My nephew is three.
He's being raised by my firm-in-the-faith sister and her firm-in-the-faith husband. Recently, my sister and her son visited my firm-in-the-faith parents for the week. I dropped by a few times to see them during that time.
My nephew likes Family Home Evenings. He likes saying the blessing on the food. He likes singing primary songs and he loves Jesus. My family thinks that all of these things are cute. Meanwhile, I silently observe, thinking that all those same things are despicable.
He doesn't understand any of it. He insists on having Family Home Evening every week not because he loves the gospel, but because he likes the routine. He says the blessing on the food not because he wants to thank his Lord for the bounty he is about to receive, but because his parents say the blessing on the food--his prayers are mostly gibberish anyway. He loves to sing primary songs not because he wants to worship his Heavenly Father but because he likes to sing whether he knows and comprehends the lyrics or not. And he says that he loves Jesus because he gets such a huge outpouring of parental approval whenever he says it, not because he understands what love is or who Jesus was or why Jesus deserves our love.
My sister thinks he's cute. And he is. But he's also a poster boy for a very ugly brainwashing machine that is probably going to con him into wasting two years of his life and ten percent of his money down the road.
After the discussions my dad and I had about brainwashing a while back, I don't understand how he can't see it. For Family Home Evening, my dad pulled out his iPad and played "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus" for the opening song. My nephew eagerly sang along with it, babbling incoherently through the verses and getting about half the words right on the choruses. Meanwhile, my dad sang along, trying to enunciate carefully so my nephew could understand. When my nephew became louder and more confident during the chorus, it wasn't because he believed what he was singing, it was just because he suddenly knew what he was supposed to sing. How does that not look like brainwashing?
He's three. He doesn't understand. How horrible is it to force that kind of belief on someone who hasn't yet developed the ability to judge the credibility of new information?
And now my sister has another son who will probably share my first nephew's fate.