Our Histories

We all have a story.

Some of us were “churched” and some of us were abused and some of us grew up in lovely Christian homes and some of us did not.

We all bring to the table our biases.

Here is my observation as of late (forewarning – I’m going to paint a broad stroke here):

Those who were brought up in very strict (borderline abusive, if not abusive) “fundamental” households tend toward a more liberal theology – less literal bible, more reality of the human existence, more grace, less judgment.

Those who were brought up without Christianity (not for or against, just without) and who had a very lenient childhood with perhaps a parent/parents who had some major sin issues (ahem) tend to be more “conservative” – cling to truth and finding the security in it.  We can sometimes be (or come off as) very judgmental and grace-less.

Then their all those in between.  So many circumstances, so many histories.  I’m only pointing out the two above because of the conversations I’ve had with those whose theology’s I disagree with (more “liberal” theology – the Brian McLaren camps, etc.) and how they seem to have shared backgrounds.  As for my “conservative” version above, well, that’s where I come from.

My point?

Pay attention to your history because it matters. It forms us to be who we are and how we respond to God, His Word, and to others.

My challenge?

Whatever your history, I encourage you to break out of your own history and seek out truth.  We may come to different conclusions, but let’s not let that stop us from searching, discussing, and then living it out.

Especially if we take on the name “Christian.”

This is the first post in a series of articles pertaining to the issues of womanhood and our created existence (see here for the list of topics to be dissected).

FYI – I’m using ‘Liberal’ and ‘Conservative’ not because I like the labels, but because I’m not sure what other words to use – feel free to enlighten me.

27 Coffee Talks on “Our Histories”

  1. Tim Mills says:

    Great reminders, Sarah, as always. It is so important to understand ourselves and others, and to respect the perspective from which each of us is coming. I was just thinking along some similar lines this evening myself in this post:


    God bless you!


  2. Mama Mirage says:

    I'm not sure I fit the mold. ;) I was brought up very strict. My parents actually got stricter and stricter as I got older. By the time I was a teenager, me and my siblings were no longer allowed to attend Sunday School or Youth Group. When my parents first heard of courtship I was already in my mid-teens and knew who I was going to marry. (HE didn't have a clue yet though… took 3 years for God to open his eyes.) My dad instantly decided that his daughter's would court, not date, and this was at the same time he pulled us out of the youth group and let me tell you we freaked out. Before this we had been trusted and now we were suddenly treated like prisoners in our minds, like criminals, like we'd done something sickening and could not be trusted. Long story short, when I was 18 years old I had never had a boyfriend and this was because of my own convictions. My sister did not share these personal convictions and did precisely what anyone does when someone suddenly tries to force a brand new way of life down their throat- she rebelled. She had her first boyfriend and first makeout session at 13 and things didn't get any better. But because I had my own personal convictions long before my dad went all prison guard on us so I had resolved that I would only kiss the man I would marry and would save sex for marriage. So when my man whom I had been secretly praying about for 3 years finally asked me out, and then he asked if he could kiss me, I said yes. And my dad kicked me out, calling me a "child of the devil" and telling me I was "dragging (my) siblings to hell." I slept in my car, homeless, then lived with some friends for a while… it was a very rough time in my life. I made up with my parents by that winter and moved back home and had a wonderful wedding and have been happily married to my one and only for 8 years now, with 2 beautiful kids and another on the way.

    My point was that my sis fits the theory, but I don't, because I think there's another variable, just going by my siblings' stories. She's got much more liberal viewpoints on things than our younger brother and I do. My brother and I are pretty conservative, me more so than he. I think the variable is having a personal conviction or not before the trials of teenagehood hit us. When I was 13 I went with a friend's family on an overnight trip to hear a seminar on purity and it changed me. It really made an impact on me. While I didn't subscribe to all the things he said, seeing as how I'd never even heard of or thought of most of the stuff he said and it sounded totally overboard to me, I DID take with me some key points. I decided that I didn't want to give little pieces of myself away so I would save myself for "the one." I now wish I'd saved a little more of myself but for coming from never having even heard of not kissing every guy you date, it was pretty big for me to have this conviction stick with me at 13 years old, KWIM?

