15 Signs You Were Raised in the Christian Subculture

This hat has nothing to do with the evangelical culture. It is just rad.

Tucked in a dark corner of our basement storage room, there is a big, clear Rubbermaid stuffed with the artifacts of my youth. It’s so full that the lid doesn’t close all the way, which isn’t great. But still. I somehow managed to get it down to one box. That’s something.

I went down and dug the whole thing out a few weeks ago, after I wrote on the anomaly of the Christian bookstore and the strange mix of nostalgia and angst it elicits in me. I was surprised at the way this seemed to strike a chord with readers.

It occurred to me, as I read the comments and dug through the remnants of my own evangelical youth, that there is an entire subset of us that operate from a distinct cultural plane.

I’m talking about the children of the late 70s, the 80s, and early 90s who were raised less in the fluorescence of American pop culture than in the soft glow of the Christian subculture.

Like our secular peers, we wore zoobas and poet shirts and big, hot pink hair scrunchies…but we also wore Jesus fish charms and WWJD bracelets and t-shirts with catchy Christian slogans.

We remember, of course, Ace of Base and New Kids on the Block, but our musical foundation was formed by Michael Smith, Amy Grant, DC Talk, the Newsboys. We were not allowed to buy those smutty teen magazines, so we were the ones who read Focus on the Family’s Brio and Breakaway instead.

So, for all who spent their formative years straddling two cultures, a list:

Note: I realize this list is hopelessly skewed to the female experience. It’s because I’m a girl.

15 signs

You know you were raised in the Christian subculture if…

  • You had more than one Bible, at least one of them written specifically for “teens.”(Bonus points if the cover sported fluorescent colors and/or spiral shapes. Double bonus points if you ever wrapped one of said Bibles in duct tape to be “alternative.”)

duct tape bible

  • You picked up the photo of a Compassion kid at some Christian concert with the best of intentions. (Your parents are still making that monthly donation.)

christian concert - chris tomlin

  • You’ve ever thought about building that marble maze/pencil sharpening contraption from the beginning of the McGee and Me videos.
  • You signed up for Sound & Spirit Music Club, even though your parents warned you that you’d forget to send that Phillips, Craig & Dean CD back and wind up paying for it. (Thanks to my friend Carra Carr for this one. For the record, she still has that CD.)

ride with god inside

  • You ever participated in a Sword Drill, that intense competition to find a specific Bible verse faster than your Sunday School cohorts. You still find yourself stressed when asked by a pastor to locate the book of Hosea.
  • Your comics were judging your prayer life

Holly and the Ivy Halls - Brio Comic

  • You learned about love from Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith duets. (Somewhere, Somehow, baby.)
  • You learned about dating from the Christy Miller series. (Bonus points if you were successfully deterred from “missionary dating” by the whole Katie Weldon and Michael-from-Ireland train wreck. Double bonus points if you’ve ever said, “I’m just waiting for my Todd.”)

island dreamer

  • You can sing all the words to both DC Talk’s “Jesus Freak” and the Newsboys’ “Shine,” and if you were talented enough, could probably do them as a mash-up.
  • You ever wrote the following line in the front of your Bible: “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” (Notice mine there at the bottom…along with several other charming sayings of the era.)

Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

  • You bolstered your commitment to sexual purity with any of the following: a purity ring, a True Love Waits pledge card, any book by Dr. James Dobson, or multiple repetitions of DC Talk’s song “I Don’t Want It” on youth group road trips. Triple bonus points if you too had this handy True Love Waits quote book.


  • You can still remember a good deal of Bible verses from your youth, but only if you sing them, Psalty-the-Singing-Songbook-style.
  • “The Cafeteria Lady” is not primarily the person who scoops mashed potatoes in the lunchroom, but rather a humor column in your old Christian teen magazine, Brio. (Fifty bonus points if you know the bitter disappointment of trying to become their teen spokeswoman, “Brio Girl,” and being rejected.)

cafeteria lady 2

  • You have “skanked” to the Christian ska band, The W’s song “The Devil is Bad” or the Supertones’ “Skallelujah.”
  • You ever stamped a Jesus fish emblem into a leather belt at summer Bible camp.

jesus fish

What about you? What would you add to the list?

206 thoughts on “15 Signs You Were Raised in the Christian Subculture

  1. You read every Janette Oke book (Love Comes Softly, with all the awkward crying). You had a chastity key, or the key to your heart, you were supposed to give the boy you loved at your wedding (I lost mine in middle school gym class and my parents thought it was funny). You wore those bead bracelets with each bead representing one of the stages of Jesus’ death (I remember red was “blood” and blue was “water” and I think yellow was “heaven”) on a leather strip until it broke mid-November, several months after camp.

    1. Oh my word, you had an actual chastity KEY. I didn’t even know they made those. But I do remember the Gospel bracelets. The ultimate VBS craft.

  2. bah! this is so funny. i had one foot in and one foot out and so identify with half of your list.

    and because i’m feeling confessional, i dated two boys in college before i met my husband. one, was a guy i met at IV, who i kid you not, went by the nickname Falwell(!). we drove to liberty university once to see the newsboys.

    the second boy was not a christian. he was a punky sort with blue spots artfully designed in his hair. i caught his eye in the dance pit of a ska show. “i never met a girl who knew how to skank,” he told me. i did not tell him i learned at Creation and myriad supertones shows:)

    1. Oh, man, I wanted to go to to Creation so badly in high school but was never able to go. I did go to my fair share of Supertones shows, though. 🙂

      1. My best concert experience….probably to this day…which is probably sad…was front row seats to Audio A/Supertones/Jennifer Knapp. That was amazing.

