Blaming Parents For Their Children’s Actions

Whenever someone apostatizes and leaves the old paths, fundamentalists will inevitably assign someone the blame. There will be an informal postmortem, inquest, and a whispered placing of the blame on someone’s shoulders for having led this soul astray. More often than not the culpability is rested on the shoulders of the fundamentalist parents.

It is a strange contradiction that fundamentalists can at the same time believe that every man has free will but also that no child raised “properly” will ever stray from the fundy faith. It can’t have been that the fundamentalist movement was flawed or illogical or provoked this young person to wrath. No indeed, it’s much more likely that this rebellion was inspired by the way their parents spared the rod or allowed them to have Disney characters on their third grade lunch box.

For this reason, parents in the fundamentalist realm will often preach to their children not only the doctrines of separation and standards but also heap upon them the warning that if the child’s foot should stray that he will bring a reproach on his family’s honor that will never be removed. His father may lose his deaconship. His mother may lose her place on the women’s missionary committee. The family dog may even lose the right to frolic with more upright and holier dogs.

Train up  a child in the way that he should go and when he is old if he has departed from it we’ll definitely be blaming your parenting. (Unless, of course, you’re a pastor who is among the congregation of the blessed. Then we’ll be far too polite to mention it.)

71 thoughts on “Blaming Parents For Their Children’s Actions”

  1. This is so true. It seems to tie in with the concept of parents sending their kids to places like the Roloff homes to avoid the embarrassment of teenage rebellions (e.g. listening to rock music, having long hair, etc.).

  2. When I was in HS still at a Fundy school my Bible teacher, who later was dismissed probably for supporting this person, gave us books by Piper. I remember he played a sermon by Piper. I don’t remember the passage that the sermon was on, and I don’t really remember much else, but I do remember this part (I believe it was on Romans 1). He started talking about his children. He said that he prays for them daily. Now that didn’t surprise me, what did was what followed. So that they might be saved and bring honor to God. Both statements floored me. First that they would be saved? I thought, if the great preacher and man of God Piper can’t guarantee his children’s salvation who can? And secondly that they bring honor to God…what a revolutionary, yet obvious concept.

    Of course it didn’t take me long to figure things out. I soon realized that man does have a free will and no matter how good the parents are the children are free to choose as they see fit. This is only a problem for Fundy parents mostly because they take scripture too literally. But it has revolutionized how I plan to raise children. I know live in the knowledge that I can only do so much, and that what I should be proud of is different then what a fundy parent would be proud of. It also helps that I’m no longer in fundy land 😉

    The second is more apropos to this conversation. The glory should be to God not to my parents. But the emphasis in fundy groups is squarely on the parents. If all your children grow up to be pastors or missionaries than you will be honored and adored, but if one of your children goes through a “rebellious” stage on the way to becoming an adult, well you’ve failed as a parent.

  3. @Mark Yes, how often have we heard an intro for a pastor where we’re informed that all of his 7 children and 52 grandchildren are in full-time ministry and still standing strong in the faith — as if somehow he’s solely responsible.

  4. Darrell – So true. The only exception to this rule is when the parents of a rebellious child publicly announce that they are letting the child go. Essentially turning their back on them – releasing them into the arms of the world. This is the only way the parents can climb back into the good graces of their fundy church friends. Often times, when parents do this, they are then held up as something of a super christian or super saint. And will be revered amongst the brethern as “truly putting God first.” But they can’t be phony about this, slipping their kid money on the side for rent or anything. They’ve got to cut the child off completely. The worse off their kid ends up, the more spiritual they appear among their friends. That’s what makes it so hard for teens and young adults to move out, and spread their own wings and challenge fundy-ism. Because they’ve basically got to pick their freedom over the only life and parents they’ve ever known- knowing they may never see them again or be welcome in their home. I had a professor at Moody who’s kid went through this and eventually ended committing suicide. He was back in the pulpit and at school within a week, preaching about how he and his wife did everything and his kid basically got her due. It’s so messed up.

  5. Ouch. This one hurts, but I have seen it happen multiple times. One reason fundamentalist parents are so paranoid is that they know the stakes are much higher than for most people. Their standing in the fundamentalist community is on the line.
    A related phenomenon is this: the fact that all of a pastor’s children are preachers/preacher’s wives serves as vindication of his ministry. (Never minding the fact that a famous last name is a sure-fire ticket to a cushy job in IFBdom.)

  6. Spot on. Even as a kid the story of Jesus healing the man born blind (“who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should have been born blind?”) gave me pause for this very reason.

