I just now saw a lead in for a segment on a news show about a seven year old being taught to hate… they showed him holding a sign saying, “God hates fags.” The clip included the interviewer asking the parents the question, “What if he grows up and doesn’t agree with everything [you believe] anymore?” He’d be bounced out of the family – “that’s the Lord.”
After a moment of this sinking into not just my psyche but also my spirit, I wept. I wept deeply.
What this family is doing is horrifying on multiple levels. Employing a merciful and forgiving God (who IS love) to wield and spew hate is appalling and grievous. To indoctrinate their children into this hate-filled perspective is shocking and frightening. To believe one is righteous whilst judging others is above all angering and embittering.
I wanted to scream, yet could only weep. I wept for those whom with words they were wounding; I wept for their children who will have a difficult time of ever finding their own way and who might never know what unconditional love is like; I wept for how they were condemning themselves to a life, and (if one believes in such a thing) an afterlife, of misery and coldness; and without knowing it at the time, I wept for the children of a family I grew up with who suffered a similar, though in many ways more insidious, form of tyranny.
I wrote for several hours about this, detailing many things: My perspective spiritually, and how I feel they are so far from knowing who God really is. My feelings about their position on sexuality in the context of spirituality. My heartbreak at their absolutism versus, the beautiful alternative of love and understanding regardless of agreement. My feelings about their role as parents. But what it came down to was my perspective on freedom.
You see, the thing that makes it most difficult for me to decide how I feel about this is that I truly abhor how parenting is controlled by media and popular society. For instance, the public floggings of the parents whom have encouraged their kids to go for their dreams even in youth are appalling to me. To the father who climbed Mount Everest with his 13 year old son – I applaud him for nurturing those dreams and allowing his son to go for it, and not only that but doing it alongside him. It’s not like the boy didn’t have to work very hard to get there. Yes it’s dangerous, but everyday life can be dangerous – and how much better will he be for understanding the effort and preparation and exertion it takes to achieve, but also how worth it the endeavor is?
The same with the 16 year old girl circumnavigating the globe non-stop alone via a sailboat. Or the 7 year old girl in 1996 who became a pilot. (Yes, in attempting to cross the U.S. she, her father, and her flight instructor crashed and died, but she was already better educated than most college graduates, knew her mind and pursued her dream.) How dare the media, the masses, whomever, ridicule and condemn those parents because they didn’t choose to coddle and ignore their child’s dreams and potentials. They listened and gave them wings. Just because our modern society says that protection is the absolute, the most important thing, does not make it so.
Whatever we think about these hate-filled parents, why do we think we have a right to tell them how to raise their children? That above all else bothers me... because, I assure you that if we do, it won’t stop with them. So how can I, then, condemn these parents teaching hate as I so desperately want to? Within my heart I fiercely defend the freedoms we enjoy here in America. I know they are fragile, and come with a great weight of responsibility that we as a nation don’t always handle very well, but I believe it would be an insidious kind of enslavement to have my government tell me how to raise my children (or worse, to have the world do so via the UN). Such a thing frightens me beyond measure, and as a fearless optimist, that's saying something.
To that end, I find it irritating that this news program put the story of the 16 year old sailor, the 13 year old climber, and an 11 year old toreador in the same light as this story of the 7 year old hater, making it seem that these parents are all the same. This is, to me, more of the media tainting and manipulating our perspective.
How do we find our way free of this control while still trying to keep children away from actual abuse? Because I believe that parents of the sailor and the climber, at least, did something magnificent in fanning the flames of their child’s dreams and guiding them as they worked for it... then letting them go to achieve when the time came, knowing whatever the outcome that their child would be profoundly the better for the experience of trying.
I liked what the young climber said, “I encourage other kids to discover their own Everest and go for it.” Magnificent. Incandescent. May we all find that kind of perspective, whatever our age!