    2. Suzannah another one-foot-in-one-foot-out-er
      I have to ask – were your parents raised Catholic too?

      1. we were PC(USA) presbyterians. evangelical in most regards, but without the fear or sheltering that characterizes fundamentalism.

        (maybe that’s not fair? growing up i thought evangelical meant that you believed in Jesus and the bible. only later did i hear about how “the mainline” doesn’t really believe in either. it was news to me:)

  3. One of the many reasons I love your blog is the trips down memory lane. Love that these experiences resonate with me because we were having the exact same experiences. Can’t believe you never got picked for Brio Girl.

  4. I had completely forgotten about the song “The Devil is Bad.” I’m not entirely sure if I’m glad that is back in my memory bank now or not.

    This cracked me up. Brio, McGee and Me, TLW, all of it. Christy’s Todd totally gave me false expectations about men. Me and all my friends had the church library hopping with our ability to cycle through those books.

    1. I still own them all. And all the Sierra Jensons. And the Christy college years books. I can’t seem to toss them. But I totally agree–wayyy false expectations about men.

  5. I would add the following:

    1) The “Agapeland” children’s record series.
    2) The “Music Machine” children’s record.
    3) Carman’s “The Champion” and “Revival in the Land” – in general, his spoken word epics remain among the most unusual songs I have ever heard (i.e. “Witch’s Invitation”).
    4) Petra’s “On Fire” record.
    5) Yes, Breakaway magazine, which led me to discover True Tunes News, which I later wrote for in the late ’90s.
    6) Christian music videos, which were REALLY thrilling to me since we couldn’t watch MTV or VH1. There were VHS tapes that could be rented/purchased, and channels like Z that played some of these.
    7) The endless hope that your favorite Christian band might cross over and reach a secular audience, thereby evangelizing previously unchurched ears. 🙂

    That’s it for now. Probably more will spring to mind later. Ha! 🙂 This was fun, Addie.

    1. christian music videos used to come on for a half hour at midnight, on a Friday night, so I would sneak out and watch them with the sound really low, LOL.

    2. Music Machine!!! Yes. Loved that record. Getting to see the musical was a true highlight.

      And yes to True Tunes, as well. Since the record store had the added bonus of being in my hometown, I spent many an hour browsing the selection, as well as going to shows on the second floor.

    3. music machine! I sing “have patience” occassionally to annoy the kids at work.

      Carmen was my first concert, complete with crowds changing, “Who’s in the house? JC!” in the long line outside of the megachurch sanctuary. To quote a schoolmate, “I didn’t know Christians went to concert.”

      I have another to add.

      Any of “The Buttercream Gang” type movies.

    4. Our church did “Music Machine” the Musical one year. I was in the choir. There was a big machine…and I think you had to put your old nasty “heart” in there, and a new clean one came out. I think. It was a long time ago, and we did a lot of musicals.

      Never got that into the music videos, but I do remember how excited I was when Jars of Clay’s first CD made it onto “real” radio stations. And into the soundtracks of a few movies.

      1. I don’t know if anyone still reads these comments, but I was Nancy in our church’s production of Music Machine when I was 5. It was the beginning of my passion for acting.

        Now, how many of you were also in “Down by the Creekbank”?

        1. I was definitely in “Down by the Creekbank!” I had the solo on “germs, germs my invisible dog” – I was 4 or 5 years old!

  6. You only watched Saturday morning Christian Cartoons on TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network) such as: Gospel Bill, Mr. Quigley’s village, Colby’s clubhouse, Faithville and Miss Charity’s diner.

    You weren’t allowed to wear Abercrombie and Fitch but instead wore a Christian t shirt that said “a bread crumb and a fish” instead. As well as some other Christian variation on mainstream brands

    You listened to Adventures in Odyssey before bed and dreamed of one day going to Whits End and meeting the wonderful Mr. Whitaker yourself.

    You read the Elsie Dinsmore Books instead of Goosebumps or any other secular series.

    1. ah yes, Sat. morning shows! We used to watch Joy Junction, Circle Square, and Gospel Bill. I actually ran across GB a few months ago on some christian channel and made my kids watch it, haha.

      I was so sad when the original Whit died.

    2. I’m having way too much fun with this post today.

      Quigley’s Village and Under The Umbrella Tree were favorites for sure! Occassionally when I’m on a long drive I’ll catch Odyssey playing and will listen to the show.

      1. Yeah, my dad worked for CBN back when they were making those in the early/mid 80’s, so Superbook and Flying House are an indelible part of my early childhood. I never understood why there were two different shows when they were so similar until just a couple weeks ago when he was talking with some Christian TV folk and they told me one show does old testament and the other does new! O.o How did I never know that? FYI, they’re making them again I hear, with updated animation styles.

  7. Addie! I am related to the Volks–my mom is Tim’s sister–and I am obsessed with this here blog. You crack me up, girl. I would add: not being allowed to watch Fern Gully or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (eastern religion!), bopping along to Point of Grace in lieu of Spice Girls, and my favorite t-shirt that said, “Jesus is Life. The rest is just details.”

    1. Thanks for commenting Holly! Yes, I was not allowed to watch the Turtles either. Or Ghost Busters (the cartoon). (Because of the ghosts.) Also, I’m pretty sure I had that shirt.

  8. -You know the motions to Audio Adrenaline’s Big Big House (with lots and lots of room, where we are can FOOTBALL!).
    -You were led to believe by a series of videos called Hells Bells that subliminal messages were planted in songs when you played them backwards and that certain rhythmic beats in songs (Christian or otherwise) were Satanic.
    -You parents thought everything was Satanic, OR, almost worse, part of the “new age” movement.
    -You attended Acquire the Fire
    I’m sure I’ll be thinking of these all day, but those are a few off the top of my head! LOL!

