Nineties nostalgia, Jesus edition

Stained Glass Depicting Jesus ChristIf Tumblr has taught me anything, it’s that the Internet is a wormhole of nostalgia. So it’s May 2013? That doesn’t mean we can’t endlessly memorialize everything that happened in, say, April 2013. And the nineties? Ancient history! Let’s recap/review/reblog our formative years/yesterday before we get old and/or before Yahoo ruins the Internet.

But for people who grew up in a subculture, sometimes this sighing for the Things That Were doesn’t mean much. Sure, we’ve heard about Pokemon and “All That,” but we don’t know them like most of our peers do. We don’t sometimes ache for their absence like a phantom pop cultural limb. We walk our own memory lane.

If you grew up in an evangelical community (especially if you were home educated or went to a private school), you probably have some different recollections and subcultural touchstones. You look around Tumblr, you poke around the Internet, and you don’t often find your childhood, for better or for worse.

So this list is for you, former sheltered evangelical, fundamentalist, or nondenominational kids. I kind of hate myself already for posting this, but it needs to happen. Consider this niche nostalgia. Consider this the official Nineties Jesus Kids fandom. Admit it, you’re excited.

You know you were a Christian who grew up in the late eighties or the nineties if:

  •  You prayed for a friend’s soul because she was reading Harry Potter.
  • Your knowledge of N*Sync and Spice Girls lyrics may be shaky, but by golly do you remember every word to every song by Newsboys and Switchfoot.
  • You watched “Seventh Heaven,” but not without critiquing Reverend Camden’s “theology.”
  • You wished the Imagination Station at Whit’s End was real.
  • You legitimately considered KJ-52 to be rap.
  • You devoured Brio magazines and “Diary of a Teenage Girl” series. #caitlinandjoshforever
  • Your secular friends had the Scouts; you had AWANA.
  • You called things “secular.” A lot of things. Most things.
  • You tried to convince your parents “A Walk To Remember” was not at all secular smut but was actually a really deep, appropriate, spiritual movie; I mean, c’mon, half the soundtrack was Switchfoot.
  • You gave up on the “Left Behind: The Kids” series around book 27.
  • You had a big crush on Peter from the BBC’s “Chronicles of Narnia” TV specials. And also every gentlemen in the Jane Austen books. But you knew it could never work out between you, not because they were fictional but because…
  • You totally kissed dating goodbye.
  • You thought of modesty fashion shows as big girls’ night out events.
  • You hear “General Electric Power Company” and think “Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians.”
  • You learned at least a couple of praise songs in sign language, not ironically.
  • You wore T-shirts with secular brand logos or catchphrases tweaked to say something vaguely Christian-ish. Who needs Abercrombie and Fitch when you can have Abreadcrumb and Fish? GET IT GUYS? #evangelism
  • You prayed for a positive PluggedIn review of any movies you wanted to see.
  • Your secular friends had spelling bees; you had Bible quizzes.
  • You re-evaluated the content and tone of your diary after reading the memoirs of Cassie Bernall and Rachel Joy Scott. You may have even drawn flowers and written poems hoping they’d prove prophetic one day. It was weird.
  • You read the Jesus Freak books and realized martyrdom actually really sucks.
  • You can’t see a 16-passenger van without having flashbacks to long hours of annoying song rounds and too much candy on the way to rallies, summer camp, concerts, and retreats.
  • You argued with your friends about whether “crap” was a bad word.
  • You argued with your friends about whether “Jesus is my homeboy” products were heretical.
  • Your favorite letters were W.W.J.D.
  • Your other favorite letters were B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth) and F.R.O.G. (Fully Rely On God).
  • Oh, and don’t forget V.B.S. Bring on the water balloons and cheesy skits!
  • You totally peeked but pretended not to during “heads bowed, eyes closed, nobody looking around” worship times and alter calls. You know who raised their hands. You know.
  • You embellished your testimony a little teeny tiny bit, just to, you know, really show God’s glory in your life.

Okay, twentysomethings. What did I miss? What are your memories of the late 20th century Christian subculture? I still kinda like Adventures in Odyssey. Some things never change, I guess.


  1. I may be a decade older than you but a lot of these things I can say, “Yes” to and it made me smile. Maybe that’s because evangelical subculture is a little slow to change?

    1. Yeah, and I’d guess a lot of this is still true for kids growing up now, too. If WWJD ain’t broken, why fix it, amiright?

  2. I could tell you were a little younger than me when you referenced Diary of a Teenage Girl instead of the Christy Miller series, lol. But other than that. Dang, this was great.

    1. I remember seeing Christy Miller books at the Christian book store but thinking they looked cheesy. I was obviously way too cool for teen books with 80s covers … or I thought I was, anyway. Ha ha.

  3. I can relate to a lot of these. My parents kept us away from movies or shows that had too much magic or wizardry, and so I never read Tolkien until I was in college. (Now I’m immersed in the “new” “The Fall of Arthur”)

    And as far as music goes, yes, I loved Newsboys and Switchfoot and Petra and Audio Adrenaline and Five Iron Frenzy and the Supertones and Keith Green. And I love them still.

    I learned “Go eat popcorn” as the mnemonic for “Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians.” This past year I taught it to my own daughters in Awana.

    1. Oh man, my childhood would have been so lackluster without Tolkien, ha ha. I’m glad you eventually found him.

      Oh yeah, the Supertones! All my friends a couple years older than me were big into ska. I never mastered the dance move.

  4. “You called things “secular.” A lot of things. Most things.”

    I thought Pachelbel’s canon was secular music because it didn’t have any lyrics about Jesus. True story. And I read every single DOTG book, although I liked Melody Carlson’s True Colors series better. I may also have had the teensiest tiniest crush on Relient k’s Matt Thiessen.

    1. I love that. Classical music — so worldly!

      Yeah, Matt Thiessen was sort of Christian Justin Timberlake. nbd.

  5. Oh my goodness, this list is fantastic. I wasn’t even totally immersed in evangelicalism for most of my childhood, and most of these still apply.
    And Matt Thiessen? Oh yes.

  6. haha YESS!! Literally almost all of these!

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