Do religious kids daydream of Jesus?

17 Sep 2009

What kind of daydreams do religious kids have?

They start with the usual, I imagine. As far as I know, I was pretty normal in the drifting-off department. While I wasn't a sports kind of kid, I'd entertain the occasional fantasy of wowing the classmates with the home run they never expected, or knocking that ol' kickball all the way over the big tree in the grade school yard. Sometimes I had more exciting daydreams of gaining awesome superpowers. And, of course, there were no end to the fancies involving That One Girl in the next row or next classroom or whatever – just little secret stories that were clean and cute in grade school (less clean and cute in high school).  

But uber-religious kids have got to have their own special brand of daydream – or at least, those kids with the "funny" religions that put them in the camp of outsider. I was a Jehovah's Witness kid, and that was considered a crackpot variant of the hometown's generic Christianity (when it was understood to be Christian to begin with!). As you'd expect, there was the occasional wisecrack to put up with, plus those embarrassing everybody's-staring-at-me moments when I had to publicly opt out of the Pledge of Allegiance or of a Christmas piece in band. To be fair, I can't say that I was treated awfully because of the wacky religion, but there were just enough jibes to spur a typically overly-sensitive and imaginative kid into irregular "I'll show them all!" fantasies. Here's how one of mine went.

First, a spot of background: JWs, like any good literalist fundamentalists, firmly accept the Devil and demons as real beings who can "come into" the lives of the unwary. The traps they set are as you'd expect: drugs, "meddling in the occult", even "supernatural" books or rock music. The symptoms of demonic attention are also standard fundie fare, from poltergeist-style hauntings to outright possession. (The sporadic tale of a "house with demons", relayed in hushed tones among moms after a Kingdom Hall meeting, was like forbidden but oh-so-sweet candy to a child bored out of his skull by another Watchtower study session on proper conduct of ministerial servants.)

Rounding out this backdrop of a demon-haunted world is a select group of warriors equipped to combat the forces of darkness: the Jehovah's Witnesses themselves, of course! Well, I'm not sure the identification was presented that clearly, nor did we receive exorcist training. But the prescription for those who've "got demons" (yes, that was the expression, like "you've got termites") was to call upon the name of Jehovah, backed by proper faith and humility, blah blah. That pretty much made impromptu Satan-busting the bailiwick of the Witnesses alone. Like some unofficial Holy A-Team on eternal standby.

So with that, the stage is set for a proper English Lit class daydream. My fellow students and I are all in the quiet classroom, doing our student thing, faces in notebooks and pencils scritching... when the room goes dark. Beastly voices hiss out of nowhere. Then comes the real horror: books, chairs, everything, rising into the air, swirling faster and faster, a windless tornado. Kids scream in fear! They drop to the floor and cower, they freeze standing in place; even the teacher is powerless to act. (Why is this happening, you ask? It doesn't matter!)

Someone tries something. A shaky-voiced prayer, a cry for aid to Jesus! It's no use. It's a whisper in a storm. The poor adherents of false Christendom don't know that only the name of the the Lord of the Old Testament, Yahweh himself (the original Great Old One!), holds any power here. And so it is up to me. I stand amidst the spinning debris, my face upward, bellowing like a Prophet of Old: "In the name of the True God Jehovah, I command you to leave!" 

And the demons leave. It's over. The storm is stopped; light enters the room once more. Stunned classmates gaze upon me with awe, as does the teacher emerging from behind her desk. They now know that I am brave, that I am awesome, and that it was I who held the True Faith all along. I was right, and the truth of Jehovah has been revealed to all! And... well, not that it's important compared to the godly stuff, but just by way of mention, That One Girl from two rows ahead has found herself a hero...

Dorktastically pathetic? Yeah, it was. Though as adolescent daydreams go, it's not that bizarre – at least, not if you believe that a demon attack in school is just another remote but real possibility, like an armed intruder or a cafeteria grease fire. The point is, I stood up to the challenge, and I beat it, and... well, I would have, that is, if it had happened...

Surely I'm not the only one with such a goofy fantasy to 'fess up to! Do other religious kids have godly daydreams? Do Mormon kids imagine a public visit from the angel Moroni, shutting the gobs of those wisecracking jocks? Do fundie baptist kids dream of shoving away the too-late penitents, like Noah slamming the doors of his ark, as the Rapture lifts the faithful away from the screams of the damned? Any ex- (or current!) believers have a tale of make-believe to relate? Don't be shy!

Comments

I never fantasized about my religious beliefs.  I always kinda wished a lightsabre would fall through the roof and I'd be able to... erm... I don't know.  Show the bullies what's what?

 

 

defaithed's picture

Ah, but is not Jedi-ism a religion? Maybe you don't think so... in which case <James Earl Jones voice> I find your lack of faith disturbing...

It is.  But at the time, it wasn't.  Oh, how I wanted to use the force for everyday influence of others (and cleaning my room).  It was another six years before I completely gave up on the possibility of lightsabres (or is it lightsaber?) from heaven and god, etc.

 

Thanks for your blog by the way.  I really enjoy it.

defaithed's picture

Ah yes, the mind-control aspects of The Force – that could be useful. Did you go around trying to "will" things to happen, so see if you could get that Force working? I'll admit to trying similar stuff now and then as a kid. For example, I once saw a Rosicrucians advertisement in a tabloid, urging readers to "test" their latent mental powers by "thinking" at someone until the psychic energy (or whatever it was) makes the person notice, or act oddly, etc. So I recall hiding in the back of the room, "thinking" at a grandfather until he scratched his head, which I wanted to take as "proof" that something happened. Yet at the same time it was a very unsatisfying result, as I couldn't fool myself into ignoring that he was always scratching his head...