      1. During my freshman year of high school, the two girls who led our school Bible study showed it for like 10 weeks in a row. It was terrible. I have a short little chapter on it in my memoir. An actual quote: ““You’ll discover what it can do to an egg,” he holds up an egg to a speaker behind him – crack – and then continues. “To your head. Your life. And your eternal soul.”

  9. Oh man, I was obsessed with Brio as a teenager. Even went on one of their official missions trips (the top of my head is in their article about it! That still amuses me.)

    I somehow missed the Christy Miller series, I was really into Diary of a Teenage Girl, though.

    1. I always wanted to go on their missions trip. A thousand girls and Susie Shellenberger and some far-off country. What’s not to love?

    1. Oh my gosh. I love that. I had a ton of shirts too, but unfortunately, I sewed them all into a t-shirt quilt before I left for college. I can now wrap myself in the cozy, kitschy evangelical culture anytime I want.

  10. You have described my childhood and teen years frighteningly well, Addie. Just add a few Christian youth conferences, mission trips, and festivals and we’re good to go.

    Reading this list made me smile, even while making me cringe. There’s such nostalgia there amidst the screwed up theology. It’s sometimes hard to know what to make of those years, other than feeling like I survived them and being grateful I have better taste in music these days.

    1. Yes. I’m okay with the nostalgia of it. I’ve been thinking a lot about it these past couple of days, and I don’t think it was necessarily bad in and of itself. It just presented itself so starkly separate from the rest of the world, and that made it difficult when you found yourself smack dab in the middle of a gray area. You had no resources from which to draw.

      I’m thankful that I had a happy youth and that I was protected from lots of the hard stuff out there, but at the same time, I wish that there had been a better bridge into real life. I wish there had been less kitsch, and more Christian artists willing to grapple with the hard things and give an honest, true perspective on it.

      But that’s another post for another day. 🙂

    1. Oh my gosh…like a fire drill? But for the rapture? Tell me that’s not a thing.

  11. Veggie Tales!

    Definitely for those of us who were teens in the late 90’s. We knew they were intended for kids, but my friends and I just ate them up.

    “Oh where… is my hairbrush?”

    “It’s plain to see your brains are very small to think walking will be knocking down our wall”


    1. Guilty. Even now, sometimes my kids will watch one, and my husband is like, “How do you know all these songs?”

    2. ha ha ha! I still like Veggie Tales and I am 30 years old… my 4 year old adores them so we have bought her every single one available over the past couple years… (they are still making them)… as parents we aren’t actually “Evangelical” now… but Veggie Tales are still good wholesome shows. But I remember showing them to other teenage Christian friends from other countries and they thought we were so weird for watching a kids show lol

  12. What about hoping against hope that the CCM market would soon crank out a “healthy Christian alternative” to the secular bands you really, really liked but knew you shouldn’t be listening to?!

    Only three things on this list don’t apply to my past life, but I think I nearly doubled my total in bonus points. Peter Pagan and Katie Christian made a great impact on my thoroughly True-Love-Waits-ified (and utterly nonexistent) teenage dating life. Now they should write a recovery manual for those of us who made it safely into our twenties and are hoping to kiss dating hello. 🙂

    Side note: Have you ever read one of Tara-Leigh Cobble’s books? I think you would really resonate with so much of her writing!

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll have to add her to my list!

      As for your first comment, I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t really know any secular bands. I was pretty far into the subculture. I do remember around 8th grade when my BFF started listening to Alanis Morisette and how scandalized I was by all the swearing.

  13. I remember one of the best days of the year was when we’d get to play Centurion. Or maybe it was called Romans and Christians. Either way, weird game.

    I’m really, really happy someone brought up Colby. How about Kanakuk Kamp? Anyone?

    1. I’m trying to remember if I ever played that game! I think we might have during Bible camp one time. Maybe. Wow. (I’ve heard of Kanakuk, but I went to Timberlee.)

  14. Not just Christian music videos, but setting your VCR to record them from midnight-three am on that one channel that would show them. So you could watch them later and hopefully catch a glimpse of something cool like DC Talk between the Clay Crosse and the Al Denson videos.

    Also, getting someone with the right cable channel to tape the Dove Awards. So you could find out who won before the next issue of CCM got to your house.

  15. I had had the Mcgee and Me soundtrack and have seen Michael W Smith, Sandy Patti and Twila Paris in concert more than once and over a greater span of years than my Brio subscription lasted. But when you mentioned Christy Miller? I knew we were kindred spirits. Definitely got that one pulled out of my math book in seventh grade when I was reading during class.

    1. McGee and Me has a SOUNDTRACK? Wow. I need it.

      And yay for Christy Miller kindred spirits. I must have read those books at least a dozen times. Not exaggerating.

  16. Ah! I am 9 out of 15! My dad decorated our basement with professionally framed concert posters of Michael W Smith, Amy Grant and Russ Taff.

    I sang in a traveling Christian Children’s choir while playing with Jesus Fish Pogs in between sword drills.

    I’m glad we survived.

      1. Oh, Christian pogs were a BIG deal. I had a Holy Spirit slammer. The irony there is too much!

  17. I am loving this post and all these comments so much! I parented during this era and am very familiar with all of it, as are my 2 sons (25 & 29). We were convinced that the big bad world would damage our innocent kids so we did all we knew to do in order to “protect” them. Sadly our entire parenting style was based on fear and that never works. But you all survived and are able to laugh at your goofy and odd childhoods. I now offer up prayers for your “inner healing” at all the craziness we put you through! Ha!

