Raised Right: Missing Childhood

Today’s look at Alisa Harris’s book, “Raised Right:  How I Untangle My Faith from Politics” continues to look at chapter seven.  The underlying theme of this chapter — which I did not adequately explain in last week’s post, leaving my criticisms somewhat without the necessary context — is about how Ms. Harris’s conservative upbringing focused so much on politics that it consumed her whole identity and her relationships with other people.  I touched upon a similar phenomenon when I wrote about fundamentalist identity over at Confessions of a Former Conservative[1].  As such, I can identify with a lot of what Ms. Harris talks about in this chapter, though under slightly different conversations.

Harris speaks in the first paragraph of how her political leanings set her apart from many of her peers:

And while they were e-mailing one another about boys and fingernail polish, I was assuming the mantle of e-champion, which required two things of me:  an e-mail address to receive daily Bush campaign emails and the indefatigable conviction that I must forward to everyone I knew.

While I talked about how fundamentalist identity can consume one’s entire identity, I had not considered discussing how it echoes Ms. Harris’s own experience as described above.  Not only does such an identity consume a person, but it often becomes something that completely separates them from others.  In many ways, I imagine this is intentional, as fundamentalist and other conservative Christians find it important to identify themselves as separate from other people who are still “of the world.”  As such, this obsession with in-group activities to the detriment to other interests that one might have in common with their peers becomes an important sacrificial act demonstrating one’s “insider” status.

This is particularly troubling when one is young, as Ms. Harris notes that young conservative Christians — and I’d add fundamentalist Christians regardless of political involvement — tend to act like adults and associate more with adults.  There’s a certain sense where “fighting the good fight” becomes so important that simple things like expressing an interest in boys or girls, popular culture, and other things, which ultimately can rob such youth of their childhood.

I’ve often looked back at my own youth — and even my college years — and wished I had them to live them over.  I find that because I was so focused on being the perfect Christian, I put a lot of my personal development — especially emotional development — on hold.

When I finally addressed these areas of my life, I found myself trying to work through things in an adult world.  I found myself learning social skills and emotional coping techniques while holding down a job and acting like a responsible adult, as opposed to having the luxury of working through these things while still being able to rely more on my parents and having far less responsibilities.

This is one of the “holes” or distortions that Ms. Harris alludes to in this chapter of those whose politics become the whole of their identity.  It’s one that I felt she should have explored more.
 
Note:
[1]  As an aside, let me said that I’m quite pleased that Former Conservative has managed to rejoin the ranks of bloggers everywhere.  We missed you while you were silent, guy.

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