Yes, I Brainwash My Children And So Do You. So Do It Well

By Joel Hess

Time and time again I hear a friend say with complete sincerity, “I don’t want to force my kids to go to church,” or, “I want my kids to choose what they want to believe in.”  They brag about it as if it’s a badge of honor and an enlightened sign of good parenting. 

We flippantly believe that we live in a postmodern age, yet this common attitude among Generation X parents has more in common with the modern or even early enlightenment age than Nietzsche or Warhol. Contrary to what some knee jerk conservatives preach, the postmodern age has blessed our culture with a couple timeless truths (yes, I recognize the ironic juxtaposition of truth and postmodern). One mantra of postmodernism is that it is impossible to NOT be brainwashed in our culture. It is impossible to not have or receive biases from parents etc. Everything a parent says or does AND everything she doesn’t say or do fills her little sponges with biases! Ugh!

By not making their kids go to church, let alone failing to teach them the faith, parents are teaching them something quite clear about church and Christianity! Even if mom teaches her child about every religion in the world and concludes, “you make the choice”, she is catechizing her student. One might even say that a parent is forcing their child not to be a Christian by allowing them to “make their own choice.”

Of course, I praise God every day, I was given no choice in the matter! Instead God chose me, forgiving my sins, giving me new life, freeing me of the old, and yes, brainwashing me to see things as He sees them.

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In the end we are all brainwashed. Whether purposely or inadvertently, all flesh is catechized! We are not born blank slates contrary to the cute meme that is going around portraying two toddlers of different races hugging with the caption, “hate is taught.” Yeah right. Have you actually hung out with more than one toddler?

We are born with darkened hell bent souls, brains, and hearts. That’s not just Holy Scripture, that’s science. No child looks at the world from some blessed neutrality. Our instincts repel against love, peace, and God. All of us, from Mother Teresa to St. Paul, were born haters of Christianity. We needed our brains washed, freed, by Christ through His church.

Everyone has been brainwashed, taught about life, God, etc. All people from every tribe, ethnicity and language are militantly catechized by someone in one way or another. The question then comes down to – who brainwashed you? The One who died and rose again? Or someone with less stellar credentials?

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Sadly, many Christian parents don’t quite get it. Yes, they bring their kids to church services. Great. They bring them even to extra events such as youth group, confirmation class, etc. Fantastic! God does His thing through His Word, period!

However, parents forget that they are an important part of the brainwashing. No of course they don’t have do it all. However, by not teaching their kids the faith at home, even a simple devotion and prayer, they are teaching their kids something about the faith – it only matters in a particular place and time. They will learn that pastors are supposed to take Christ and His gifts seriously, but not others. They will learn that in the “real” world Jesus is just a spectator. They will learn from the parents the opposite of what they learn from Jesus. They may grow up even saying, “my parents forced me to go to church so I don’t go now.” They will say that because the Christian faith felt like a place you have to go to, versus a reality in which mom and dad clung to Christ every day. It isn’t universities or T.V.s that are primarily causing twenty somethings to leave the church; it is parents who fail to teach their kids or even let them see the real life meaning of the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection, and a God who loves them.

Yes, I brainwash my kids. So do you. So do it well.

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4 thoughts on “Yes, I Brainwash My Children And So Do You. So Do It Well

  1. “Brainwashing” seems to work on some people, probably almost everyone to some degree. By controlling information dissemination and limiting it to a particular perspective, overcoming initial questioning or objections by the hearer, we indeed can shape or program children…..and young and old alike. However, a portion of the human species, the insolent ones, the contrary types, the resistors and the free thinkers usually stand up at some point…even in spite of intimidations, rejection, parental or peer disdain. I have seen preacher’s children raised in the church community, trained in the ways of the faith, turn away. As in the Bible, you see references to OT Israel, where a King ” walked in the way of God” and a page or two later you read about his son, his successor, ” who did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not walk in the ways of his father.” Brainwashing or better said “training” does not succeed in the way of Christian indoctrination unless the Holy Spirit is present in guiding and nurturing.

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  2. Hahahahaha! Well put.

    My 50’s have become a time of reflection on myself, my life, my parenting, my career, and my faith and this little essay sums it up nicely. I am of the “forced to go to church” generation. But growing up I loved my faith (LCMS) and loved my God, and knew, KNEW that Jesus loved me this I know…

    But, there was no faith at home, it was confined to Sundays and Thursdays. Regarding switching from communion twice a month to every week my father’s response was, “we don’t need it that often we’re not that bad.” So much for “by nature sinful and unclean.” When my older sister and her fiancé lived together my parents conspired to hide this from the pastor who would not marry them. Which I processed as, “none of this really matters.”

    On my own in a big liberal university I followed the crowd, or the mob, rejecting most that was good and revering much of what was bad. In that environment the worst of things became the best of things.

    Fortunately for me the faith of the little girl inside me never died. But, my biggest regret is that I did not provide my son the same opportunity for childhood faith. He is baptized and went through ELCA confirmation, and I did as a small measure of catechesis ALWAYS look up verses and passages in the Bible to find the context whenever someone was bandying about the Bible as underpinning any argument. But still… He sees faith as something put on, an affectation, and an antiquated one at that.

    I recognize that it is that child’s faith that has kept me alive during dark times and I see him, and his generation going through dark times without it and find it no surprise that suicide has found such a foothold with them.

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