  18. This is so accurate, my Lord. Christians do the same things in every part of the world. I’m from Brazil and I already read the Christy Miller serie (but I have never waited for a Todd, because he sounded sooo boring in my head haha) and I had a purity ring once. Although I don’t use it anymore, the vow is still on 🙂 I got 9 out of 15, haha.

  19. Oh my gosh, yes on every one of those! And yes for the Janette Oke books and Superbook! I loved Superbook… You could also add, “Did some sort of mime or human video either in youth group or on a youth missions trip.” I don’t know how widespread this was, but we had these big volumes of “Character Sketches” from Bill Gothard that used the traits of various animals to elucidate character traits. Now that I have some perspective on Bill Gothard’s ministry, it’s a little creepy, but I really liked those Character Sketches as a kid!

    1. Human videos! Yes! Confession: I even wrote and directed one in high school. But that’s a whole other post. 🙂

  20. Jeez, Addie, stop spying on my past life. I still have all those CDs from my Sound & Spirit days, and I went on one of the Brio missions trips to Brazil. Psalty and the Donutman were intricate parts of my early childhood as well, and although I remember them fondly, I cringed when my daughter got a Donutman CD for Christmas last year. For one, the music is painful to listen to as an adult. Two, most of the songs are actually talking and reading Bible verses. And three, why on earth is he called the Donutman?

    1. Donutman. I’d totally forgotten about him. I never watched him myself as I kid, but I remember showing those videos when I helped out with soul. “God’s love is like a donut/there’s a hole in the middle of your heart” Right? Something like that?

  21. GT and the Halo Express anyone?

    And don’t forget Steven Curtis Chapman (Saddle up your horses…) and Mark Lowry (a Christian comedian who did spoofs on the above-pointed-out Christian music videos)…

    1. ahhhh ME!!! that is what brought me to the saving knowledge of Jesus!! I love GT and the Halo Express still and my daughter and I listen to it lots!!!

  22. I always wanted one of the Jesus Christ/Coca-Cola t-shirts. How about AWANA? Shoeboxes for Operation Carelift (my family went to the warehouse where they got them ready for shipping, and I made hundreds of the little rainbow-bead gospel bracelets there)? Chick tracts? Not being allowed to watch The Little Mermaid? I also had to cut the horns off my My Little Pony unicorns. My experience of the Christian subculture may have been a little more on the conservative side than yours, Addie- CCM was a bit too worldly, but I’m pretty sure I still own nearly all of Michael Card’s albums…

    1. You had to cut the horns off our My Little Pony unicorns? Why?

      And I also grew up listening to Michael Card. We even went to see him in concert once when I was like, 10, and I remember thinking how shiny his bald head looked under the fluorescent lights.

      1. If I remember my “Turmoil in the Toybox” correctly, unicorns were one of the New Age-y elements about My Little Pony that made it inappropriate for Christian kids. Along with Care Bears, Smurfs, and any other toy that had magic in its backstory…

          1. You know, the amazon 5-star reviews of that book are pretty seriously funny.

  23. Love it. 🙂 Haven’t even thought of Music Machine in years, but as soon as I saw it, I thought, “it always makes this sound: whirr whirr chka bum bum (psssst).”

    Here’s one (mostly) for the boys: being encouraged to play DragonRaid rather than other fantasy RPGs. Or being told not to bother with any U2 after Unforgettable Fire (“they really lost their faith with “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”).

    At my wedding, my atheist best man gave a speech reminiscing about all the music I subjected him to in college, and read out the full breakdown from DC Talk’s “Jesus Is Just Alright”: I’m down with the one/ who is known as the son/ etc. You could tell who in the audience had grown up in which subculture: half were laughing, half were lip-syncing.

    1. That’s awesome. I would have been in the lip-syncing half, for sure.

      I remember U2 getting the Christian-hate-treatment. I also remember Amy Grant getting it when her secular Heart in Motion album came out. Such suspicion, it felt like, for anyone who crossed into “mainstream.”

        1. Well, it’s because she claimed that God told her he O.K.’d her getting a divorce, and her husband was devastated. God who said that he hates divorce, but allows it because of the hardness of our hearts. She implied that Gary was so awful that she had to get away from him permanently and there were children involved.

      1. We used to listen to Amy Grant’s Christmas album every year while decorating the tree! The year she got divorced my dad wouldn’t put it on because she “broke her holy vows”. All the kids raised a fuss and pointed out that her vows were intact at the time of recording the Christmas album, therefore it was holy by association. Dad relented, but I am pretty sure only cause he missed Amy’s album too.

  24. Am I the only one who did not experience any of this stuff growing up? I suppose it is because I grew up in the Northeast and went to Catholic and United Church of Christ churches. Although most people I knew did go to church, we did not have this type of Christian subculture at all.

    1. Kelly: I think “American Evangelical” would probably be a better term for the subculture we’re describing. Lots of people inside the subculture would insist that it’s simply “Christian,” but as you point out, lots of Christians outside the bubble have no idea what we’re talking about…

    2. I’d agree. Definitely mostly an evangelical thing, though I’d imagine other denominations had some of this too.

  25. Ah yes, The Cafeteria Lady and “Dear Suzy” . . . I remember wondering as a teenager why Rebecca St. James was so prominently featured in Brio. Years later, after coming out, I decided that Suzy must have been gay and had a thing for RSJ, the Christian Alanis Morrisette.

    Did anyone else grow up questioning Suzy’s sexuality? I always had a strange feeling about her.

    1. Rebecca St. James! She was everywhere! And yes, Suzy was a little mysterious. I thought it was weird that she never shared anything about her own life.