    Well I went home and talked about it with my brother. My sis and I had hit a phase where I still thought I should be in charge and she didn't want anything to do with me if I was gonna boss her so we were pretty much at odds, leaving me to seek out other company. Being homeschooled, that left just my brother. 5 years younger than me aside, we became fast friends and we discussed everything as he hit puberty. He talked to me about girls and we shared music and computer games and left each other messages on the internet and I sometimes took him out with me when I hung out with my best friend. So I think some of my conviction helped him form his own, or at least planted the seed. When he got his heart broken for the first time as an adult, he decided that was not how it was gonna go next time and he's now a couple years later in a courting relationship with a young lady with both father's blessing.

    My sister never went to that seminar that I did, and we weren't close enough during our teen years for her to want anything to do with anything I thought, said, or did, so my convictions did not rub off on her either, so she never formed a personal conviction about what parts of herself to save and what to give away until she was already giving away way too much. My brother and I only made it out with a less traumatic outcome than our sister did because of that extra variable- that personal heart conviction that we clung to.

    So that I think is the other variable in the strict-upbringing scenario, just from my own experience. I think that raising kids strict does cause them to go totally the opposite way in their adult lives, except in cases where the kids come to their own personal convictions. I need to keep this in mind as a parent. As strict as I'm raising my kids, that's not the KEY ingredient to them choosing a wholesome and God-loving adult path when they leave the nest. The key is to lovingly guide them, to teach them WHY instead of just having rules because I said so, and to do it from a young age and not wait until they are old enough to already have flawed thinking set-in like a bad stain before I introduce the Godly options. With much prayer and love, I want to be God's hands and heart to lead my children into PERSONAL relationship with Him, and PERSONAL convictions on purity, so that when they are old enough that the course of life dictates they choose for themselves what they are going to do, when they are out of my sight and out of my control, they choose God and His ways instead of the cultural norm.

    Sorry for the super long reply. I get wordy when my brain's a-thinkin'! ;)

  3. Samantha says:

    My parents came from lenient non-Christian (unsaved) households. Growing up, I was raised in a much more strict conservative (saved) household. The church that we were under from the time I was 5 to 20, was very legalistic. When I was 20, we switched to a much more balanced church. I tend now to stay away from those legalistic type churches. I find them to be very judgemental, and as you said "graceless". Over the last 8 years since we left the legalistic church of my youth, I have found that I more balanced in my faith. My theology is neither "liberal" or "conservative". I stand true to the Word of GOD. My Bible is my life manual. The problem in many homes and churches today is that they tend to take GOD's Word out of context to match their ultra "liberal" or "conservative" views. For me, the hard part about be raised in an ultra "conservative" church is that I have a hard time trusting church people. Because of this fear, my church attendance has suffered. I still go to church, but I tend not to have regular attendance. Deep down in my heart, I know that I need to just – Let go, and Let GOD.

  4. Ramona says:

    Sarah, I've followed your blog for a few months now and have enjoyed it greatly.

    This post piques my interest because I am intrigued by our labeling of each other.

    Regardless of which end of the spectrum we are coming from….. the Christian who adds to the Bible is actually just as liberal as the one who dismisses parts of the Bible.

    Firsthand, I was brought up in what would be considered by most to be a very legalistic setting, where certain parts of the Bible are translated literally (woman's uncut hair, headcoverings) yet in 39 years I have never been challenged by my church to feed a homeless or poor person. That's an unhealthy imbalance of what is being called truth. I see that as the same as being liberal, blowing off really important things like the true religion of James but being sticklers on items that maybe aren't as clear.

    As Christians we will always struggle with this because of our own indulgence, we want others to believe what we believe regardless of how they are convicted by reading the same scriptures.

    • Sarah Mae says:

      Romona – good point…and how sad about never being exhorted to feed the poor, care fo the needy, etc!

  5. Mama Llama says:

    yep… raised in a liberal household with parents who divorced and a father who engaged in a very sinful lifestyle. Yet, i as k the question… if you statement is true (which I agree… I see it that way too) What is the prognosis for our own children? I don't believe I am a fundamental "You must do this" kind of christian… yet I will raise my chidlren to know God's word and the truth in it. My husband was raised in a fundamental home that had a lot of "rules" with little backing and little heart. I see that kind of upbringing as the issue, correct?
    .-= Mama Llama´s last blog ..DC Here we come- =-.

  6. Samantha says:

    This is a great discussion! It even prompted me to discuss some stuff with my husband. As Christians, it is far more important to have a personal relationship with Christ than to be "religious". Like I said in my previous comment, the problem in many homes and churches today is that they tend to take GOD’s Word out of context to match their ultra “liberal” or “conservative” views. GOD wants us to seek Him and to serve Him with our whole heart, not with a high minded religious spirit.
    .-= Samantha´s last blog ..Thoughts on my personal experience with living in Korea =-.

