This post was originally featured on SFL in December 2008
Fundamentalist children who were born after 1954 may recognize these words…
“Ranger Bill, Warrior of the Woodland, struggling against extreme odds, traveling dangerous trails, fighting the many enemies of nature. This is the job of the guardian of the forest, Ranger Bill. Pouring rain, freezing cold, blistering heat, snows, floods, bears, rattlesnakes, mountain lions. Yes, all this in exchange for the satisfaction and pride of a job well done.”
Ranger Bill was just one of a host of children’s radio programs that began in the 1950’s and continue to be rebroadcast to the present day. Keys for Kids with Uncle Charlie, Story Time with ‘Aunt B’, Uncle Bob’s Nature Corner…the list goes on and on.
These radio programs taught lessons such as the evils of lying, stealing, television, gambling and other various and sundry moral ills while accompanied by the dramatic effects of an electric organ that would do any soap opera proud.
Don’t knock it. For fundy kids, Saturday mornings around the radio were some of the happiest times of the week.
And when it shall come to pass that thy loins shall have born fruit and that the size of thy household shall greatly increase that then shalt thou heed the words of the commandments concerning how thy children shall behave when there’s anybody watching. And of the church and the restaurant and of the grocery store thou shalt strike into thy child a great fear and overwhelming dread for in these places thy children’s behavior shall be as thy own testimony as a parent and everyone is watching.
Beware, for in that day when it shall come to pass that they child shall be loud or whine or be in any way stubborn in resisting thy commands then shall the entire world know that thou are a BAD PARENT and thy shame shall be upon thee. For nobody in the real world has ever had one of their own children act up or misbehave or talk back and they shall in anywise believe that thou art not a true Christian and thy testimony of the tract thou shalt hand them shall be ruined and their eternal soul shall be forever lost. And what’s worse, if thou art a missionary family you might lose support.
And so shalt thou do, that thou shalt take unto thyself a rod or a board, or a wooden spoon and thou shalt keep it in thy car so that thou mayest invite thy child to “go have a talk in the car” with thee if she shall misbehave.But thou shalt in anywise keep the secret of thy discipline from the public for when Child Protective Services gets involved, things becometh yea verily a mess. So shalt thy hide the implements of destruction from plain sight and only thou and thy children shall know what pain lieth in wait for them if they screw up.
And if someone shall enquire as to the secret of how thy eight children doth sit quietly without speaking at thy local Denny’s then shalt thou simply smile and say “We try to raise our children to glorify God” and forgo to mention exactly how that works. For of the making of sausages and of always perfectly behaved children people may like the result but they never really want to know the process of how they are made.
Independent Baptist Book of Everlasting Rules and Requirements, p 95
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 upÂ 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.)