  7. Of course this only applies to people below the manahgawd. When I was at Jonestown Bobby the fourth was busted for drinking and was expelled from school. Supposedly the third said he would step down but all the good pawns “convinced” him to stay. Of course his parents never turned their back on him and he ended up going to Notre Dame. As much as they hate Catholics, it makes me smile to this day.

  8. This hits SO close to home it isn’t funny! All my life I grew up with “anything you do is a reflection of us (your parents)”… so whenever I got caught doing anything, it wasn’t about the consequences it would have for me, but how it was going to affect my dad’s reputation. It’s funny, my husband and I were JUST talking about this last night.

    I have to admit, this kind of philosophy kept me out of a lot of trouble, because I was scared of the wrath of my dad. It also does sort of teach a lesson about how we (as God’s children) can make Him look bad. I just think it’s something that started as a good principle but got taken WAYYYYYYYYYYYY too far.

  9. I don’t remember how many times I would get caught doing something and would be guilted with “maybe your mother should resign” from teaching or Dad should stop his odd church plant attempt (long long long painful story). Using the looming career catastrophe for your parents due to your behavior is just disaster waiting to happen. But I can see why it happens when people working in these schools/churches know the consequences of a kid seen as too far “out of line”.

  10. This is really hilarious because it’s so very true.

    I especially appreciate the line: “(Unless, of course, you’re a pastor who is among the congregation of the blessed. Then we’ll be far too polite to mention it.)”

    I am the son of a IFB pastor here in GA, and after a pretty traumatic childhood in IFB schools (including 2 years @ BJU) and churches, I’m an openly gay Unitarian Universalist. Dad’s church isn’t one of the IFB “power-houses” but my family lives in their shadow and to a certain extent, under their influence. My Dad’s immediate congregation has been “gracious?” in reference to the son that has “strayed.” But there are definitely other “more important” fundamentalists that have all but “broken fellowship” with them.

  11. Sheesh, Dave Hyles, son of Jack Hyles, seduced adolescent girls in the youth group at FBCH for years when he was there. He was named the prime suspect in the suspicious death of Brent Stevens, his live-in lovers son. He was into porn and group sex. He got fired from Miller Road Baptist Church for rampant sexual misconduct. Wanna see a fundy’s fur stand up on his back? just say that Jack was responsible for having let his sociopathic son get away with sin.

    Jeff Owens’ son Jeremiah was finally sent off to prison for statutory rape. (He’s probably out by now.) Jeremiah doesn’t value anybody anywhere, for any reason. Ever heard his father preach? Jeff Owens calls women sluts and whores for wearing slacks. He has advocated beating up gays, and he has forbidden white women from dating black guys. He called kids in his congregation “thumb suckin mamma’s boys.” And his son Jeremiah is a devil: statutory rape, multiple instances, and burglary.

    It’s true that decent people can raise kids who go wrong. But devils also raise devils, and that’s when the fundies look the other way. If a big name preacher raises a devil, his only sin is that “he loved his son too much.”

  12. Man, that Jeremiah Owens story is really sad. I feel bad for him.

    I wonder if his dad ever showed him love or was it all just the rod?

  13. My mother constantly lets me know her frustration on “why you didn’t come out right when I taught/trained you right?” She seems to think that if somone knows what’s right and wrong, he or she will automatically do the right thing. Always.

    I was the perfect angel growing up. Always did what I was told, rarely disobeyed and always aimed to please. It wasn’t till I was 19 and “discovered the world” that I was told I was a failure as a daughter. Yes, I made some poor choices. Who doesn’t at 19? You live and you learn. But according to her, “if you know better, you won’t do it.” That’s not how it works. 1+1 does not always =2. You teach your kids and you hope and pray they will do the right thing. But everyone makes mistakes. That’s how you learn and grow. Because I haven’t “turned out the way she wanted” we have virtually no relationship. She thinks all I do is get drunk and do drugs, which is absolutely not true. She is still hightly offended over the things I have done in the past and still holds it against me. She refuses to let my brother stay at my place because “she doesn’t like the way I’m living”. I rarely ever talk to her because it always turns into a fight. For this I hate the fundy ways, hate all the fundy pastors, churches and people who have disillusioned her into thinking that way. They have robbed my of my mother.

  14. I laugh because I have reconnected with many of the kids I went to church with as a child and practically none are still IFB; many want nothing to do with God.

  15. Ok, I don’t laugh because many want nothing to do with God, that makes me sad. But I know that most of these ‘rebellious ‘ kids had a very strict and ‘proper’ upbringing.

