Here's the link for Rebecca's full interview. As I watched, it brought many thoughts to my mind.
First, I was very thankful that Rebecca took the time to do the interview and that she was willing to share some of her personal life on national television. It would not be easy to be so exposed, especially knowing that it would likely invite criticism and judgment. Not everyone would be brave enough to do that. Also, I see enough clues in the interview to tell me that Rebecca is hurt by the broken relationship with her family, just as they are. I pray that their relationship can be healed and restored.
Now on to the interview, beginning with thoughts that specifically deal with mainstream Christianity.
Experiences in the Christian Faith
At about 2:17, Rebecca is talking about her experience with mainstream Christianity. She says,
"I had left church because I felt like no church could provide me with answers to questions I had about the Bible. No church was able to provide a community even though my whole life I grew up under my parents’ nurturing and care and love, and they promoted Christianity, but I never felt satisfied in any of the other churches that I attended."And then a bit later at 3:00, she says,
"The Church of God is what became my home of faith where all the answers to my questions to the Bible were given, and I was able to realize truly my purpose. It was my absolute happiness."I have heard feelings like this from others who have left the Christian church, and not just World Mission Society Church of God members. Sometimes they find answers in another religion, or sometimes they leave religion entirely.
I did not grow up in a church environment, but I have visited a great many churches as an adult Christian. Denominations and particular congregations have personalities, like people do. Some focus on heavily on Bible study and application, others not so much. Some are good at fostering community and connections, others not so much. Some have approachable leadership, others not so much. There are fantastic Christian churches out there who will answer your questions and provide a community. You only have to find them.
It's also up to the individual to do their part. I love the church I'm at now where there are available in-depth Bible studies and activities that help us feel connected to each other and the larger community. However, if a person did not make the effort to get involved, but just showed up to service once a week, they might not feel spiritually satisfied. They should step up and take responsibility for their walk of faith.
Comments like Rebecca's should also make us Christians examine our own church congregations. Is your church a "not so much" church? If so, help fix it. Is there someone at your church who seems to need a deeper connection to God and the church community? Encourage them and show them how they can get involved. Don't wait for them to find community and "answers" (false ones) at a place like the WMSCOG.
Raising Children in the Christian Faith
Related to experiences in the Christian faith, I was interested in Rebecca's response to the question about if she had "a religious childhood" at about 15:58,
"They took us to church. They, my parents they took me and my brothers to church. I know for my mom, she grew up Catholic but decided not to follow that as she became an adult even though her parents continued in Catholicism. And I’m not sure my dad’s upbringing, but they decided to bring us up together just going to the community church. I don’t, I don’t think it really had a denomination. It was just a Christian church that worshiped on Sunday."I don't know Rebecca's family personally, so I am not placing any judgment or blame on them with the following comments. I only know that these few words sparked thoughts in me about my own family. I took this as a warning to myself as a Christian parent. I want to raise my children to have a deep and meaningful relationship with God. To do that takes purposeful communication and action.
If my children grow up and don't know the denomination of the church they have been attending all their young lives (even if it is "non-denominational"), something is wrong. Deuteronomy 11:19 tells us to teach our children and make our faith an everyday part of our conversations. If we consider our faith important, we should be teaching it to our children. Granted the teachings of Christianity are more important than the specific denomination name, but they should still know it.
If they grow up not knowing the faith history of their own mom and dad, whom they have lived with all their young lives, something is wrong. Good communication in our family includes sharing our family history because that is important to our identity. I know about my parents' faith histories because it is part of my own faith history. My children are learning the faith histories of their parents and their grandparents. If they grow up and aren't sure about it or can't remember, I hope they ask.
If they grow up only being "taken" to church on Sundays (or even less, on occasional Sundays like for Easter and Christmas), something is wrong. How will they feel connected to God and to the family of Christian believers unless they get involved enough to feel comfortable and familiar there? I want church to be an integral part of my children's lives, not just a place they are "taken" sometimes. Even better is for them to understand that the church is who we are, not just a place we go.
Parent Reaction to a Child's Change of Faith
When asked what her parents' reaction was to Rebecca joining the WMSCOG, she described it like this, at about 19:00,
"They were not supportive of my own choice of faith. They were actually upset and seemed angry because I wasn’t going along with what they had raised me to believe. So I can assure you that that was not easy, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one in this world that has a difference of belief as she gets older and decides for herself as an adult to believe something different. I’m sure there’s many similar situations and maybe someone watching now that also has a disagreement with their parents based on their choice of faith."I realize that as a parent, I can only do so much to raise my children to have that deep and meaningful relationship with God. Eventually they must choose to continue that walk of faith on their own or not. I've known wonderful Christian parents whose children grew up and still decided not to follow. It is their own freedom and responsibility to choose their faith.
My experience with the WMSCOG has shown me the anguish that a parent (or family or loved one) can go through when that choice is made. And Rebecca is true that it happens to many people. Sometimes the parent's anguish comes when the child choose (mainstream) Christianity rather than the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, etc., faith that they grew up with.
One thing I've learned is to have compassion, especially on the parent, in that situation, whichever the direction of change. It's understandable for the parent to be upset. If a parent is very connected to their faith, if it is an integral part of them (like my Christianity is with me), then having a child reject that can be heartbreaking.
And if you are part of that equation (as either the parent or the child), it's important to be compassionate and patient, and to ask for and offer forgiveness for the inevitable emotional outbursts. Even though it can be extremely hard to do!
(It might even be the parent who makes the choice to change after raising their child in their original faith! Then the roles are reversed.)
I didn't expect to write so much, but there's been a lot on my mind. Next time I'll focus on WMSCOG specific thoughts from the interview.
Click here to go on to Part 2.