Raised With A Religious Upbringing
Like a good number of Singaporean kids, I grew up in a religious household. My parents met and married in church, then dedicated their lives to bringing up their three children with the same religious education they received.
Though they did their best to parent us, mum and dad’s religious inclinations made things challenging at times. If you grew up with extremely devout parents, you’ll probably relate to these growing pains.
1. Banning us from Pokemon / Harry Potter
Or any pop culture that involved magic, monsters, and non-human characters. Apparently, exposure to these things would risk us getting possessed by evil spirits.
When I was 6, my mother snatched my then-favourite Pikachu stuffed toy out of my little hands one night and threw it down the rubbish chute of our 17th storey flat. My father tried to coax me back to sleep but I was inconsolable and wailed my lungs out for what felt like hours. Sad reacts only.
2. Not believing in luck
My parents never wished me “good luck” before exams or job interviews. Instead, they said “all the best” or “God bless”.
“Christians don’t believe in luck,” they would quip, “only in God’s grace and providence.”
So when the smallest things went well, a slew of “Thank You Jesus” and “Praise the Lord” followed. My Muslim friends relate to this as well, except it was “Insyallah” and “Alhamdullilah”.
3. Everything also pray
Stomachache? Pray. Bad weather? Pray. No boyfriend? Better pray harder. No matter how big or small the problem, prayer was always the answer. As an impatient youngling, this was such an unsatisfactory solution to my problems.
4. No skull motifs
Because skulls = death = darkness = SATAN. *gasp*
5. Being made to attend church camps
For a decade, I spent a week of my June and December holidays at church camps. These were week long programmes that taught us more about our faith.
My parents strongly encouraged me to go every year, since more time with Jesus meant less time for Pokemon.
6. Not knowing how to gamble
My friends are always shocked when they find out I don’t gamble, even during Chinese New Year. In fact, I only learnt to play Mahjong last year. That’s because gambling is frowned upon in Christianity.
On the bright side, I’ve never lost a cent to a game of poker.
7. No ‘sexy’ clothes allowed
Anything without sleeves was considered risque. If I wore a tank top, my dad would have me pack a cardigan.
8. No swearing
Swearing was not tolerated, so “shit” had to substituted with “shucks” and “f**k” with “fish”.
9. Wariness toward yoga
I recently began practising yoga, much to the chagrin of my mother. She views yoga as a spiritual practice that could mess with my mind if I’m not careful, and asks me to pray for protection before every class.
I tell her the only danger I face is spraining my back because I’m just that unfit.
10. No visiting other places of worship
My first time visiting a temple was at 17, despite being born and bred in multi-religious Singapore.
I was taught that visiting other places of worship would compromise my faith, and I would be affected by the “demons” residing in such spaces. So when my family went on overseas tours, we waited outside temples while the rest of the tour group explored.
Similarly, a Christian friend recounted the time she wasn’t allowed to visit a temple on a school trip. The poor girl waited on the bus while the rest of her class went on the excursion.
11. No sex before marriage
Pretty self-explanatory, but this also means I haven’t been allowed to stay over at my partner’s house although I’m 25 — my mother’s age when she gave birth to me.
12. No dating people of other religions
Mum and dad were pretty chill with me dating boys from other races, nationalities or family backgrounds. The only catch — they had to be Christian.
They hoped I would settle down with a nice Christian boy so we could “grow together in our faith” and “raise our children in the ways of the Lord”.
After a failed relationship with a Christian ex, I realised there were many other factors besides religion which determined compatibility. My current partner is agnostic and I couldn’t be happier.
13. So. Much. Homophobia.
My parents used to say frightfully homophobic things that I don’t want to ever put into writing. To them, the homosexual “lifestyle” was abhorrent and deviant.
Fortunately, we’ve come a long way as a family. Once I had the space and maturity to form my own opinions, I came forward as an LGBT ally, speaking up for LGBT rights within my social circle whenever necessary.
Thanks For Everything, Mum And Dad
In spite of their frustrating religious hangups, I still love my parents to death and I know they only want the best for me.
Even if their way of shielding me from the world was irrational at times, I still appreciate everything they did. Thank You Jesus, Praise The Lord.