say you managed to not only walk the line but walked above it

  2. I think you are right that it is only when we let our children do as they please that they can then make us proud by doing as we would have wanted.

    I have never heard of millenials before.

    Thank you for linking up

  3. A lot to think about here. Where we live there is a lot of religious fundamentalism in the homeschool community that concerns me. My prayer is to raise children who are kind, empathetic, and willing to make a loving and forgiving God known in this world. I pray for the wisdom and strength to complete that task daily.

    I love reading your blog, Sylvia!

    1. Thanks Mary! I’m sure you will accomplish all you set out to do! I think your kids are already kind, empathetic and not ashamed of the gospel!

  4. I’m glad you are speaking up on this. It isn’t talked about enough in homeschooling circles. Have you seen the efforts of some homeschool graduates to challenge the HSLDA defense of abusive situations?

    1. Christy, I was just looking at the Homeschoolers Anonymous site and was enlightened. I am a member of HSLDA and have always encouraged others to join HSLDA (They are listed in my resources) for protection against unfriendly school districts. Now I am wondering about this.

  5. I love this post Sylvia. It reminds us all that moderation is best in everything we do, including religion. I am really proud of you for realizing your mistakes and correcting them along the way. Nothing like a brain tumor to set one’s priorities straight. Sometimes we do the best we can as parents only to realize there may be a better way. I guess you have found a great middle ground for your family. xoxo tiffani

  6. This is quite the provoking post, Sylvia. I agree that any situation can be misrepresented, askewed, twisted, and changed to suit anyone’s imperfect beliefs. You did a beautiful job of expressing the difference between Religion and Relationship: Christ is truly all that matters. Your faith has always been what draws me to you (that, and your amazing family).

  7. Wow, I’m part of the new generation of homeschoolers who had this perception of homeschooled families but didn’t know that it could be true. I believe ‘religion’ is the way we decide to worship, but a firm relationship with our maker comes from within. You can’t stuff that down your child’s throat. Even though I still love the story of the Prodical Son, it is a believeable journey for many of us.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Nita! I’m really glad that the new generation of homeschoolers seems to be less into controlling their children. Though there are still many who have the dominionist, patriarchal mindset. I think so many of those kids are actually brainwashed little robots, who someday are going to crack. I fear for them. I’m glad for my children’s sake, especially my daughters’ that we were not quite that far off balance. You’re right you can’t stuff religion down anyone’s throat.

  8. My mom was just talking about this with her church(I don’t live near her so I can’t attend that church). And I was telling here that I think this is an age group that is often ignored in the church. Plenty of programs for kids and teens and then for groups older than millenials, but nothing for them, so they start to feel like they don’t have a place so they leave. Not in every church to be sure, but it was true in hers(which is why when we did live there, we left that church for another).

  9. Hmmmm…Interesting. (I just discovered, I’m a millenial) I grew up in the church but I’ve always rejected those teachings about dress and what you should and shouldn’t do. I have so many issues with the teachings it’s not funny, so I don’t really attend church anymore. I must say though, I do believe in God and being a good moral citizen, but I just cannot accept the package of Christianity as it is.

  10. Wow i didnt know about millenials, but i realized people were leaving church. I didnt grow up churchgoing, was actually atheist for a while! Praise the Lord for His work in us! I love hearing teachings by Michel Rood 🙂 theyve been a blessing!
    Jenny P

  11. I hadn’t heard of millenials, but it all makes sense. There are a lot of mistakes that we make as parents and wish we could change. We do the best we can and God allows us to be the parents our children need. We just try to teach our daughter to know our loving God and to behave as best as he would have us do.

  12. I know this is old, but I just found this via Elizabeth Esther’s Saturday Evening Post. Great post! It’s wonderful how honest you are able to be considering the hard times your family went through. As one of the “millennials,” I have friends whose families were involved in things like Bill Gothard (more extreme than your situation for sure!) and there’s a familiar pattern. Either the family leaves the system altogether and the younger kids end up relatively unscathed while the older ones are still picking up the pieces, or the family falls apart. Too much legalism and pressure has led more than one family of my acquaintance to divorce, which is just tragic.

    1. This is an old one. Unfortunately, I didn’t read through Elizabeth Esther’s posting instructions before I entered it. With all the frenzy of the Doug Phillips issue going on now, it does seem somewhat appropriate, don’t you think?

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