  16. Don’t forget the variant of this theme. ‘Leave fundamentalism. Lose your kids.’
    When we left fundamentalism, our kids blossomed. Our home is a place of joy now. All have stated that they are trusting God.

  17. @Jordan Maria

    “She seems to think that if somone knows what’s right and wrong, he or she will automatically do the right thing. Always.”

    Yes, but even this is disillusioned. In the fundy world not only will you always do “the right thing”, but that “right thing” is what they deem to be the right thing. IOW if I don’t think it is right it is therefore not the right thing. This makes for an ever changing, expanding line that exists only in her head or in the head of the IFB pastors. Going to a Christian university is absolutely the “right thing to do.” So the person who doesn’t do that is cast off. But then it may change once you are at the Christian school. For instance if you are an ed major then it is expected or may I say, “the right thing to do” to teach in the Christian schools. The person who teaches in the public schools didn’t do the “right thing.”

    It is an especially difficult standard to meet when you are just expected to “do the right thing.” Fortunately my parents realized that I am doing the right thing, and they’ve seen for themselves that it is. So they’ve come around, but for many the “right thing” is whatever they made up in their head…or worse yet whatever was planted in their head by sermons or counseling from their pastor.

  18. My mom once asked me why I don’t get a job as a bartender. I told her that I had thought about it but decided not to because of how it would reflect on her and my dad at their Baptist church…as well as potentially costing my dad his job.

    Don’t know if I made the right decision or not. But honoring parents was a good call.

  19. So we look in the Bible for how to raise our children, see the words of wisdom and techniques that biblical parents use, and then we look at their kids…especially David’s and Solomon’s…and I start to wonder why we should be emulating their “wisdom” if that is their fruit?

    Oh darn, here comes the inerrancy argument again…

  20. @ StuartB You have to remember in Fundyland they have the “Perfect World” button and as long as you reside in the Bubble or the Bunker then you are covered by the “Perfect World” Canopy. Unless that is, you are an “Achan” and you have squirrelled away something for youself or there is some tithe you have horded away for a family vacation or not given in order to pay a bill…. If you are right in the m-o-g’s eyes then all is right in Fundyland.

  21. There were children who were raised “properly” by parents I used to go to church(pentocostal) with. Those children seemed rather sweet and adorable but when they got older……that’s when the sh*t broke loose! In almost every family came horror stories of abandoned newborns, adultery and drugs. In almost every family there were incredible examples of kids who grew up and rebeled in really major ways! In one particular family, a couple had a really nice daughter who grew up in god’s love and had three children, each by a different husband all by the time she reached 25. With each newborn, she would march home, deposit the child with her parents and move on to the next victim(husband) she could find. What amazes me is that the parents never figured in to how wrong it was to introduce(force) religion to their young daughter. It was the devil’s work…..of course. When I was told of this story by my Mother, I responded by saying that I wondered how things could go so terribly wrong. My Mother said: “what do you mean? Their daughter is born-again and saved……unlike you, who left the church and are back-slidden”.

    Religion should not ever be forced on children…..ah hell, it would be a great idea to keep adults away from religion too!

  22. Wow…this reminds me of a family in an old church. After 3 years, the dad put his foot down and told his daughter she was never to see the love of her life again. She “rebelled” by “running away” and eventually marrying the boy a month or so later against the dad’s wishes. As a result of the disgrace this brought to the family, the father stepped down as Asst. Pastor of the church. It was quite the scandal and according to the head freak, I mean Pastor, the only way the Asst. Pastor could have his position back was if the daughter apologized to the entire congregation. Did I mention, the girl was TWENTY FIVE YEARS OLD when this took place? OY VEY!

  23. @SickOfFundies I suspect dad was put up to the “putting the foot down” trick by the Sr Freak? Unknown? I could see it being his own idea too, but you just never know in fundyland. The Sr Freaks don’t mind crossing any boundary.

  24. @Ken

    Not sure what that means…

    We never see Jesus rebelling, instead He submitted His will to His Father’s.

  25. @ Soli Deo Gloria, I think Ken meant Adam and Eve. In a perfect garden with a perfect God to talk with, they chose to disobey Him.

    I think too of the Father of the Prodigal Son. He was loving and merciful, but his youngest son was, well, a prodigal, and his oldest was unloving and resentful. Good parents don’t always produce good kids.

  26. perfect description of a situation going on close to me right now. “how dare you bring us such shame by wanting to have a choice in what you do, where you go, and how you act! you’re only 19 for mercy sake! Children your age should only be making decisions like “what should I drink? distilled water, or purified water” Love the post bro!