  7. I love this reminder Sarah! I have been being stretched in this area as well… things that I have held to as being true- very fundamental things I grew up with and the way things were… I am beginning to question them. Good questions, but hard too.

  8. Tiffany says:

    Sarah Mae~ I am so excited to read this series. You are making me think as I sit here a bit foggy with my cup of coffee. Thanks for writing the not-so-easy, not-so-pretty stuff. Be blessed.
    .-= Tiffany´s last blog ..Momentous Monday =-.

  9. Cassie says:

    This is a very interesting conversation. It is very easy to say you were raised like this and ended up like this. And there you fit this mold. I know this was a very general look at things that I am not criticizing you for doing at all. All in all it is really true.

    Those who grew up without Christianity like you said found security in it. It was a comfort to them.

    I think without both types of people Christianity wouldn't be what it is today. We need both the people who find comfort in it as well as the people who are in there dissecting it to make sure noone is taken advantage of.

    Side note: If children who were raised in a very fundamental by the book household end up with liberal theologies….do you wonder if your children will fall into that category? (that is not judgement in any sense. I often wonder what my childs theology will look like.)

  10. Cassie says:

    shoot! I just realized part of my comment got cut off when I was typing.

    I was saying that I think that those who grew up in very fundamental houses end up with liberal theologies because most go and study the bible in a very academic sense. Looking into the details of the stories and history and cultural setting.
    .-= Cassie´s last blog ..Jenny Hamilton- A letter to my 20 something self =-.

  11. Mandy says:

    It's so interesting to me to see how the comments here prove your "broad stroke", Sarah! Even the ones who rebelled against a strict home or were not taught a certain way are still greatly affected by their "history" – in one way or another! I was raised in a strict Christian home, still full of its own failures, and my husband was not a Christian until much later in life. We have sought to find a balance between our two upbringings in raising our children, and become increasingly aware of just how much we have been molded by our past! Can't wait to read more here!
    .-= Mandy´s last blog ..Where’s Waldo =-.

  12. Jasmine says:

    Very interesting, Sarah Mae!

    And then you have women like me who were raised in a very "fundamentalist" household (not a fan of that term, but I'm learning no to chafe so much at labels) and appreciates and respects her parents and wants to follow in their footsteps. I think the key for me was definitely truly understanding and owning my parents' convictions, not putting my brain on auto and following them in lockstep; conversely, when I have disagreed with them, we have always had frank, open discussions about those disagreements (with God's Word as the ultimate standard) -all in all, thus far, the Lord has been gracious to keep us on the same page.
    .-= Jasmine´s last blog ..The Pressure of Performing- A Revelation =-.

    • Sarah Mae says:

      Jasmine, Yes, many different histories and circumstances…I don't consider your upbring (from my outside observation) to be the "fundamentalist" strictness that others have shared…for example here: http://quiveringdaughters.blogspot.com/ So I was more talking about that group…but again, we are all different and we are all complicated! :)

  13. MainlineMom says:

    Well…I certainly have seen people that fit this "mold", but I disagree with it. I was raised in a loving, conservative Christian home and a conservative Christian school. My theology would be considered conservative. The majority of my classmates also still have a very conservative theology. Of course a few have wandered to the other side of the spectrum. And most of those I know in the "Brian McClaren camp" may have been raised in "Christian" but really had no theology or doctrinal teaching at all. And a lot of them had no religion background at all, but were attracted to the "feel-good" nature of the Emergent church. Just my own observations.
    .-= MainlineMom´s last blog ..Link Love Monday =-.

  14. Janel says:

    I look forward to your thoughts, but I probably won't be reading the comments. These types of discussions make my head ache. I do want to offer a thought though.

    Hubby and I have been in all kinds of churches. We find that how a church deals with God's Law and its application in the church TODAY determines whether they are "liberal" or "conservative" – for lack of a better way to describe it.

    While you can find fringe anywhere, I think there are 4 main types of Christians. You have the folks in the "everything in The Law applies to the church today but the ceremonial stuff because Christ took care of that on the Cross" camp. The "Ten Commandments only" people. The "I'm a New Testament Christian, the Old Testament no longer applies" group. And then there's the "Acts 21:25 + conscience believers" who think the only things we're to do as Christians, as far as sin, is to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality – everything else being A-ok, unless it pricks your conscience. Because the Law was given to Israel, not the Gentiles which make up the bulk of today's church.

