tonight i'm thinking way back to the days that i spent writing and re-writing college admissions essays in hopes of being one of the few, the proud to be accepted to study at God's Concentration Camp, where only 20-odd percent of applicants are accepted and where the Lord himself hands you your diploma at your commencement ceremony.
i wanted to attend GCC for so many reasons, not the least of which was that attendance would guarantee each male alumnus a fulfilling career as either a poor but ecstatic missionary or a wealthy elected official who would represent strong family values but who could still maintain a very private personal life. the female alumni are promised marriage and pregnancy -- IN THAT ORDER, MIND YOU!-- within months of graduation. i wanted so badly to be accepted at that particular college that my church family and i prayed over my application.
i recall writing in my admissions essay about the horrors of growing up personally devoted to Christ while living in a heathen family and attending a secular school. i thought that i was born into the wrong family. only by attending a Christian college could i set myself on the right path, could i correct the Lord's unfortunate mistake.
tonight i find myself thankful for being able to grow up free from the shackles of religion, even though i voluntarily chose those shackles for most of my teen years. i just watched a documentary called "Sons of Perdition" on Oprah's OWN network.* the docu-film focuses on the lives of several young Mormons (of a very specific and fanatical sect, i should clarify) who flee from their family compound, are aggressively hunted down by parents and church members who want them to return, and struggle to adjust to life in the real world. the young men and women learn that once they fall out of grace with their church, they will forever be exiled from not only their communities but also from their own families.
watching this documentary after watching "Latter Days" (coincidentally, a film about a sexy gay Mormon who is shunned by his church and family. it was, like, Mormon weekend on tv or something.) over the weekend has reminded me to be thankful for my upbringing. while my childhood wasn't perfect and though my parents made plenty of mistakes, no one indoctrinated me with religious beliefs until i sought out religion on my own as a teenager. it was just a phase, and one that my family and close friends were content to see pass -- mostly because i made them feel very uncomfortable when i insisted that we all bow our heads in prayer before meals, despite my being the only person at the table who believed in God.
*that's redundant, i know.