What kind of weird hell is Charleston, Illinois?

Anyone live there? Or near there? I was just pointed at their Parks & Recreation department, which has been busy promoting a very Christian life, despite being listed as a “government organization”. Like this:

I guess it is the Charleston Parks & Rec department’s job to take people out of Charleston and drive them all the way across Indiana to a Christian religious indoctrination camp. It just seems way out of bounds for a city government.

Then I noticed other events that they’ve sponsored.

Really? Daddy-daughter dances and Mom-son dates? Could all of you creepy Christians learn that there are healthy parent-child relationships, and they don’t try to mimic courtship rituals?

Charleston has a large regional university, Eastern Illinois, but even that doesn’t offset my impression of the town as a bizarre little theocracy full of glassy-eyed Christian zealots who wouldn’t think of complaining about how the city government has been hijacked by fundies. Maybe there are some residents of the region who can correct me, unless the kinds of people who would read freethoughtblogs have all been incinerated in a wicker man over the years.


  1. Akira MacKenzie says

    Could all of you creepy Christians learn that there are healthy parent-child relationships, and they don’t try to mimic courtship rituals?

    Of course, the creepy Christian would respond with “How dare you imply that these wholesome family activities involve incest! Those impure thoughts would never enter our heads and just goes to show that you depraved liberal atheists constantly have their minds in the gutter!”

  2. says

    I grew up in southeastern Illinois and this doesn’t surprise me at all. Most small town governments in that area have been taken over by Christian zealots. And if you stand up to protest something like this then you are painted as an evil Satan worshiper. That’s one of the reasons I left more than 15 years ago.

  3. weylguy says

    I wonder if that Daddy-Daughter Dance includes the bestowal of purity rings, which was all the rage with Christians a few decades back. Insane, but rings are a lot more comfortable than chastity belts, so who am I to criticize.

    I also wonder what kind of similar ritual is connected with the Mother-Son Dance. I can just imagine a 13-year-old boy sporting a purity ring given to him by his mommy at school and the reaction he’d get from his fellow students — good way to get beaten up.

  4. lanir says

    I’ve only lived in the northern part of the state and spent a year at the southern end in Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Chicago and the surrounding suburbs are generally fairly sophisticated and this sort of thing wouldn’t fly for long. I’ve never lived in any of them but I’d expect the other significant population centers like Joliet or Champaign to be similar.

    When you get out away from large population centers though, things get real conservative real fast. Like usual there are still a variety of opinions in most things, but it’s not uncommon to find conservative ideas are the ones that effectively dominate conversations. That was my experience growing up a couple hours south of Chicago.

    There is a minority but a vocal one that resents the influence Chicago has over the state. I think a lot of the conservative BS gets more traction by contrast with more liberal Chicago. I’d tentatively suggest Eastern Illinois University is probably similar on a local level. What you see from the park district could easily be the sullen local backlash to college kids with more inclusive ideas.

  5. m n says

    As someone who grew up with that kind of stuff, I don’t think the parent-child “date nights” are, on their own, all that weird? Like I get that the nomenclature’s a little odd, but… my siblings and I all had semi-regular “date nights” with my dad growing up, including my brother. It was just a thing where we got to spend one-on-one time with our dad seeing a movie or getting our favourite food or, yes, going to one of those father-daughter dances (ours were through the Girl Scouts).

    We also each got to pick some kind of “fancy” trip to do with my mom when we turned eight (I went hiking in the Grand Canyon, and iirc my sister went camping and horseback riding and my brother went to a local waterpark resort).

    A parent setting aside time to focus on their child is, I think, not a bad thing. That said, once purity culture intrudes, I do agree that it does get pretty icky. I just don’t think that calling it a “date” makes it a romantic endeavor with children any more than my having a “dinner date” with a friend means I’m cheating on my husband.

  6. freemage says

    lanir@3 has the right of it. We’ve got isolated pockets of conservativism in the Northeast part of the state, but they’re rare, and get broken up by Peoria, Bloomington and Champaign. But once you’re south of there, it’s all rural farm country, resentful of the corruption in ‘Chicago and Crook County’ (never mind, of course, that if they ever kicked our corrupt asses out, the rest of the state would implode from the lack of tax revenue–like the national map, the reddest parts of the state are also the biggest recipients of government largess). Proximity to East St. Louis (which, like Gary, IN and Flint, MI, is a city that never recovered from the decay of industrialism followed by White Flight) doesn’t help matters, of course–they get to point to its high crime rates as ‘proof’ about, y’know, ‘those people’. Never mind that there are plainly evident reasons that the city is unable to right itself; it has to be the fact that blacks are in charge.

