Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Perils of Conservative Christianity

Growing up in a household of devout Christians has many distinct advantages for which am eternally grateful. The laws handed to us in the Ten Commandments and the ethics of the Gospel that are taught as part of the Christian doctrine were internalized early on and held me in good stead most of the time. I learnt early that my father and mother were to be respected, that we should love one another, that we should forgive those who treat us poorly, treat others as we want to be treated and that we should fear God.

My parents are conservative Christians and their interpretation of the Gospel was dictated at meetings of the Scripture Union and Mother's Union. To this day and ever since I can remember my father has contributed generously to the Church but his most significant contribution has been purchasing a large box of Scripture Union devotional diaries - 'Kishumuruzo' in Runyankore, and donating them to individuals and Churches at the beginning of each calendar year. I have been the lucky recipient of this little book that explains a different verse of the Bible each day of the year in pragmatic detail. I also have to confess that the most used pages of my Kishumuruzo are January to March after which it kind of sits there waiting to be replaced the next year.

Parents who practice conservative Christianity seem oblivious to their contribution to driving their children far away from the church and their faith. We found it difficult as teenagers to talk to our parents about nearly anything a teenager wanted to talk about. There were strict rules about attending church, evening prayers with the family, no consumption of alcohol, no smoking, no boyfriends or girlfriends until engagement. The rules were imposed and enforced strictly which made it the greatest ambition of every rebellious teenager to break them and I broke them with enthusiasm. With time I attended Church not to worship but as a habit. In the evening I knelt with the family to pray but my mind wandered and I shifted uncomfortably as my father or mother recited familiar words or used the opportunity to scold or warn us against normal teenage behavior. When I went to boarding school, I joined the group that was most willing to break the rules and in my first year in boarding school I was suspended for consuming alcohol. I learnt to smoke cigarettes which tasted terrible but were a true symbol of rebellion. And sure enough I met my first love at Secondary School and the consequences would cause my parents a lot of pain, but then again they had taught me love, forgiveness and respect and I expected them to practice what they preached!

At 50 I know that it is important to inculcate strong ethics and faith in our children but I also know that they have the right to be children and to make their mistakes and learn from them.
feeling thoughtful.

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