Does Raising Kids in the Church of Christ damage them?

I received a question: Does raising your children in the Churches of Christ damage the children? If so, how?

It really depends on your viewpoint: If you like the doctrines and attitudes of the Churches of Christ, then you will like the impact they have on your children:
1. Women will be viewed as less than men. It doesn’t matter how intelligent a woman is, how much education she has, what she does for a living, if she volunteers at church she will be teaching the children’s classes or the women’s classes. She might function as a deacon, but will not be recognized as a deacon. She might function as an elder, guiding the younger women, but she will never be recognized as such. Women are encouraged to be homemakers and raise children. Women are taught to obey their husbands, husbands are taught to be understanding toward their wives and children.
2. Spanking is encouraged, patience is not encouraged. Children and all those who have less power are encouraged to obey, obey, obey. Parents are seldom held accountable for frustrating or exasperating their children. Parents are seldom taught how to encourage or interact with their children in ways that will lower the need for negative discipline. Parents will be encouraged to have their children sit with them through 90 minute church services, and if a child misbehaves, the parent will be told to take the child out and spank the child.
3. In the 1970s and 1980s in hardline churches, teens were publicly withdrawn from for sexual activity. They are taught not to go dancing, not to go to bars or even to go swimming, for fear of sexual acting out. Average age in the USA for first sexual experience: 16 years old. (My guess as to the average age for Church of Christ children’s first sexual experience: 16 years old.)
4. Sunday morning is the most racially and economically divided time of the week for all denominations. Beware of encouraging your children to be racist and classist.
5. Children are pressured into being baptized. But once they are baptized they are guilted into obeying the church rules (because they have been baptized). The church has no power over an individual until they are baptized (except to threaten him/her with hell), but once they have been baptized they are then subject to church discipline, or the threat of losing their salvation.
6. Children baptized in the hardline churches are taught the insecurity of their salvation. Obedience is based on guilt and fear, not on gratefulness, trust, love and relationship with God.
7. The politics expressed from the pulpit  and in Bible classes in most fundamentalist churches will be white bread blue collar politics: usually supportive of the military, the status quo, and whatever benefits white people in the short term. Never will one hear anything about how white American society is built on taking land that was not our great-grandparents’ to take. Seldom will you hear anything positive about Martin Luther King, Jr., or the place of understanding power and dominance in race relations. Never is our oil dependence, the industrialized food complex, or the financial industry questioned. Members who watch documentaries or pursue graduate degrees in social services, political science, English or the humanities, eventually feel out of step with their church oftentimes.

Holiness is measured by coming to church on Sunday morning, Wednesday night and Sunday night, learning to say “no” to singing Christmas carols at school, learning personal piety in issues of pornography, fornication and alcohol, learning how to convert one’s friends away from being Baptists to being members of the One True Church. Learning to feel superior to everyone based on our understanding of baptism for salvation. The definition of piety has frozen into a time warp of 1930s middle America.
Possible positives are that children will learn lots of Bible stories. They will learn that lying, stealing and drunkenness are wrong. Children will learn that marriage is permanent and that having lots of children is a blessing. Children will learn that sex involves commitment and fidelity. Children will learn to respect parents, teachers, the police, and authority figures.

So, in conclusion, with all of this information, it is up to you to decide if it is damaging to raise one’s children in the hardline Churches of Christ.

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About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
This entry was posted in Manipulation, Psychology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Does Raising Kids in the Church of Christ damage them?

  1. sarah says:

    AMEN! Thank you for your comments.

  2. shannon says:

    Maybe the title of your post should be “Does raising kids in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ damage them?”.

    (Sorry you had such horrible parents)

  3. Lisa says:

    Wow. There’s a lot to sort through with this post. I’ve been in and around the C of C my whole life and even work at one of our universities. Thankfully, I’ve always had people in my life who whispered strains of, “There’s another way to look at things,” and the congregations I was a part of didn’t endorse the hardline conservative views. I’ve spent a lot of time apologizing to people who only had that view of the the C of C.

    There are many, many of us who don’t believe any of those things. I have actually cringed every time one of my children has asked to be baptized because — yes — it tended to happen when they were about 12. Speaking as someone who didn’t even begin to understand grace until I was in my mid-twenties, it’s very hard for me to believe that a 12-year-old is “ready,” whatever that means.

    I hope we can all move forward and eventually do away with the damaging messages that the very loud minority distributed for so long.

  4. Marie says:

    I’m an ex-hardline coc member also, and my husband was a strict hardline coc preacher for years. I “get” all of what you have said… believe me. But the pendulum swings, my friend… usually from one extreme to another. The enlightened ex-hardline coc peeps develop greater insight, a more intimate relationship with God, and a proper understanding of the NT. But more often then not, when the pendulum swings, some reactions that can take place become less about seeking truth and love… and more about rebelling against “them.” It’s yet another case of “us and them,” with our wounded pride and broken hearts fueling more confusion about what God communicated to us through His word.
    Discernment= sensitivity. We can’t be sensitive if we are too busy building walls.

    • Hi Marie,
      Excellent observation. I guess the primary purpose for this blog is supporting people as they come out of a hardline church, helping them to not feel crazy, when all of their trusted support systems are calling them crazy.

  5. Andrea says:

    It damaged me. I grew up in one that was half my blood family. My uncle was the preacher and he taught 11 year olds(me and my cousins, although I was 15) lies about how they could lose their salvation. I spent at least three years of my life crying myself to sleep like every other night thinking this isn’t God until God showed me the truth. I go to a good church now, and my family thinks I’m going to hell. I am still damaged for it, and I hope no other kid who loves God has to go through what I went through, but He is healing me through my new Christian family at North Baptist

  6. garycummings says:

    Good for you. The Baptists do preach grace,

  7. says:

    I was raised (punished) all the way through the COC cult and it was the worst and longest hellish experience of my entire life. I swore I would never ever treat my children like I was treated, ergo, my children are amazing, undisciplined, talented, unafraid, and loved citizens. Our youth minister was so aware of the way our old style parents were making us live through such horrific psychological conditions that church camp was a balls out free for all, close to satanic rituals that included burning crosses. When I was a teen and figured out how to skip “class” at church, I did, then the second I moved out, I haven’t been back. I resent being adopted into this family and blame most everything I am on them. The emotional, physical, religious, and psychological abuse due to thinking that is how “god” wanted it was off the charts.

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