Several of the commenters to yesterday’s post on Pentecostal fervor had grown up in that religious tradition and raised an issue that I had not thought about, and that was what the children in attendance at these sessions thought about their parents getting caught up in the action and speaking in tongues and generally carrying on. Those comments are well worth reading.
As anyone who has been a parent knows, children view their parents as total dorks and their greatest fear is that their parents will say or do something stupid that will embarrass them in front of their peers. The list of things that they consider potentially dangerous when done by a parent includes almost all of what you eat, speak, and do and the range of those not considered dorky is remarkably narrow and does not extend much beyond the basic functions necessary for life.
It does not matter in the least if you have some talent or quality that society in general greatly admires. From the view of your child, you should keep it under wraps. I remember a story in which an observer noted a child tugging anxiously at the sleeve of her father and pleading, “Daddy, daddy, please don’t sing.” Is there a father anywhere who has not heard this same anguished plea? It would not be noteworthy except that in this case the father was Billy Joel.
So it would not be surprising if the children of Pentecostals squirmed with embarrassment at seeing their parents whirling like dervishes in front of their friends. The fact that their friends’ parents may have been similarly engaged would bring relatively little relief since ones own parents’ actions always loom much larger in our minds and appear much more embarrassing than those of others.
I wonder to what extent seeing this as a child alienated young children from the Pentecostal faith. It would be interesting to read a study to see if the rate at which Pentecostalism was handed down from one generation to the next differed markedly from other religions, or whether the brainwashing was so intense that it overcame the dorkiness factor.