My family has lived in St. Cloud since the 1940’s. My grandparents came to the city from surrounding farm communities to build a house to raise their 5 children in. The house that they built was just a few blocks from the Catholic church that they were active members of. My mother and her siblings were all students of the local Catholic school system. In the early 1970’s Apollo High School was built. My mother still remembers the oddity of seeing Lutheran’s in the school system after having grown up in a solidly Catholic environment.
When my mother moved to the Twin Cities in the latter part of the 1970’s to go to college she was exposed to the “Jesus People” movement. She became a Born Again Christian, married a man of matching faith and raised two children in the St. Cloud Evangelical Christian community.
Like many religious movements, the Evangelical movement sought to protect children from the secular world. As a child my only interaction with the world happened at church, Girl Scouts and the local Christian homeschool community. It wasn’t until my mother put me into the St. Cloud public school system in 3rd grade that I met people with different worldviews from myself.
When I became a parent I worked hard to provide my children with the same religious structure that I had as a child. I homeschooled them, was active in my church and volunteered at local Christian non-profits. This was the only world that my children knew.
I’ve always been strong willed, my mother can attest to that fact. So when it comes to my faith, I am constantly questioning the systems in place around me. This questioning led me to leave the Evangelical system I had participated in for over 25 years to a Christian community looking to get back to the roots of the religion. This change in my faith also altered how I led my family to interact with our community. We started looking for more “secular” activities, places to volunteer and people to interact with.
My daughter is now almost 18, a senior in high school. As a child she memorized large quantities of Biblical scripture, was well versed in doctrine and had been active in every part of our church community. She is also Autistic. This gives her a special view of the world. I believe it is with this view that she has come to a place in her faith where she questions the reason for, need of or existence of God. She does a pretty decent job of putting up with my diatribes on the nature of God and of how I feel we should live out our faith though. She’s a trooper.
As children our parents have quite a bit of control over our faith and religious interactions. They bring us to services, read to us from holy books, and sing us songs of our faith to fall asleep. Our parents have found or are finding their personal faith and they want to not only share it with us, but for us to join them.
But then we grow up and our minds become more individual. Our world opens up to us and invites us to make choices about who we are and who we will become. Sometimes we follow in the paths of our parents. Sometimes we have other adult mentors that guide us. And sometimes, we are led to dark and dangerous places that we cannot escape from.
I have seen both sides of this. As a child I know my mother prayed for my faith. As a mother I know I have prayed from my daughter’s faith. But in the end, we are culpable only for our own choices, and must choose our faith ourselves.
I can only imagine the pain that is brought when watching your child choose a faith that is not only different from your own, but that perverts it into something evil. The pain that must come from watching your child live out this false faith, a faith based on hate, a faith that is a bald-faced lie.
I have seen it in my own past Christian circles. People that have gone from loving, generous people in their youth and grown into a faith that is anything but love. This type of transformation encompasses all religions and creeds not because religion is bad, but because human nature has the ability to choose evil, the ability to choose hate and the ability to choose fear.
I want more than anything for my children to share my faith. But my faith is my own. They will have their own choice to make. Until that time I will continue to speak love in front of them. To show them the good that can come when people choose to offer it. I want them to see that we all have to choose whether to live in fear or in hope. I will continue to show them how to live in hope and love, and pray that they choose it for themselves when the time comes.