I remember when I was growing up and the only music my sisters and I were allowed to listen to was Christian music. I was reminded of this when a friend sent me a link to this article. It is a great article and worth the read, but this post isn't exactly about Christian music. It's more about growing up in a conservative, right-wing (which I hilariously just typo'd as "fright-wing"), Focus-on-the-Family environment. And Green Day. Yes, the band.
Throughout my adolescence, I thought my parents were ridiculously strict. They home schooled us and had a lot of rules. All of our activities centered around our church or our homeschooling group. All the people I hung out with were kids from one or both of those groups. And I knew, not even so much from my parents saying it specifically to me, that being a good Christian meant that you were a pro-life Republican who wanted the Ten Commandments, teacher-led prayer, and the Creation story back in public schools. Despite that most of us didn't attend those schools. Good Christians went to youth group or Bible study in-between Sundays and avoided anything "secular," from magazines to music to cartoons.
Somehow, though, around the year I turned sixteen, my parents lightened up.... just a little bit. I wasn't banned from "secular" magazines and music completely. Part of that was probably my parents' good sense in realizing that telling me I couldn't do or see or have any of those things was probably just going to make me want them even more. And, I think at least a little of it was their own naiveté at not realizing just what I was being exposed to. I mean, have you ever perused a copy of SEVENTEEN magazine?
Anyway, that year also happened to be the year that Green Day released their hit single "When I Come Around." I remember sitting my by radio, blank tape in the tape recorder, waiting for it to play as the number one song on the Top 8 at 8 so I could record it and listen to it over and over. Now, I don't think that if my mom had realized that Billie Joe was saying anything about being a "user," she would not have let me listen to it. But she either didn't realize or decided to overlook it.
My favorite part of the song goes:
So go do what you like
Make sure you do it wise
You may find out that your self-doubt means nothing
was ever there
You can't go forcing something if it's just
Now, I realize the song isn't really talking about theology, but humor me. Looking back on it, I have to wonder, was this song the start to the proverbial slippery slope that led me from the way I was raised, to the centrist (okay, borderline Liberal) I am today? Someone who thinks that there are some situations in which I know I couldn't look a woman in the eye and tell her an abortion is not an option for her? Someone who believes that those in the LGBT community are people created by the same God who created me and who should have the same rights as everyone else? Someone who finds the right-wing more than a little scary and who believes we should respect the beliefs of others? I mean, as long as they aren't hurting anyone, shouldn't everyone be given the same freedom of belief that I enjoy and shouldn't they be able to live without having my beliefs jammed constantly down their throats?
I'm not saying that I have it all figured out in everything I think or believe. I'm still learning. I'm still questioning and searching. But I am saying that what I think and believe now is a lot different than it was when I was fifteen. And I also, sometimes, feel guilty about that. Being raised in a culture where a lot of the things I believe now were seen a "wrong" and "un-Christian" is sometimes very conflicting for me. Even when I've looked in the Bible and prayed about something and determined that what I believe about it now is much closer to the things Jesus taught than were the things I was raised thinking, I still have this lingering feeling of guilt for turning my back on what I was taught was "right" for what I was taught was "wrong."
But, in the words of the oh-so-wise Billie Joe, "You can't go forcing something if it's just not right."
I know this post is already really long and I don't know if anyone is still reading it, but all of this has been on my mind so much lately because I don't want my kids to grow up with this kind of baggage around their faith. Certainly, I want them to know what the Bible says and how Jesus said we should treat others. And I do believe there is real wisdom in the Bible that can help them as they grow up and have to make more and more decisions for themselves. But I also don't want them to get to a point where they feel that all I've done is tell them what to think. Nor do I want for them to have to deal with so much guilt when they try to work out for themselves what they believe. Truth is truth, whether it comes from the Bible or a Green Day song. There is no need to feel guilty about recognizing that.