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February 18, 2005



Ummm...a third point of view?

Yes, lib/prog oldline churches get more self-absorbed, narcissistic parents than conservative/evangelical churches, but they are closer to those parents in overall approach and standards than the 60-70% of parents who are largely or wholly unchurched and who are deeply invested in sports bar/lingere party/gambling/pr0n culture after growing up Boomer.

I've worked youth ministry on both sides of that divide, plus Scout leadership, coaching, and involvement in the social service system in three states. Let me say loudly and clearly that liberal Christians, while frustrating to deal with in terms of anxiety over appearing judgemental or "mean", while conservative-orthodox Christians are weirded out by the general lack of absolutes, have more to gain out of common cause than between the most Unitarian of parents and the aggressively value-free mentality that is all around both camps.

Sorry, y'all pushed a button.

Peace! Jeff


Hugo said: "But I wonder: do liberal, non-demanding progressive Christian communities tend to attract a disproportionate number of narcissistic adults? At All Saints, we do a splendid job of preaching acceptance and tolerance, but we don't preach discipleship and sacrifice (except around stewardship time). The parents who are drawn to that message of inclusion -- and cheap grace -- may well be those who don't want their lifestyle choices challenged."

I don't know that being liberal, non-demanding, and progressive attracts the narcissistic per se. I don't imagine that people wonder, "Wow, I really don't want to change my self-serving ways; I'll look for a non-demanding church." The end result is the same, but it's easier for me to imagine self-centered people church-shopping, and when they visit one that does preach sacrifice and discipline, they think, "Those people just don't know how hard it is to get by. They ask for more than I can give. They're living in a fantasy world rather than the real world I'm living in." And they move on to the next church on the shopping list until they meet one that doesn't challenge them.

Correlation does not always imply causation. You have a lot of children of baby-boomers in your youth group; you have a lot of youth in your group who want more time with their parents; and you have a lot of parents in your church who appear to put their wants at the top of their priority list. I think the bad prioritization has less to do with the age of the parents (though not nothing) and more to do with the same basic character traits that drive them to a church that demands little.

But it's a balancing act - the church is supposed to challenge us to be better people, yet the church can't teach people who don't attend, and if the lesson is too difficult, it may drive congregants away. It isn't necessarily a bad thing to be an attractive church.


When I meet the kid who would rather have an iPOD and cool shoes than more time with a parent, I'll let you know.

Well, Hugo, you work with teenagers and I don't, so I'm generally inclined to defer to your judgement, but I find this remarkably hard to swallow for teenagers. As a teen, I cared little for shoes and gadgets, but I didn't care to spend time with my parents much at all. Certainly I liked spending some time with them, but it was demonstrably less than they wanted to spend. This described pretty much all of my friends, who for the most part had good parents who they've gone on to have pretty good adult relationships with. I don't recall we ever put on a pose of "loathing" our parents, we simply found them, well, not interesting and a bit annoying. We "hung out" at whomever's parents weren't home, or whose parents had a big house and would leave us alone. When I wasn't with my friends, I tended to stay in my room with the door closed as much as possible, alone with my thoughts (I think this is officially called "brooding"). At 17, I rebonded with my Mom a bit after a family trajedy, but for the five years or so preceding that, I, like everyone I knew, didn't really want much time with their parents. Maybe we were maladjusted or weird, I don't know. But it seemed pretty normal to me, and it certainly seems to describe some of the members of my extended family in that age range.

Hugo Schwyzer

To be clear, DJW, many of the kids I have who speak wistfully about missed time with their parents are referring to their childhoods. They don't want their parents hovering over them NOW -- but they do make it clear that they felt deprived when they were younger. That's an important distinction. Would they trade their toys and gadgets now to have had more time as kids -- yes, I think they would.

One of the most dangerous things to do with teens is to assume that they all respond the same way, and I've been guilty of that here.

I'll check out Michael Ventura, he is unknown to me.

La Lubu

If you can find his book "Letters At 3AM: Reports on Endarkenment" (I think it may be out of print), I think you might enjoy it. I loved it. "Shadow Dancing in the U.S.A." is another book of essays, and he co-wrote "100 Years of Psychotherapy and the World is Getting Worse" with James Hillman (The Soul's Code, among others. I like him too.)


Gotcha. That makes much more sense to me.


I think you're on to something, Hugo, although I wouldn't limit it to just the progressives. I think it's a mindset of our current culture. Gone are the days when ethics is a debate between the deontologists (some things are always wrong) and the consequentialists (what is best for all?). Now the question is "What is best for me?" You call it narcissism; I call it hedonism.

I think the fixation that some parents have on their children, even into their adult years, is one result of this. The child becomes an extension of their own ego.

Wanting a quality education for "my" child, with little thought of educational opportunities for children in general is a form of "us" and "them" thinking, it seems to me.

This can also be seen in nationalism, when the state becomes an extension of the individual.


Hugo, I'm sure the kids would rather have had parents' time than "toys and gadgets," but you seem to be falling into the trap of assuming that every family does fine with one breadwinner, and if the other parent (i.e., Mom) also works full-time, that money is frivolous, extra, nonessential, and therefore goes to "toys and gadgets." There's more than a bit of sexism in there, don't you think? Because I assume you're not talking about teens whose parents were single, so that there was no choice about one person staying at home with the children.

Again, I'm not sure that teens always have a good grasp of their parents' lives. Some of your teens, undoubtedly, have parents who didn't think much about their needs. But some of them probably aren't making the connection between "my parents were at work all day" and "we had regular health care, reliable cars, a roomy house, money for private education, new clothes when we needed them, and nutritious food throughout my childhood."

La Lubu

"There's more than a bit of sexism in there, don't you think?"

Thank you, mythago.

That super I referred to in my earlier post? He's still under the mistaken impression that women only work for "pin money", even if we're single. After all, we supposedly have the "option" of "finding a man" who can support us.

And I'm still gnawing on that Ventura article. The freedom I had as a kid taught me valuable lessons: toughness, resilience, independence, self-reliance. Also, enjoyment of solitude and quietude, ability to envision and daydream. Those lessons were/are invaluable in my adulthood, especially now that I'm a parent. At the same time, there is no way in hell I would feel comfortable allowing my daughter to run the streets at an early age like I did. Ain't gonna happen, folks. So for me, the challenge is how much rope do I give my daughter? I don't have any role models for that....for me it was "sink or swim". I think a lot of folks are in the same boat, hence the overscheduling of children.

I'm not convinced that "hovering" is all that good for children. Neglect isn't either, obviously. But finding that middle ground isn't so damn easy, and it's far too easy to criticize from the cheap seats.


He's still under the mistaken impression that women only work for "pin money", even if we're single.

His attitude is a little clearer than the mainstream one, but it's still the most common--that the woman's income is "secondary" and that if one parent stays home, it ought to be her. (There's usually some vague handwaving about breastfeeding at this point.) I live in the SF Bay area, so nobody has criticized the fact that I'm not the at-home parent...but people definitely think it eccentric.


To Jake - Killer post, man. You can also add to your analysis the increasing unwillingness to organize politically to demand such basis needs as affordable housing, raise in wgaes, more quality schools, and so on.

Oh sure, we're all willing to discuss what *WE* think needs to be done and how *WE* would solve the problem. But the art of finding common interests with people who don't share our viewpoints, and then uniting with them politically to accomplish these shared goals is completely lost in this society.

And because we don't unite politically, we see our politics as us versus them, or we see the world as a place that is us versus them.

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