  27. Blame the parents used to be a popular theme in the 50s and 60s, even in strictly secular circles. Mothers made sons gay, and of course wives made men cheat. Oh, wait, it was just women who were blamed. Sorry, I’ve been trying to forget.

  28. @Jordan Maria

    I know exactly what you mean. I waited until I was 22 to leave, simply because I did’t feel like I had it in me to leave everything that was familiar.

    I’m 23 now and on the church’s prayer list. When people ask about me, she just tells them I’m working in another state because she thinks it’s so shameful to have a pants-wearing daughter who’s in the military. If I call the topic of conversation quickly turns to how I need to come back to God. Did I mention that I still go to church regularly? But somehow if it’s not IFB it’s of satan.

    It upsets me. The two people who I most wanted to love and be proud of me think I’m evidence of their failure.

    I’m lucky though- I have a mother-in-law who bought a ‘my daughter is in the Air Force’ bumper sticker the day I got engaged and has acted like a mom ever since. She’s been more of a support for me than my biological parents.

  29. How sad to see the broken relationships between parents and children, all over a religion whose main tenant is supposed to be love.

  30. I have a truce with my parents. They do not ask too much about me and I do not tell them. My brother does not talk to me or answer my letters. He is more of a fundy than my parents though. It is too bad. I am excited about where I am and what is going on in my life and I would love to be able to share that with them.

  31. This is a tricky question.

    Of course, good parenting doesn’t guarantee “good kids” and bad parenting doesn’t guarantee bad kids, and yes, everyone is responsible for their own decisions before God.

    However… fundy parents’ “parenting” frequently drives children from God and promotes their falling off the deep end.

    The real sad part is that fundy parents think they’re parenting well. But really, they are more in love with their reputation than with their kids. They’re more concerned about control than nurturing. They say they care about the heart but truly care about outward behavior.

    So yes. When I see a fundy kid go nuts, I place a hefty portion of the blame on the parents. But not for the reasons they think.

  32. What amazes me is that even after most of the kids have gone astray, the parents still insist that the only right way to rear their grandchildren is the way they reared their own children. Does that make any logical sense?!?

  33. @ Elizabeth, I’ve seen it with my parents and how they view my kids. Actually my dad just told me it wasn’t worth putting my 9 year old in Christian school because it “would be like pouring money down a rat-hole.” I love how all those years of reading the KJV have really filled his heart with mercy, compassion, and hope. (sarcasm)

  34. I believe that this is the most destructive consequence of all things Fundy and especially its false doctrine child-rearing mentality.

    I completely agree with Fundy Under Duress. This was exactly the case in the Baptist Taliban church that we left 10 years ago.

    Those kids who were brought up so carefully, distinctively and militantly IFB saw through the hype and not only did their parents lose credibility with them, but so did their parent’s faith.

    We were among ‘those parents’ but would not go so far as to choose the church over our relationship with our kids. I am so thankful that we didn’t. We have been rewarded many times over for what we left in more ways than I can enumerate here because of that decision.

  35. @ Cindy …you inspire hope… that in time down the road it will not so much resemble a train wreck…. and life can thrive outside the fundy bunker.

  36. When my husband’s mother left her IFB husband because she was sick of the way he was acting toward her and the kids, I really saw my father-in-law’s true colors. He turned into a sadistic bastard who never had a kind word to say about anyone, even his own kids. He practically threw his own kids away and married a cow of a preacher’s daughter from the IFB church with three kids of her own (whose husband had left her because he couldn’t take the IFB church anymore, either). And he was doing such a NOBLE thing by marrying HER and caring for HER kids while ignoring his own. For years the only time my boyfriend heard from his father was when he wanted his computer fixed.

    Of course once my now father-in-law found out what a money-grubbing, vain, snobby, uptight BITCH this woman really was THEN he wanted to repair the relationship with his sons! I keep reminding my husband of how he used to act at every opportunity because I don’t want him to let his guard down so his father can crap on him again. And my husband has long ago stopped trying to get me to feel sorry for my father-in-law by telling me how miserable he is in his current marriage, since I always say “He got what he wanted, let him live with it.” (Sometimes in not-so-polite terms.)

    I thank God that I have good non-IFB parents that have always been there to support me. Things got a little rough, especially with my father, but I think that was more along the lines that every parent and child go through when the child starts to realize that they are an adult and wants to be treated like one.

  37. Yes, this hits home a little hard. I was there at BJU when BJIV did his stuff. No doubt BJIII offered to step down since he had fired or threatened faculty and staff for less than what his own son did. My dad got a little note from BJIII threatening his job a couple of years before this incident happened. And I had done nothing wrong. Just a ridiculous situation that I was never able to fully explain–and for Pete’s sake–I was in 7th or 8th grade. What the heck? So thankful that my children and grandchildren are attending public schools where they are dealt with fairly when they transgress and where you can pick up the phone and call the police when illegal things happen.

