Revivalism: an Amendment

I listened to my thoughtful critics. As a result I now believe I went too far with my post yesterday about revivalism. I do not want to suggest that the abuse was in any way similar to the horrific abuse suffered by indigenous people in Canada at the hands of the residential school system. They are too different to compare and I do not want to trivialize the suffering of indigenous people. As a result I unequivocally withdraw that part of my remarks. I will amend my post on my blog accordingly.

However I do not retract my comments about Mennonite parents and other elders who hired professional America preachers to manipulate their youth often with gross appeals to emotions like fear. I  believe this was an example, among many, of powerful people, (in this case Mennonite parents, elders, and preachers) who exploited the weakness and vulnerability of young children and adults in order to impose a set of values on the young people. I consider what they did abuse. Not on the level of residential schools, but still significant abuse.

I know that most Mennonite parents thought they were doing the right thing. To that extent they meant well in what I believe was a seriously misguided way. They were not trying to harm their children. However I believe that they did.

I want to explore this subject further on this blog and would invite comments from my readers who disagree with me. Please give me the benefit of your comments.

2 thoughts on “Revivalism: an Amendment

  1. Hi John. I wonder if ‘abuse’ now covers such a large patch of human failures that the definition of the word is becoming meaningless. ‘Victim’ is another word like that. Too many ‘victims’ out there. Since every generation of parents has been tasked with the responsibility of raising children…..every generation has been required to teach their children values to the best of their ability. Which values? The only answer can be ‘those values that inform each generation of parents’. Rightly or wrongly….it’s all any of us have got ….and those values are seldom enough. They consist of what we have inherited….good and bad.They consist of what we have been able or unable, for various reasons, to challenge and to change for the better. Perhaps fear has incapacitated us. Perhaps cognitive limitations or lack of access to education has restricted some sort of evolution of values. Perhaps emotional overload due to excessive survival needs depleted generations of parental capacity and limited their reach for more ‘enlightened’ values. Whatever the reason, each generation of parents has inevitably hurt their children. It is perhaps just a matter of degree. To call it ‘abuse’ may be an overstatement. Each culture likely has similar stories of parental hurt. It’s not just the Mennonites. I haven’t met too many people who have had a perfect childhood…whether religious or not. Both ‘parenting’ and ‘growing up’ are challenging…and painful…experiences. Of course they are also wonderful and enlightening and joyous experiences….not much different than any other relationships (marriage, friendships, work relationships, civic relationships, international relationships.) Every relationship is incomplete and there is Sturm und Drang in all of them and they all pinch many times. Therein is their value. As humans, we seem to need a certain degree of discomfort to grow and evolve….like a butterfly struggling out of her cocoon so she can be free to fly. It’s a fine balance between having enough stress to grow vs having so much that it crushes us. Each generation…each person must figure that out… and individually or collectively…. draw a line in the sand and say to their fellow human being ‘There’s the line. You may not cross it.’ To call the participants of that difficult journey towards maturity (moral, spiritual, individual or collective) …’abusive’… does not serve us well. Yes, we have hindsight and can agree that according to ‘today’s understandings’….our parents (Mennonite or otherwise) had some values that created a high degree of stress in their children. We likely did the same to our children. We should be allowed to share our pains and to say loudly and clearly, ‘Ouch!! That hurts!! Stop.!’ We can also stand up and say that apologies and restitution may be in order. To dwell on it forever and to create a whole mental construct around that pain and call it ‘abuse’ does not serve us well. Parents are not ‘taking advantage of their children’s vulnerabilities and manipulating their thinking.’ They are trying to teach them in the only way they know how. Motive is important in this discussion….regardless of end results. If end results include anger, distress, and emotional fall-out…. well, that’s life and it truly sucks. However, rather than wrap these outcomes in a sinister brown paper package and label them ‘abuse’… and thereby become a ‘victim’…. we all have the choice and ability to harvest all that these parental shortcomings offer: forgiveness, compassion, greater insight, better parenting for our own children, social justice, respect, etc. There seems to be ever so much more spiritual ‘nourishment’ and ‘healing’ in understanding and forgiving each other’s shortcomings rather than in stirring the pot of past parental failure. It may all be grist for the mill when you need a good topic for a blog or want to write a good book that promotes a particular soap box (well-known authors whose identity is wrapped up in needing to critique their early cultural experiences, i.e. a lot of Mennonite authors)….but sometimes it does get a bit much. 🙄 I’m not Mennonite may I nevertheless say that no culture has a corner on having screwed up their kids. Always enjoy your writing, John. 😊 Nell

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