  7. says

    @#5, m n:

    There’s no need to use any of the terminology, though, and it provides cover for creeps by making it seem like this stuff is just normal. To borrow a concept from a discussion I’ve seen on another topic:

    Actual Abused Teen: Wow, I hate all this touchy-feely stuff with my parent.
    Normal Teen: Yeah, I know, right? So weird.
    Actual Abused Teen, Thinking: (Gee, I guess what’s happening to me is totally normal, if everybody else has the same reactions.)
    Normal Teen, Thinking: (Gee, I guess Actual Abused Teen isn’t having any real problems if all they’re complaining about is this stuff I get put through myself.)

  8. methuseus says

    What I remember from applying to colleges in Illinois (I grew up north of Chicago, in far suburban areas) is that Eastern Illinois University was seen as a hick university and don’t bother going there unless you’re getting an agriculture-related degree. Their engineering-related and math-related degrees were seen as a joke, even when compared to SIU at Carbondale. That was almost 20 years ago, but I doubt much has changed. It is literally in the middle of nowhere, a tiny, tiny campus barely bigger than that of the high school I went to, and my high school wasn’t all that big.

  9. m n says

    @ #7, The Vicar

    I see where you’re coming from, but again, “date” is a term that is commonly used for planned time together outside of romantic contexts, so are we expected to refrain from using it for anything but romantic endeavors, full stop? As far as father-daughter dances are concerned, I honestly don’t know what else you’d call a dance but a dance if you wanted to be understood.

    With this kind of linguistic proscriptionism, I think you run the risk of demonizing perfectly reasonable behaviours in the attempt to ensure that nothing inappropriate is normalized. It’s a noble goal, but frankly, abusers will only start using whatever new terminology is adopted in their own coded way, bringing you back to the beginning of the problem. I think the solution to this kind of problem lies not in policing words, but in policing actions, and in providing accessible education on the topic both to society in general and to children in particular.

    That said, I’m more than willing to consider new terminology; what would you suggest terming these kinds of bonding activities to avoid unsavory connotations?

  10. Curious Digressions says

    I went to junior high in central Illinois. Middle school is generally hell anyway, but that made it extra special. The small towns around Springfield are very reactive and very conservative. Our family were “outsiders” who married in to a “real” family. Not only could we not trace our ancestry back at least 4 generations in the “tri-county area”, but we were gasp Catholic. My mom lived there for 18 years and was still not a local. People generally went to some flavor of protestant christian church, but more for social hour than out of devotion. There were some super-devoted churchies, but they were no less hypocritical or insular than most. There was, however, a rigid social hierarchy. Seeing it from an outside perspective, it just seemed stupid. It was based on a combination of how well-regarded your family was (based on ???), how much money your family had (based on how large of a farm or business you inherited), and how closely you followed the unstated but extremely rigid social expectations. “State” or “County” jobs, basically any government job, could only be held by someone of high social status. The whole area is economically challenged, and there aren’t many good jobs to be had that you didn’t inherit. Not that they had discrimination guidelines, but the people who did the hiring knew who to hire. Everyone knew everyone’s business, family connections, and unspoken social status. One of the criteria for determining social status was church attendance, so churchies ended up in the “State” jobs.
    It was a special kind of hell and I moved away as soon as I could.

  11. anbheal says

    I attended several annual father-daughter dances with my landlord’s girl, who is the daughter of an SMC (Single Mother By Choice) and a donor at a Cambridge sperm bank who was tall and smart and athletic, if one believes the bio. She really wanted to go. All her friends were. She wanted me to take her (I’ve been her babysitter her whole life).

    It was neither Christian nor icky. Basically the gymnasium gets done up in some trite/tacky theme, the fathers sit in the bleachers yawning and chatting, or slipping outside to vape (this is Colorado, after all, and it’s walking distance, no driving involved), while some DJ plays Who Let The Dogs Out and Miley Cyrus/Taylor Swift girl-pleasing hits, and orchestrates hula-hoop and limbo contests, and the girls all dance together. I get dragged out on the floor a few times, because I’m the neighborhood baby-sitter, and live in Mexico half the year, so I can salsa, so I’ll cut a rug with five or six girls at the same time, then go back to the bleachers where all the dads tease me. I pass out a buck or three for the girls to get some candy and lemonade and enter a raffle for an Amazon Echo. And then I walk home with my landlord’s daughter. Where, on the side of her fridge, are the $6 magnet photos of our last three father-daughter dances, me in a suit and her in a pretty dress, posing in front of the tacky theme entrance.

    It’s really quite benign, with no religious overtones, just girls in their Sunday best dancing with each other to big dumb hits in a gymnasium.

  12. Anton Mates says

    @anbheal, I did the same thing for my neighbor’s granddaughter; her dad was out of the picture. It was a cute and fun night.

    That said, I think calling it a “Daddy-daughter” dance is kinda weird. You and I weren’t their actual dads, after all. And what if Mommy wanted to attend instead? They should just call it a “dance” and girls can bring their trusted +1, who will often be their father but need not be.