  38. Oh, and my church in Greenville, SC had an elder (or deacon–can’t remember which) whose son decided he was gay before this guy was elected to the position. Of course, that didn’t factor into the man’s qualifications–everyone was much too kind to mention anything about it–if they even knew. But the main reason it didn’t matter was because this man was apparently fairly wealthy. So rules don’t apply when you have money.

  39. This attitude is so pervasive, that the parents assign blame to themselves. When I came out, it was all “Where did we go wrong, what did we do, what could we have done better?” etc., etc. And I told them, “This has nothing to do with you or how you raised me.” But they went the whole “cut off the rebel” route, including helping the church to “deliver him to Satan” and all. So they’re probably safe in fundyland.

    1. deliver him to Satan

      I read this this morning, and I’ve been reeling about it every since. What? If you needed proof that something was a cult, there it is. That is nothing short of paganism.

      I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve heard enough from their pastor to know that he preaches another gospel.

      I’m sorry, Dave. I really, really am. I can’t imagine the sting. I’m so very sorry.

  40. Fundy parents in my experience are souless, to the core. Sociopathic, their kids are objects, nothing more. Creepy, distant, shallow, empty people and their kids are either broken hearted and damaged beyond repair or they become equally sociopathic, learning how to play the game at an early age. As a kid who got away, being with my mother is nothing short of being in the presence of evil. And I rarely use such hyperbolic language. Not just her, but all of the parents I grew up around in fundy land. I mean it, evil.

  41. I wonder if this ‘don’t rebel because it will reflect on me’ attitude is actually a catalyst for rebellion?

  42. I actually still worry about how my parents church would react if I was to do something, with my dad being an elder and all. I heard at one point that adult kids actions were a part of their consideration for continuing to be an elder, or in service to the church. Dunno if it’s still the same now, but it still scares me a little that whatever I do of my own will out away from them could still harm their relationship with the church.

  43. @diachenko very sorry to hear that. All the stories of parents that would choose IFB over their kids are enraging, but it happens every day somewhere. Down w/ fundamentalism. smh.

  44. I have been members of two local fundamental churches. I will say, not all fundamentalist churches are “you’re going to hell if….” and no church is not without its flaws. The problem stems from living by rules rather than by principle. Most of the families in which one or more children left the church, the parents were deemed good parents because they adhered to the strict policies of the church. Not one of those homes emphasized a good relationship between parent and child.

    If being a Christian means having a relationship with our heavenly Father, shouldn’t the earthly parent/child relationship be crucial as well? While one’s sin cannot be blamed on others, no man is an island. He is influenced by those around him, including his parents. The Bible warns of those who, when they fall, have no one to help them up. In many churches today, when any member of the congregation stumbles into sin, as we of human nature are prone to do, rather than lovingly being encouraged in the Lord, they are humiliated and hoplessly ridiculed until they “change their ways.” I don’t see Jesus acting in this fashion anywhere in the Bible. He was always gentle with everyone but the Pharisees and Saducees, the pompous “know-it-all” leaders of the church.

    The key is communication. Discover where the heart of the child lies and determine the cause of his/her actions. Misinterpreting actions has been a great reason why many of my former churchmates have left the church. A “sinful act” is not always an act of rebellion. I have observed often times that it is generally due to curiosity or simply being in the heat of the moment. Most often though, rebellion grows when children are not told why their parents believe what they do. I’m not sure the parents always know. So many of them are lemmings and do whatever the pastor says. I personally believe rules should have a purpose and their purpose made clear at an age when they can be understood. Obviously a two-year-old is not going to have the same understanding as a twelve-year-old, but isn’t that a part of teaching? Laying out rules and expecting underlings to follow is not teaching but rather dictating. Teaching is so much more involved. The main goal of a parent should be to show their children who God is and to teach them to be an independent thinker who can make decisions for themselves.

    I still hold myself to be a fundamentalist in that I believe the Bible to be fundamental in building a relationship with God; however, I no longer hold to many of the fundamentalist standards held near doctrine in many churches. I wear pants. I listen to whatever music I want. I go to movies. Amazingly enough, I can still serve God.

  45. What’s so sad is that the church is supposed to be the family of God. A family (a good, healthy one, anyway) is not supposed to cast out or shame members, but instead is supposed to support and encourage and love everyone in the family.

    It’s sad what a poor reflection of God the church can be sometimes.

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