    There are a mish mash of folks in between and blends of each, but I think those are the core groups. And within each group, there are those who are more rigid or more lenient. If you're a rigid "the Law is for Today group" person, you're likely to find abuse in the name of Jesus. Whereas you very well might get your purse swiped in an Acts 21:25 church.

    Food for thought. :) Feel free to email me if you have other thoughts or questions.
    .-= Janel´s last blog ..Links for 2010-06-26 delicious =-.

  15. Oh yes… this is true. It may be a broad brush, but it is definitely true. I think it's just basic human nature. We swing on pendulums.

    I definitely fall into Hillary's "Quivering Daughters" realm–my story is long and quite depressing. But my family was part of the start up of Vision Forum from year one and we have a long, long history with many of the original speakers/authors/interns/families. And now I find myself somewhere in the middle… not wanting to do everything my parents did (even though, I too, espoused many of their ideas on my own, never blindly following, and sometimes disagreeing) because I've experienced the end of it all, and yet not wanting to swing the other direction, as so many of my old friends have done. It's a hard thing to fight basic human nature, but I believe that God is more capable than I am and following Him will always be the right way.

    Sometimes finding that way is just not as cookie cutter as some might believe.

    And, sweet Jasmine–YOU are one of the reasons I still see hope in things I would like to simply toss away because of the hurt. You are a beautiful testimony of God's grace and truth.
    .-= Ashleigh (Heart and Home)´s last blog ..It Was Just An Idea Of Germany Part Two =-.

    • Sarah Mae says:

      Ashleigh, I would love to chat on the phone sometime… :)

  16. Yes, let's. :) I'm also still on Skype, which works well, too.
    .-= Ashleigh (Heart and Home)´s last blog ..It Was Just An Idea Of Germany Part Two =-.

  17. Nurse Bee says:

    While I do consider myself quite as conservative as you and some of your readers, I do consider myself a conservative Christian. I love Jesus, I believe He is the only way, and I believe the bible is His Word (and have for much of my life). I have only found myself labeled a "liberal Christian" in the last few years because now I am married, have a child, and continue to work outside the home part time. None of my beliefs have changed. My faith is not shaken, except a bit in some of my fellow Christians.

    (I don't read your blog much anymore, but I do read Matthew Turner's wife's blog, read his recent post, and comments, and ended up hopping over to your blog.

  18. Nurse Bee says:

    Sorry, that should have read " don't consider myself quite as conservative".

  19. Jasmine says:


    Thank you –that means so much to me; what an encouragement! =)
    .-= Jasmine´s last blog ..The Pressure of Performing- A Revelation =-.

  20. Erin K. says:

    hmmm I do tend to agree with your generalization. Interesting observation!

    I am looking forward to your new posts… getting the grey matter moving! LOL

  21. Janelle says:

    As a Married mother of 2 who is/has taken the plunge from extreme "legalism" and is striving to find the balance in life according to God and His word… Let me tell you – it has been a journey. One that has been filled with triumphs, valleys, darkness, and bursts of light.

    I look forward to reading this series…

    Here's a blog I wrote in March regarding some thoughts about leaving legalism – thought I'd share.


  22. Ronnica says:

    I have found this to be true generally as well. My pastor once spoke to my Counseling Parents and Children class in seminary telling us about 3 types of parents:

    greenhouse parents (everything that comes into their children's life is put their intentionally),

    fence parents (I think I have the name of this not quite right, but basically it's the middle view: that children should be protected from most things, but exposure to the world through things like school and sports is encouraged so the child grows up learning from word and example how to relate to the lost, sin-filled work), and

    open house parents (anything, within reason, is welcome in).

    He found that most people who grew up in a non-Christian home tend towards the first and those who grew up in a stricter Christian home tend the latter. We all tend towards some extreme or the other, but like you've said, we have to be mindful of that and seek what God wants for us, which often looks much different.

  23. erin says:

    I think this is so interesting & a valid generalization. I wrote my own post on it!

  24. Robin says:

    Hi. I came from a kind of middle-of-the-road family, and have found myself vacillating between "conservative" and "liberal." I think at this time, I am leaning more toward conservative, but I am constantly learning and modifying my views, so who knows where I'll end up! It is a really interesting thing to think about how my kids' walk with Christ will be shaped because of or in spite of my leading!

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    I'm Sarah Mae. I'm figuring out how to fit perfect into fallen skin. Stick around for the stretching...your soul is welcome here.

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