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.
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.”)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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
- 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.”)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.
What about you? What would you add to the list?