    2. Yes I did question Suzy’s sexuality…and why a single woman would dole out relationship advice.

    3. Just noticed that this comment is a year old, but Suzy is actually a friend of mine so I thought I would defend her. She is an amazingly dedicated, godly woman, still serving the Lord faithfully through ministry to teen girls and speaking engagements around the world.

      1. I think she can be an “amazingly dedicated, godly woman, still serving the Lord faithfully” and be gay. Just FYI.

        1. Ahh, the book, Washed and Waiting, is phenomenal as regards being a non-practicing gay and a Christian. FOF did a review of it over a year ago.

  26. I actually ended up being part of a Brio article when a missions trip I went on in high school included The Darins {a sister quartet}! And yes to all the rest – DC Talk, McGee and Me, Amy Grant {she was my “I want to be her” until her divorce}, and True Love Waits. This post makes me want to dig out my own “teen-age years” box!

  27. Oh my goodness! Magee and Me and Psalty!!! My favorites. I would add listening to Odessey. Who didn’t love Mr. Whitaker and Eugene on a Saturday morning.

    1. My 3yo son totally picked out an Odyssey movie from the library the other day. It was like a time warp.

  28. What about bible stories tapes with Uncle Dan and Aunt Sue.
    The “Sugarcreek Gang”, “Ranger Bill”… I’m sure there’s others

  29. Oh. My. Goodness. I still have letters from my best friend when we were 14 gushing about how excited we were that she had met “her Todd” at church camp. (she had not) We will occasionally still sign things “URAPT” – you are a peculiar treasure – for fun. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

  30. Wow, I’m at 10 of the 15. I was really into the music scene particularly for the live concerts. (My first concert ever was DC Talk & Michael W Smith.) I’m not sure how many times I went to the Pacific NW’s Christian take on Woodstock called “Jesus NW”. Then I moved on to the more rock, punk, & ska based festivals. Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys, Jars of Clay, Supertones, PFR, and the list goes on and on.

    I have since then cleared my closet of my autographed discography, band t-shirts, and posters, but I know a high percentage of my allowance supported those bands.
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  31. Oh my goodness… Christy Miller series! YES. I devoured those and the Sierra series. I had a Brio pen pal for years, she lived in Hawaii which I thought was soooo cool. My roommate and I recently watched a bunch of McGee and Me videos on youtube – and proceeded to feel very, very old. The animation is practically ancient. LOL! I grew up on Psalty too, and Adventures in Odyssey! Also, anyone remember Charity Churchmouse tapes and books? It was about a bunch of Christian singing mice with cheese-like names. I used to choreograph backup dancer/gospel choir dance routines (for myself) to their songs. 🙂 And I most definitely went to a Point of Grace concert in seventh grade with my best friend and we got matching t-shirts. And oh yes… sword drill, we called it Bible Drill. I admit I was darn good at it and went to a “regional championship.” This post and all the comments made me laugh so many times!

  32. Ah, Christy Miller! I had forgotten all about Todd until reading this post. In addition to waiting for “my Todd,” though, I *really* wanted to meet “my Gilbert Blythe.” Raised in the cross-section between evangelical and homeschool subcultures in the 90s, I read and re-read the Anne of Green Gables books SO many times.

    Regarding music, I wasn’t allowed to listen to CCM (too worldly!), so I would sneak it. I remember listening (rebelliously!) to Twila Paris and Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith.

  33. Who could forget Todd Spencer and his “screaming sliver-blue eyes”?? I am very happy that I have stumbled upon this blog.

    1. So glad you’re here, Amy! (And yes. Screaming silver blue. Such a weird and slightly-creepy description for eyes.)

      1. Ah, yes!! I so wanted a Todd. I didn’t get him though, I got better….which at the time if someone had told me, I would have laughed at the notion. 🙂

  34. I listened to Carman ( my absolute favorite to this day!), Petra, Audio Adrenaline, DC Talk, and Newsboys. Some of our favorite games at home were The Richest Christian and Bible Bowl!’

  35. Connected with you somehow via Twitter and I’m so glad! I became a Christian in 1992, but wasn’t so much in the traditional christian home with that “soft glow.” So a lot of these hit me or else I saw them but wasn’t into them myself. Love! Glad to have found you. 🙂

  36. Wait a minute… did the Supertones ever have a song called Skallelujah? I was a big fan… I don’t think so.

    Technically the W’s were more of a swing band than ska.

    And the fact that I’m making these inane points is because you nailed it.

    Though how about a nod to Petra? 😉

    1. haha no, kevin – skallelujah was the ska worship album (The Insyders i think?) and i totally played it for my family’s “worship” at a christmas gathering in the mountains hahahahahaha
      oh, addie – you had me DYING! we must be like exactly the same age. when i read the “christy miller” paragraph, i got chills, pumped my fist, and laughed out loud involuntarily (loud enough to wake my baby in the other room ;)… my best friend literally called me and told me she’d found her todd when she met her now-husband. LOL…really loud.
      so glad i found you today. 😀

      1. Pretty sure that I said that same embarrassing phrase myself when I met my husband. (Thank God his eyes are totally normal, not “screaming-blue.” So glad you came by!

  37. Oh my! Although, to be honest, I’d never heard of the Christy Miller books until my daughter brought the first one home and started reading it. Someone mentioned a shout-out for Petra…How ’bout “More Power To Ya”….? That was my first experience of CCM, during ‘Fishnet,’ which was something very like Creation, only it was in Front Royal, Virginia. Major concert experience back in the day was a combination, Russ Taff, Sheila Walsh (Triumph in the Air!), and Mylon LeFevre concert.

