Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Evangelicals and Child Abuse

First, let me preface what I am about to write by saying I respect people of all faiths, although I am not a religious person myself. There are many people in my life, whom I love dearly, who are religious and attend a house of worship on a regular basis. While I may find fault with their beliefs, I would never begrudge them their right to believe and worship or belittle them for doing so.

What I do find fault with is child abuse in the name of “God.” Most of us are all too aware of the sexual abuse rampant in the Catholic church (>>) because of the many many cases that came to light in the past few years, but I’m not sure how many know about the emotional abuse that is being inflicted upon children in the Evangelical church. I watched the documentary Jesus Camp the other night, and to say it was eye-opening would be an understatement.

I have no problem with children being taught the religious rules and traditions of their family and community (I myself went to Sunday school and feel that I learned some very important moral lessons). However, in these Evangelical “Jesus camps,” very young children are being brainwashed and emotionally traumatized; told to take extreme viewpoints and action on political and ethical issues they are too young to fully comprehend or appreciate; lied to about scientific facts; encouraged to adopt an “us and them” xenophobic outlook on life; and asked to be ready to lay down their lives for “God” (likened to the Al-Qaeda training their children to go to war – the camp leader draws this parallel herself).

Non-religious AND religious individuals should be concerned about what’s happening in these camps. If the Evangelical church is, like they state in the documentary, 80 million strong, the damage ultimately done could be quite devastating. The effects of this kind of child abuse on children in the years following the abuse can include: low self-esteem, depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, problems in school and work, delinquency, teen pregnancy, suicide attempts, criminal or antisocial behavior, substance abuse, aggressive behavior, relationship difficulties, and spousal and/or child abuse. And, unfortunately, the domino does not stop there. The dysfunction doesn’t just affect the person individually but the society as well. The implications for social welfare, healthcare, politics (think Mike Huckabee -dude doesn't believe in evolution) and foreign relations are staggering.

I wish I could end this blog entry with a suggested action item to counteract what is being done, but I’m at a loss. The only thing I can recommend is that you watch the documentary for yourself if you haven’t done so already, my reasoning being that “forewarned is forearmed.” And, of course, I welcome any related comments or suggestions from those reading.

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