Saturday, May 25, 2013

Onward Child Soldiers

The first video below is a news item about a crop of talented child preachers. Like the young Michael Jackson these kids watch, observe and pick up a repertoire of moves and lyrics. They then spontaneously choreograph their own melodramatic performances. They clearly have acting and imitative talent, although content is rather light as one might expect of such young minds. This child preacher phenomenon has a very "black church" feel about it in that exuberance, melodrama and theatre form an important part of worship in such churches. (Also, children "channelling" spirits is a black theme) But ironically these child performances come over to me as a comedian's caricature and send up of the adult preacher world! I actually enjoyed their "acts"!

Below is a rather different performance. This is very white middle class in flavour. Here young Tinkertell, presumably reciting from a script compiled by an adult, gives her fundamentalist YEC audience all that they want hear. Apart from being a good reader Tinkertell hasn't been given much opportunity to display talent; she's just  been taught to jump through hoops.

(Sept 13: The above video has recently been removed. It showed a child reciting, probably from a script, standard fundamentalist objections to evolution and an old Earth. Those same objections can be picked up from any fundamentalist web site that promotes a literal interpretation of Genesis)

I must say that I feel very uncomfortable about this public use of children, a use which puts them in the firing line: They are being thrust into the world of adult affairs with all its ulterior motives, passions and contentions. When she is older Tinkertell might cringe at her video - unlike the child preachers there's not even the redeeming feature of much talent on show. For that reason I perhaps feel a  little better about the child preachers (Provided they are confined to their parent's church services);  at least these young performers  might enjoy exercising their considerable stage talents and benefit from the opportunity to do so. But in both cases adults are investing the performances with far more gravitas and meaning than just the joy of seeing a child given the opportunity to perform: These kid preachers aren't recognised for what they are but are seen as pawns being moved by the Holy Spirit. In poor little Tinkertell's case her mouth is being stuffed full of fifth rate polemic that she doesn't understand and is in no position to critique. These children may have an entirely different perspective on  things when they grow up and may feel they were used.

These children have been groomed into a world of  serious adult "games" that are in fact for real. They have become gun fodder against other adults. It's the difference between seeing kids play Cowboys and Indians with toy guns and actually giving them real guns. They are being sent to the front line and used as both human shields and carriers of warheads. After all, what normal adult could attack a child's performance without looking like a heartless brute? In fact poor old PZ Myers was once caught in one of these nasty fundamentalist child traps; I found the whole thing so immoral that I had to weigh in on PZ's side.

The YEC video is particularly cynical. Recently the atheist community has been banging on about fundamentalists educationally abusing their children. This video, by using a child, is intended to be a "in-yer-face-f*ck-you!" taunt to the atheist community.  The subtext is intended to further provoke by conveying that even children can understand stuff that the likes of PZ Myers et al do not!

It's all very tacky and disturbing and yet twee, kitsch and cutesy at the same time. Ambivalent and conflicting feelings make the whole experience of watching these child performances distinctly uncomfortable and sinister.

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