Tonight BBC Three will run a program about a 13 year old girl who has a grasp on what is real and understands what ultimately matters. Here is what we are told:
Deborah is in this (enviable) position because her deeply religious parents have ensured all her life that she is protected from the sins of the outside world. Instead of being nurtured on a diet of celebrity culture, Deborah has been brought up on a combination of Christianity and traditional family values.
She has never watched television, or been to school, and the only people she really sees are her mother, father and 10 siblings, most of whom she lives with on a rambling farm, which she rarely leaves, bar the odd trip to the supermarket. The Bible, as opposed to Heat, is her required reading.
On Friday nights, Deborah doesn’t have girlie sleepovers. Instead, she heads into nearby Bridport to preach to the youths whom she feels have lost their way: the hoodies and the non-believers.
“Dad takes us to the skate park or the bus stop,” she says, playing with a pink pen adorned in fluff and glitter. “Sometimes they are drunk and have no idea what we are saying. But it’s OK. I never get scared.” And last summer, a BBC documentary crew set out to capture just what effect this had on her life.
I ask Deborah to pretend that I am one of the hoodies and show me how she speaks to them. She asks me if I consider myself a good person. I say that I try to be. Her eyes widen.
“Have you ever lied?” she asks.
I tell her I have told a few fibs in my time.
“OK, so that makes you a liar. And have you ever stolen anything?”
I admit to the theft of a rubber from Woolworths when I was a small child.
“So you are also a thief. And have you ever used God’s name in vain?”
She knows the answer to this – I mistakenly did so almost immediately upon meeting the Drapper family.
“So you are a lying, thieving blasphemer.” She looks very seriously at me. “Would you still consider yourself to be a good person?”
Deborah has the almost preternatural self-confidence that comes from being home-schooled. She spends half of each day praying, cooking, exercising, painting and gardening, and the other half studying a Christian curriculum that includes collectivism and creationism. She is super-bright and fiercely opinionated. She thinks that evolution is “one of the most ridiculous theories ever” and blames it for most of the nation’s ills.
“If you are taught from the start that you are just a piece of slime and that you have evolved from an animal then is it any surprise if you act like one? Survival of the fittest; if you don’t like someone, kill them. That’s what evolution teaches people so is it any wonder when children go to school and do just that?”
She has few friends, just a couple of people she emails from abroad. “I have my sisters,” she says. Does she never wish that she had someone she could call up and have a chat with? “I suppose sometimes it would be nice to have another Christian friend from church whom I could pray with,” she muses. “But I wouldn’t have non-Christian friends because they would probably lead me astray.
“I am not envious of other girls my age. I am happy as a person. A lot of the people I meet on a Friday night are not happy. If anything, they should be envious of me.”
Read it all here.