    I’ve been chuckling my way through all the comments…Sounds like my early days as a believer, high school into college, yup. 🙂

    1. ha ha! Fishnet was my church for awhile (age 12-15 or so) and almost everything on the list and other comments I related to that time period in my childhood… Except for Brio… I ended up getting that and reading it while living in Africa after moving from Front Royal… even met someone from Brio (editor? I think… can’t remember for sure) and me and some of my friends in Ethiopia got our picture taken and was published on the back cover a few months later 😉 Then one of my best friends would let me borrow his breakaway when he was done and he’d read my brio lol

      and heck yeah, Petra – also a lot if the kids at Fishnet were into the Christian “punk” scene 😉 MxPx and Ghoti Hook! Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys…DC talk… we thought we were so cool (but to be fair I still listen to some of that occasionally nowadays… lol)

  38. I enjoyed as much as my kids:
    Jungle Jam and Friends, the Radio Show
    The next wave of Christian musicals after Psalty and Music Machine. It included Dr. __?__’s Neckup Checkup and others
    The Donut Man
    Actually going to Whit’s End at Focus HQ in Colorado
    (Steve Green?) NIV Kids Praise
    Bill Myers boy books—”My Life as a _______________ ”
    Sleep Sound in Jesus—Michael Card lullabies
    Sugarcreek Gang on the radio

    1. Yes!! I hated mornings, but I woke up early every Saturday morning and laid in bed listening to Jungle Jam and friends and the special series of Adventures in Odyssey and the other shows that were on during the Saturday morning program….I am sad that I can’t remember the names anymore. 🙁

      I got to go see Psalty and the gang “in person” once and it was amazing! And oh the Donut Man….the one that sticks in my head most is the Christmas episode, with the huge star….oh man.

      And Sugarcreek Gang!!! I don’t think I heard them on the radio, but I did collect and read all the books! Right along with the Mandie mystery series!

      1. hahaha I still do that! I am out of state but listen on line!!! hahaha and ohhh man I love the Donut man, and my brothers have all the Sugarcreek gang cd’s and yea Mandie really should marry Joe…..

    2. True confession: I still love Jungle Jam’s “Three Wise Guys and a Baby,” their Christmas production. So clever. My favorite part is when the narrator says that Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem to be taxed, and one of the kids asks what taxes are. “Well, it’s kind of like this,” the narrator says. “‘I’m from the government. How much money do you have?'” “A dollar.” “Give it to me.”

  39. It would highly recommend the book by Notre Dame professor of sociology Christian Smith titled: “How to Go From Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in Ninety-Five Difficult Steps”

  40. The reason I bring that book up.. I have been long disenchanted with the Evangelical subculture. When I read Christian Smith’s book about a year ago — I finally felt that I understood why. It is one of the reasons I recently abandoned “Evangelicalism” for Catholicism. Many have gone over to the Eastern Orthodox Church (essentially the “other lung” of the Catholic Church) for the same reason.

    Another recommended read is Francis Beckwith’s book “Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic”. Francis Beckwith was well-known in the Evangelical world and was even the former president of the Evangelical Theological Society up to 2007.

    Basically, the Evangelical paradigm suffers from a chronic need to “find itself”, and constantly re-invent the wheel, because it has detached itself rom any sustaining apostolic, catholic, creedal roots. (with the possible exceptions being the confessional churches like the Anglican, traditional Lutheran, Orthodox Presbyterian or Presbyterian Church of America).

    As if the Holy Spirit died with the last of the apostles in the 1st century, only to be revived again in northern Europe in 1517! When you start from a 16th-century innovation of “sola scriptura”, you get what you ask for.

    I don’t intend to be divisive at all. But I really feel evangelical protestants owe it themselves to really examine their roots. Why are you “protesting” against, anyway?

  41. Definitely the Bible one, the Compassion one, the Sword drill one… and OMG. The Christy Miller one. I am working and I wanted to die laughing in my cubicle about that one!!! I was definitely deterred from missionary dating from the whole Katie debacle. And I wrote letters to my future husband due to the whole Todd thing and had a huge idea that my whole entire life would be just like the Christy books, all rosy and pretty. Oh man.
    I actually picked them up recently and it was all so sugar-coated I wanted to gag. But man in high school… they were the BIG DEAL!!!!
    I also had a purity ring, and signed at least one commitment to purity. And I probably still have the Psalty video we owned memorized. McGee and Me was a total favorite as was Adventures in Odyssey. When I was 10 I went to Whit’s End in Colorado Springs for the first time and I was so excited! Jesus Freak was the first ‘hardcore’ song I heard. And I had a Brio subscription or got them through the library for years.
    Man… I loved reading this post and the comments!!! Glad I’m not alone in these silly things!!

    1. I could echo every word in your post!! Only difference is I lived in Denver, so I got to visit Whit’s End quite frequently–it was like wonderland! I had a subscription to Brio Girl first (and Clubhouse Jr, then Clubhouse before that!), and I was sooo excited when my mom thought I was old enough to get Brio! I liked sneaking the Breakaway magazines at the library and reading them too. 🙂

      1. ANNA! hahah I can say that cause I know you and you would LOL… Odyssey was/is still big at our house! and I loved going to the springs with you and your mom for the Joni Eareckson Tada interview!!! funny memories!!

  42. My frustration with the Evangelical Protestant subculture lead me dangerously close to rejecting Christianity altogether and becoming atheist. In the end, I decided the atheist route to be empty and unsatisfactory — So I became a Catholic instead!

    1. I did much the same. There was all sort of things that were pop-culture-y in the subculture, but any time I questioned something, I was told to shut up and believe. The shaming for not going forward for baptism before age 7 was awful too.