Kids are weird. : )

Anyway, thanks for the kind words!

Really enjoyed the blog, and feel compelled to share my past daydreams with you, hopefully as boldy as you did.
I, too, as a child went to a school at which religious beliefs were encouraged, and I hated it with a passion. In fact, I used to daydream of beating my classmates to death, or using aquired "powers" such as Telekinesis or Pyrokinesis to harm them. But of course I never even considered killing a classmate, as for one, they'd easily overpower me, and two, I'd rot in jail or be put to death. And although I knew how unrealistic these fantasies were and sometimes felt silly dreaming them, as if someone could see what I was thinking(There's that religious influence on me), I dreamed on.

defaithed's picture

So, we were essentially both dreaming of superpowers, if you count my "impromptu exorcism" feat as a superpower. Which means, I think, that we remained pretty normal kids! (Unrelated comment: On those occasions as a kid when I actually imagined having comic-book superpowers, for some reason it was the Plastic Man / Elastic Man / Mister Fantastic "super-stretching" that appealed to me. I know, I know, I can't imagine why someone would want that over flight or super-strength or X-Ray vision, but there you go...)

Your comment on "as if someone could see what I was thinking" does touch on a chilling aspect of religion: the sad submission to God's "thought police" role, fearing that too many bad thoughts could earn eternal punishment. I don't recall evidence of my being overly messed up mentally by that; in the long run, even a kid has to realize that it's impossible to squelch all "bad" thoughts, and has to accept and forgive some amount of them in himself. Yet the worry still popped up often... It's a feeling of always being graded by an omniscient teacher, completely silently, with no chance to appeal the grade, or even know the grade status in progress until the final pass-fail test. Even if the kid learns to somehow minimize that worry, years and years of living with it can't be healthy.

 

Holy Sh!t, that's the funniest thing I've ever read. I was born and raised a Jehovah's Witness. We shared the same daydreams. I enjoyed when the whole Congregation got in on the dream. Like those "experiences" that someone heard from Bethel of how an Angel appeared on the subway or how some elderly sister called on the name of Jehovah and crossed the street but the Avon Lady wasn't so lucky. This was the coolest time to be a JW. When you would count the RPM of the Kingdom Hall ceiling fan and imagine how you weren't scared of Satan or those pesky demons because you knew how to spell Jehovah. Or how you could only truly relate to Indiana Jones III because he knew the name of God.

 

defaithed's picture

Yeah, you've got the idea. I like the Indiana Jones reference; it's true, part of the JW daydream is a confidence that they really know their Bible and theology better than all those other so-called Christians do. Actually, I'll give the JWs a nod on that point; the sect started out as a Bible study group, and with the multiple weekly readings and the preaching and the dedication and the role everyone plays in giving "Ministerial School" presentations, I'm sure the average JW is more well-steeped in Bible-iness than a lukewarm churchgoer.

I don't personally recall hearing stories involving angels – I'm not even sure what the official Watchtower stance would be on claims of angel sightings – but I can imagine stories of the sort you report. Me, I held a secret fascination with the demon stories, because, hey, it's like a sanctioned version of the ghost stories we were dissuaded from enjoying. (Although, as you know, no matter what you try to do, you cross some line with fundies. Once when I prodded Mom to retell a certain "demon-possessed house" story she'd heard, all I got was an admonishment to not "dwell on it". Sheesh. So I had to go back to surreptitiously getting my ghost stories from the National Enquirer.)

This is wonderful - it never really occurred to me that other children didn't daydream of Jesus. But I'm about to embark on a creative project where we are rewriting Bible stories from other points of view. 

Anyway, as a happy little girl with an overactive imagination, I was certain that animals could talk, but humans were just too full of sin to hear them. Afterall, Eve did the humans in by tricking Adam, didn't she? Now we can only use 10% of our brains at a time. There goes telekenisis. I day dreamed that I could talk to my cat, and that she could talk directly to Jesus. So we'd be hanging out in the back yard, feeling the cool grass on our backs and the warm sun on our fronts. And Kitty (that was my cat's name) could invite Jesus to come hang out on the grass with us. And he would.

We never actually did anything. We didn't fight demons - we just hung out. Sometimes we sang church songs.

I think I did this because my parents used to tell me I could talk to God, and I thought they were absolutely mad. In this way, Kitty was my medium. Interesting... now that I think about it.

defaithed's picture

You know, that scenario – animals can talk, and even mediate with higher powers, but most human are blocked from hearing it – has a great ring to it as story background. Your self-description sounds like a character from a novel... If by chance you're a writer, how about working that into a story? (Ideally removed from "sin" and religion, but hey, I really don't have a problem with religious fiction that presents itself as fiction.) 

Anyway, thanks for the sharing. I like that image of the girl and her "medium" Kitty! 

I went to Sunday school and church when I was younger and then to a catholic boarding school from grades 9 to 12.  We attended a 20 minute mass before breakfast each day and had a half day of church on Sundays. But, no matter how hard I tried, I just could NOT believe. I wanted to, everybody else did, so what was wrong with me? I used to day dream that somehow I would 'see the light' and become a 'True Believer'. Never happened though and now I'm over it. Funny how 'not being able to believe' made me feel odd at the time.

defaithed's picture

I think there are many people who, like you, try to believe dogma but just can't do it.

One example: the PostSecret website seems to get an awful lot of input from people fearful and unhappy over their inability to believe. I hope many of them do as you did, and get over it!

Pages

Add new comment