“I don’t want to disobey Mom and Dad, but the truth is I don’t think what I did was wrong. As much as they believe this music is rebellious, I don’t. That’s the funny thing about belief: No one can do it for you. Turns out, no matter how much I want to, I can’t make myself believe something I don’t”
Aaron Hartzler grew up in a conservative Christian household in Kansas City, Missouri. His father taught at the local Bible college, while Aaron helped his mother run the neighbourhood Good News Club, and worked as a counselor at a vacation Bible camp. Aaron and his siblings grew up believing that the Rapture could happen any time, so they should consider whether their every action is “pleasing to the Lord,” lest they be caught sinning on the final day. But as a teenager, Aaron finds it harder and harder to adhere to his parents’ strict rules. He doesn’t believe that it is sinful to watch movies, or listen to rock music, but every time he is caught with cassette tapes, or a GQ magazine, he is punished for rebellion. As the clashes with his parents become increasingly painful, Aaron becomes better at keeping secrets, until he is eventually expelled from his Christian high school for breaking their strict rules, much to his parents’ surprise.
If you grew up in a religious family, or had to leave room for Jesus at your Christian school dances, you will find much to relate to in Aaron’s experiences. This is a great book for people of faith and atheists alike; those who have wrestled with doubt will recognize their own journey, and those who have faith will get a glimpse into the difficulties and frustrations faced by a child who disagrees with his parents’ beliefs. Aaron’s first story of conflict with his parents over religion happens when he is only four years old, but the bulk of the narrative is focused on his high school years, particularly his parents’ decision to transfer him from one Christian high school to a more conservative one. Aaron is very kind and diplomatic about his parents’ beliefs, while also clearly articulating his doubts and differences of opinion. The story is shared with a healthy dose of humour, without ever losing sight of the pain caused by being so terribly at odds with one’s family.
Rapture Practice falls short only in that it concludes too soon, ending after Aaron is kicked out of his high school, though he reaches a deal to receive his diploma. His father had a rule that his kids had to do their first year of university at a Bible college, so I really wanted to know about Aaron’s college experience, and especially his coming out. Although there are many hints in the book that he was gay, including the moment he really realized it himself, he had so many girlfriends during high school that I really wondered if his family had any idea. Despite the subtitle, the book focuses much more on the pressures and doubts inflicted by his parents’ extreme devotion to their faith. He concludes with a sense of hope, but the reader knows that there are probably still several big challenges ahead of him. However, it is quite possible there is enough material there for another memoir.
You might also like A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She is Today by Kate Bornstein.