  43. BTW: Me and my family LOVE Adventures in Odyssey — it has saved our sanity numerous times on long road trips!

  44. This made me laugh ♥ Some of these make me cringe a little, others make me smile. I hope my kids will enjoy some of these (Adventures in Odyssey, McGee and Me), while avoiding the emotional hype of the stuff that puts more focus on action than on heart intention.

      1. I think it’s that one that my little sister is in. We were able to go to the taping. She’s about 7(?) and is in the front row of the audience at the play. I was a couple people down and apparently it was too dark to be filmed. Haven’t thought about that in years! And I’m 15/15 for the post overall. Funny!

  45. Haha, I used to request the W’s song on the Christian radio station in high school. And Amy Grant is SSTILL my favorite singer thoigh I lile all kinds of music now. And missionary dating…I have dated non-Chtistians and I was always worried about trying not to do that. Mostly it just ended up a aad afgair anyways, not with me witnessing to them.

  46. This was my life, haha! Actually everything I’ve read by your so far is my life. And now I am your newest fangirl. Currently starting at the beginning and reading your whole blog–what a treat

  47. How about owning a t-shirt that said, “I Believe in the Big Bang Theory. God spoke and Bang, It Was!”? Also, doing a mime of a Carman song.

      1. I just downloaded “The Champion” the other day (right after that, I went for “The Greatest Song in the World” by Tenacious D, similarish–lol!) buut, Carman~yeaah! I so saw him in concert in Boston =P

    1. Study M-Theory. It gives you the answer as to why the big bang occurred in the first place.

  48. I still have my WWJD wristbands… I have a PUSH one that I put on my climbing gear and take with me on trips… the 90s baby! 🙂

  49. I still remember a book my mother gave us about dating (something about yellow roses). It was a choose your own adventure. And if you choose to kiss the guy, you would always end up pregnant no matter what other choices you made in the book. Later we took it with us to bible college and had some great laughs in the dorm reading it.

  50. Oh Sword Drills…I read about them and nearly broke out in a cold sweat just thinking about it!

  51. Having nightmares while at church summer camp about being caught doing something “sinful” and being sent home! THE SHAME!

  52. I was always the kid who asked questions in Sunday school that made everybody uncomfortable. “But how do we really know there’s even a God?” “What if God used evolution to create everything?” “What’s really wrong with dancing/drinking/rock music, etc.?” “What’s wrong with a guy having an earring?”

    It took me a long time to understand why my questions were routinely ignored. They were off limits. We weren’t supposed to think that hard. So I doubled down and kept looking for my own answers. When I was diagnosed with MS in 1990, the wineskins holding my evangelical faith, bursting at the seams most of my life, just couldn’t take any more. I lived as an atheist for three years.

    I’ll never know how I’d have fared during that time if I were raised in a different tradition. What I do know is that the evangelical tradition could never even handle my philosophical questions, so it certainly couldn’t prepare me for real suffering.

    1. So much truth here. I think that I internalized some of that too, and it’s part of moving toward a more wholehearted kind of faith — to learn to ask the hard questions. Thanks for commenting David.

    2. “[T]he evangelical tradition could never even handle my philosophical
      questions, so it certainly couldn’t prepare me for real suffering.” YES. Just yes.

      1. TOTALLY! 🙂 Then again, in defense of the evangelical tradition, I’m not sure ANY faith tradition can really prepare us for intense suffering. I wonder if perhaps that season will test every person from every possible faith background. Sometimes I think that kind of suffering is in fact required to even make us aware that our wine skins are bursting and it might be time to come up with a new way of understanding God.

    3. Things like that do tend to make religious folks uncomfortable just as Galileo suggesting the earth is not the center of the universe made folks uncomfortable back in 1600. I was raised Christian but once I became older and became heavily exposed to science, things began to change. I place my faith in science and as far as a deity goes, yes I believe one exists but as to who She is (yes I said She), I’m not sure.

    4. This so saddens me. I am fortunate that I was raised with parents who encouraged us to ask these questions even if they seemed against Christian culture because it is all about a relationship with God. If my parents couldn’t answer it fully they would tell me to ask God abd he did show me the meanings of a lot of things. So sad that you think you have to choose knowledge or God when God is all-knowing and certainly won’t ignore your questions

          1. Yes, you do. It’s a matter of record. It’s also in that documentary film about you.

  53. Being on the Dance Squad that performed to ‘Powerful and meaningful’ Christian songs on Sunday mornings. …and going to a “Hell House” instead of a Haunted House at Halloween time.

  54. Aside from Christy Miller (because my on-fire peers believed that THOSE books could distract you from your relationship with God by making you want a relationship with a boy, therefore were an idol), every single one of those things is true for me! So funny!

  55. i was raised christian and my parents never made me choose 1 denomination over another and i have no problem with catholic protestant etc.

  56. Hilarious, Addie! This brought back so many memories of teenager-hood for me–some of which involved mentally giving my teenage self a pat on the head and a “weren’t you so cute then,” and others of which involved cringing. I love that you included McGee and Me–I loved those videos!

  57. OH MY GOOOOOSH Even as little Jamaican girl in the 90s, I can still relate to half of these xD

    In addition to doing sign language pieces to Kathy Troccoli’s Go Light Your World, and actually getting hype to Carman videos…

  58. Friendly note: I have never skanked to Skalleluia by the Supertones because the song was recorded by The Insyderz.

  59. HA! This was me.. man. Forgot about the sting of not being chosen for the Brio girl. LOOOL

  60. I read this stuff and most of it I am completely unfamiliar with. Of course i wasn’t raised in a Christian subculture! I just wanted to read this for the fun of it.

  61. Holy crap! So many of those things were true of me, or close enough as makes no difference. Thanks, I really enjoyed this eye-roll-inducing list.

