The Closest I Ever Felt to Normal

When we would clean the house when I was a child, mom would turn on music from her own past. It was all Christian music, but it was very different from our usual diet of classical music and hymns. There’s one song in particular that stands out—DeGarmo and Key’s “Boycott Hell.” Mom would turn it on and we children would rock out while we wiped baseboards and dusted shelves. During those times, I felt strangely normal.

Sometimes I wonder about my parents’ past. There was a time when they were simply evangelical—a time when they had never thought of homeschooling, much less all of the cultural things that came along with it. I don’t think they realized when they started to homeschool that this would change, but it did. These things slipped in through homeschool magazines, homeschool co-ops, and homeschool conventions. Little things not immediately noticeable, but they built up. Courtship, family-integrated church, even they idea that mothers should not work outside of the home—these weren’t beliefs my parents had always held.

I’m not completely sure why my parents still got some of these old albums out, given that they came to frown on contemporary Christian music. My sister wanted to listen to Rebecca St. James, among others, and that put her in my parents’ “potential rebel” category. Later, one of my brothers would listen to Casting Crowns, and again, he got the “potential rebel” slot. Perhaps the reality was the other way around, and the potential rebels among my siblings turned to contemporary Christian music, drawn by its slightly subversive reputation within our homeschool community. Either way, songs like “Boycott Hell” felt distinctly out of place, like a leftover piece of a foreign culture.

Songs like “Boycott Hell,” so different from the rest of my reality, gave me a taste of a kind of normal I could have been, but wasn’t. It may seem odd to some that I would term mainstream evangelical culture “normal,” but from my conservative homeschooled perspective, it sure looked that way.

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