From my early years as a pint-sized preacher’s kid with glasses I learned what it meant to be vulnerable. I was smaller than the other guys, poor at sports and awkward with tools. No doubt a side effect of being left-handed.
Because we moved so frequently, I did not experience life as part of a team. By the time I graduated from Grade 12, I had been to school in 12 different school buildings. Life in the 60’s and 70’s as a preacher’s kid was somewhat like being an army brat with frequent moves.
I was born into a preacher’s family at a time when Pentecostals were constantly taught to live a life of separation from the surrounding culture. I was entrenched into ‘us and them’ as a way to explain why we didn’t go to the movies or school dances. I was warned about the evils of rock and roll and why the Baptists thought we were a cult.
As a young boy in school and with kids in the neighbourhood, I vacillated between being a friend and the fear that they would find me out. “Hey everyone! Kevin is a preacher’s kid who thinks that Jesus is going to come out of the sky and take him to Heaven and send the rest of us to hell! Kevin won’t smoke cigarettes with us, drink beer or go to movies with us.”
And in my mind they would run down the street laughing and yelling ‘Kevin is a loser! He’s a holy roller!’
I actually remember a friend with a parent showing up at our house door when I was in Grade one. The parent asked if I could go with their son to the movies. There was full feature Flintstones movie showing. I was standing behind my dad as he explained that we don’t go to the cinema. I was deeply sad because I wanted to be with my friend and after all—Fred and Barney were people I knew from the black and white TV sitting right there in our living room. I knew that I was not supposed to go to a movie theatre, but I could not figure out the ethical reason why, other than obeying my parents.
Jesus could return at any moment, so I needed to go to the altar regularly to ensure that I was ready. If Jesus returned and I was in the theatre, he would be so disappointed in me and I would be left behind. He was coming for pure people and I knew from a young age that I had some work to do if I was going to be good enough to be saved.
A few of these events reinforced in my mind that the world was clearly ‘us and them’.