  62. How about “unspoken prayer requests” during youth group circle prayer? Only you and your best friend knew the details and it was usually about a boy, but you would never dream of revealing that to your youth pastor! So it went as an “unspoken prayer request” and everyone solemnly nodded in agreement.

  63. It’s not Christians but the legalistic ones where you will have me screaming “You mean to tell me you never read books outside the Bible? As in you don’t have a book collection other than that Bible — I hate to say it but you’re a total fucking hypocrite!” I had access to Metallica, Voivod, Megadeth, and Black Sabbath — then Stephen King and later H. P. Lovecraft and Richard Matheson. I became a horror writer in my own right and held my own with H. P. Lovecraft and Poe.

          1. Well, at least you’re not taking videos of your little sister bathing again….

          2. And you were caught in that one as you write as David Boyer as your pen name.

          3. That’s because David Boyer is your real name. Nickoluas Pacione is nothing more than an alt.

  64. I loved reading this article and all the posts! I was a child of 1987 with 3 younger sisters and a younger brother who all grew up through the 90s with the same childhood experience 😄🤓 😆haha but it was THE BEST CHILDHOOD EVA! Though our parents had been youth leaders from a small town on a big mission to travel and spread God’s word… Our dad was criminal at wearing youth Christian slogan shirts and being the loudest a and proudest at Youth camps. I forgot to mention too that we are AUSSIE’s and lived in Regional and remote Western Australia for much of our school life yet it sounds like we didn’t miss out on much (thanks mum and dad you never would have let that happen not over your dead bodies if that’s what it took lol) My mum is embarrassingly fanatical about veggie tales and when we had lived in Canarvon (a town in the North of WA that is famous for its Bananas, large population of Portugese and Italian inmigrants and Aboriginal people and without being rascist as this is just a statistical fact in this town, Aboriginal Children harassing the town shoplifting while parents sleep off the night before in the park- very sad situation) between 1999 and 2001 she worked in a class of young students who where the ‘hardest to teach’ (Mostly aboriginal and mainly due to not being at school) who loved her like a surrogate mother and couldn’t get enough of Veggie Tales or MgGee and new and of course Quiglees village and Donutman. I sometimes got to help in her class before school and during Sex education classes (thank goodness as they where ridiculously graphic living in a town with high rate of teen pregnancy from as young as 12yrs old!) and was amazed at how adorably well mannered and loving these children where and how eagerly they wanted to demonstrate acts of “kindness” and “friendship” “love” “compassion” “forgiveness” “generosity” ” thankfulness” “thoughtfulness” “brother/sisterhood” “perserverance” “humbleness” “selflessness and self-sacrifice” etc etc which they would proudly demonstrate around the school through various acts like cooking for other classes (the funniest and most popular idea of theirs that became a bit of a inside joke amongst teachers as these children came to school with terrible hygiene issues though my mum would track down and avidly defend the students to anyone who had an ‘issue’ with it that they have learnt the importance of offering these gifts in good faith meaning they where taught to use care and adhere to strict levels of hygiene which they could tell you themselves was because a gift is not a gift of it causes someone else to become sick or find a stray boogie in it LOL! They where so SO incredibly gorgeous these kids) and they where the ones directing all of this themselves getting ideas from these Christian shoes they became so in love with that they would be at School from as early as 6.30 when school didn’t start till just before 9am! I do cringe at some memories and yes it was at times a challenging childhood which peaked at its worse when I reached my late teens but when I think about it and hear friends who grew up in non religious homes talk about their childhoods, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Oh and just one last funny little story to add- Mu husband is EXTREMELY religious-phobic anti-church anti-religion and stopping just short of Athiest (as he will tell you he considers that a religion too) and is the kind of bloke who LOVES heavy metal wearing horrible band shirts that have caused great tension between him and my dad at the best of times before we married. And yet just thismorning he tells Me how much he loves VEGETALES?! and was looking for the DVDs or videos to watch with our kids… Amazing I was utterly dumbfounded (and secretly high giving myself for having made some sort of good influence on him over the years- he has certainly had a massive heart change since we married 3years ago making me among the luckiest women in the world as 7 years ago I was unmarried, we weren’t in a relationship- he decided he did not want one, and PREGNANT with his child….!!! The darkest years of my life followed but i followed my heart and not my head or the overwhelming advise and attempted forced instruction of my friends and family and somehow I found my way home even after reaching the point of severe mental illness- something to think about really as fear was what held Melissa down in chains but my heart set Me and my husband and our children free from the terrible future we where heading for and into the warm and bright light of where we are now living as a loving devoted family who won’t ever let life get in between us again- there is hope people and it lies in the admiral and honourable place of a family- I believe that’s where we are supposed to spend our days devoted to a partner for life and to our children and our families and if we all lived for that same purpose I believe that would finally be our heaven on earth)

  65. Do any of you remember Cranston Thorndike and the Dragon? The Story of Little Tree? Nathaniel the Grublet? The Vinegar Boy? My dad worked for Lexicon/Word and would bring all of these home for me. He also brought home albums of Stryper, Leviticus, Jerusalem, Light Force (that later became Mortification, one of my all-time favourite bands), and all sorts of Christian heavy metal, hard rock, white metal, etc.

    I’ve never met anyone else who had heard of Cranston Thorndike, though I do have a friend who had Nathaniel the Grublet. They were an integral part of my childhood. I remember lots of things from your list, but the things that really made it through, due to circumstances in my life, were those I just mentioned.

    I never read the books you’re talking about, but instead read Frank Peretti, and later Ted Dekker, among others. I met my husband in the underground Christian music scene over two decades ago.

    It’s funny how similar and yet so very different our upbringings were.

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