So I’m now saving my discussion of teenhood with Jesus and leading kids to Christ for part three, just because it makes more linear sense – and there is a colossal amount to unpack.
Philosophising at Twelve
I begin with an excerpt from my 2016 blog post, The Beauty of Religion.
“The unraveling of my Christian faith began early last year, going into my final year of high school. I will say though that around age 15 I tried to leave the faith but was far too overwhelmed and scared to do so – due to the perceived effect I thought it might have on some of my friends and church community. On a related note, I recently stumbled across some emails between twelve-year-old me and a friend, about god. I was so intrigued by my doubtfulness about faith, even then. (I have omitted the friend’s responses for their privacy.)
22/08/2010 – 15:29
Wow… what am I talking about??? I am usually content with my life, but right now I feel horrible… Maybe we are wrong? Maybe there is no God. This sounds horrible and I feel bad. I can never share my feelings when I’m upset, because I don’t want other people to get sad as well. I’m not even making sense.
22/08/2010 – 17:51
But it’s frustrating, because I had it, and then I lost it. You have a point. But I can’t believe in something just because other people do. I have to find it for myself. Trust me, I’m looking, but I feel badly influenced in the opposite direction, because everyday I’m surrounded by non-Christians. Why has it all gone away? When will it come back?
Yep, twelve-year-old me had some pretty heavy reservations about the whole god concept. I am surprised by my articulation at that age, also! It’s amusing how melodramatic I sound, but I imagine at the time, these feelings were really significant and overwhelming. I have to wonder how my life would have been altered had I pulled out then and there and said nah, the whole Jesus thing isn’t for me aye. I probably would have cultivated different friends at high school, and been less uptight and closed off around matters of drinking, sex, drugs et cetera. More ‘worldly’, as one might put it.“
Going back through the archives, I found another excerpt from twelve year old me to the same person just today. (Again, omitting their responses for their privacy):
16/8/2010 – 16:21
Okay, this sounds horrible, but. Sudden realisation. My parents are CONTENT with their lives. They don’t need him. They don’t want me to try to change them. My parents had Christian upbringings and they both still ignored it. Isn’t that saying something? And yes, they talked me out of it..
My happy day has officially ended….
Wow. Depressing. For me and for you….
I really do appreciate your advice, and just being there in general.
Even when you are so far away!!
16/08/2010 – 17:04
I am wondering if you asked too many questions when you were my age.
I am also saying lol, Jesus shaped hole??? Okay.
TWO people asked me why I was so happy today. And so, I told them, the truth. They didn’t believe me??? WTF. Sorry, but I didn’t actually type it…
I am also thinking, is it seriously fine for me to ALWAYS come to you with these questions? I know you aren’t much older…
My parents bring me down… I wanted to send an email to Dad, then said no, too strong. WAY TOO STRONG. Cruel even??
I actually love how unfiltered I was; it is extraordinarily entertaining. Utterly inquisitive, melodramatic, free and entirely philosophical in thought. No wonder I ended up studying the philosophy of religion at university. What a whirlwind that has been. It has really allowed me to objectively analyse my childhood and adolescent experiences through a critical lens, as well as relate better to and have empathy alongside believers.
To twelve-year-old Abby, anxious and self-conscious that she is asking too many questions – please never stop asking questions. Learn to time them better, sure, and learn to direct them to relevant and interested audiences, absolutely. But don’t you ever stop, because this is precisely how you will eventually emancipate and heal yourself from your experiences. You are goddamn powerful, you hear me? Celebrate your weirdness at every opportunity, and pursue your truth – it’s your god given right 😉
God is Not a White Man
Whether you believe in god/s or not, I feel like pretty much every human can get behind the sentiment and underlying message of this waiata. I would have been introduced to it around 12-14 years old, and now, as a 22 year old, it’s nice to know that under the broad assumption that god actually even exists, they happen to love the little lesbian agnostic atheist and humanist I have evolved into.
I can still get behind this kaupapa/whakaaro:
Because whoever/whatever god(s) is – they sure as hell ain’t white, and they are probably not even gendered tbh. God shouldn’t be referred to in the masculine, imo. If we’re all made in the image of god, why is god a dude?
Jesus himself was a dark-skinned Jew, I mean hello. What is it with us Caucasians/white people and the white washing we have done throughout history? Completely obliterating indigenous narratives, cultural origins and histories and replacing them with violence, oppression and white saviour syndrome. Then, as the icing on the cake, some of us somehow want minorities to respect us more for what we’ve supposedly done for them? As a white person with privilege, I need to constantly be conscious of this, and I need to do better to call myself out sometimes.
Love them or loathe them – Hillsong Church know how to write worship music that appeals to the Pentecostal/Evangelical masses. They know how to write music that preaches to kids (Hillsong Kids), to teens (Hillsong Young & Free) and to Christians of all ages. Collating this playlist was a very very weird personal research project for me. On the one hand, some of the songs made me feel physically nauseous: particularly the ones aimed directly at kids. On the other hand though, there was this bizarre sense of joy bubbling up inside me and I had a weird urge to both sing along and recount the actions.
For many of the songs, despite having not visited them for 10+ years, I could remember the entire choreography. What the actual heck. Hmu for dance routines. Honestly, “Everyday”, “Happy Day” and “One Way” are apparently embedded in my psyche forever – might as well make the most of it 😉
Real talk though, many of the tracks on this playlist are nostalgic and remain beautiful to me, with themes that I can still relate to, even through a secular lens. All are tangled up with both joyful and painful memories, and all make up the soundtrack of my life as a Christian. There’s also something about anything Brooke Ligertwood (née Fraser) sings that keeps me hanging on every word. I wonder why, lel. Her persistently philosophical nature is masterfully woven throughout her lyricism; I admire that she is a truth seeker also.
Music is emotional, empathic and it moves people. Think about it: music can make you weep, remind you of people, places and things, make you sing along, grin uncontrollably, and make you hyped up to get on the piss. Music can uplift, it can depress, it can excite, and it can soothe and quiet the soul.
Writing Worship Music
Blimey Cow is a satire channel by two Christian dudes – I used to watch it as a Christian but they’re actually still kind of hilarious to me in a niche sorta way. Particularly chord progressions: major lol @ I-V-vi-IV and vi-IV-I-V 😉 Not mentioned is good ol’ I-IV-V-I: probably 50-60% of songs on the radio are built around this kind of chord structure. I fully just made up that percentage; don’t quote me on that.
I actually co-wrote a worship song when I was 16, at a Salvation Army creative arts camp. In many ways it was such a good time, and I gained heaps from the songwriting stream I was in. We got a little bit fancy with it and put the song in 6/8. My theoretical music knowledge at 16 was still pretty limited, so I mostly contributed lyrically. The chorus goes:
I will not wander Wander from the road You will always guide me You guide me Show me where to go
Dang, did I wander. But I feel like I then found my way back, sorta? While at first I wandered away from Christianity, explored other religions without assuming that my initial answer was the correct one, briefly dabbled in the New Atheists movement (extremely dogmatic), did a lot of philosophising, and then I was all like – “but Christianity as a whole, however flawed, does have significant merit”. Jesus is an absolute legend. And I mean that in terms of the fact that he is a great character of biblical history to aspire to emulate. He ain’t out here judging us. Well, at least in my interpretation. We all gotta figure it out for ourselves, don’t we?
Stay tuned for part three, where I’ll kōrero about leading kids to Christ, youth groups, teenhood with Jesus, unpack a little more about losing my faith.
Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds– Bob Marley