I have been reading posts and lurking for a few days, and I am so impressed and warmed by the community here. I feel the need to tell my story in order to pose my questions.
I was raised in very heavy handed Pentecostal "born again" churches from the time I was 7 years old until I ran like crazy at 18. My parents were in really bad shape when I was a small child (drugs, alcohol, depression, seperation, etc...) and when Christ and church came into the picture is when things turned around for them - they reunited, got clean, had more babies, and worked on their marriage to make it into the healthy union they have today. It's actually beautiful story that I have a tremendous amount of respect for. What I can't respect is how intensely this version of Christianity was agressively jammed down my throat for 12 years. Church three days per week, no Halloween, no dancing (unless you are dancing for Jesus!), forced summer camps, strict rules enforced out of fear instead of love, etc... Since leaving home, 9 years ago, I have come to understand that my parents NEEDED this in order to get their lives together, and they hold very tightly to it for security - its their AA! They are really wonderful people under the slighlty psychotic religious exterior - kind, extremely generous, honest, there when you need them. I have a tremendous amount of respect for how they have lived much of their lives and acheived amazing personal and financial success in an honest, hardworking, genuine way.
I am 27, happily married, and am the only member of the family who has moved far away from home. I have always been a little "different" from the others. I have spent years grappling with and undoing alot of the damaging mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse the church and my parents caused me. I have a long way to go still, but I am comitted to healing and finding my own spiritual truth. My husband, a recovering Roman Catholic, is doing the same. Here's my struggle right now:
I am tired of lying to my parents. I can't keep lying about who I am. I can't keep nodding my head or even just sitting there when my parents talk about things that I find absolutely INSANE (the burning fires of hell, sin, the rich white men who run their church, etc etc.) They know I am (as they call me) their "more liberal child" and I have had many arguments with my father on political issues we completely differ on. My father has little respect for my opinion in this arena (but alot of respect for my emotional and intellectual opinions on many things, so this complicates things), and basically spends the majority of any "argument" trying to, very persuasively and calmly, tell me the "truth." They do think though, that I am a Christian in their definition of the word, and just struggle with periods of rebellion.
I suppose what I am asking (in a very long winded way, I'm sorry) is: How do you talk about your views to a strong, persuasive Evangelical Christian who happens to be your father? Do you even bother? I don't expect to have an actual constructive, respectible conversation - because he will absolutely see me as "straying" and "misguided" and "off the path", but I can't keep going like this.
The other point to note is that I don't really know WHAT I believe right now. I believe in the teachings of Christ, and could support the tenants of Progressive Christianity, but prefer not to label myself as of yet. I know a few things to be true, but I don't have a firm foundation in my faith yet, and I know that this will make any interaction with my parents very difficult. What I do know is that I do NOT believe the Bible to be a blueprint for life, and I don't think it should be taken literally. This is huge, and will be upsetting news. My parents would never write me off or turn away from me for believing this, but they will unceasingly try, out of love and very effectively, to persude me, and point out lessons in why (their version of) Christianity is the only way. I will back away, and it will undoubtedly put a rif in our relationship.
Has anyone struggled with this? How do you deal with family members - people you love so deeply and always want to be a part of your life - when it comes to differing religious viewpoints?
All of this is in preparation for a vacation the whole family will be taking together where I know the subject of an upcoming Missions trip they are leading to New Orleans will be broached. I have gone to various places in the US and Africa on Missions trips organized by my father, and have loved the time with him, and hated the idea that everyone I was with believed the beautiful African Muslims we were encountering were going to hell! I have never tried to "save a soul" while traveling - I always sat back and just helped, but I know now I can no longer support these types of trips, no matter how much food and shelter and medicine we give these people. My husband has actually played Jesus in the "Salvation Show" my father puts on to get people to say the sinners prayer, and my Dad is itching to get him back on the stage. We have decided to say NO to this trip, and we are wondering if we should make up an excuse, or really tell them why?
Okay, can you tell yet that my therapist is away on a 3 month trip overseas?! I suppose all of this is really a natural last step in breaking away from them and finding my own truth.
Hoping to get some general feedback on my situation, and perhaps some suggestions for books to read that have anything to do with healing from a background like mine, or dealing with parents like mine.
Thanks for making it to the end. It's very nice to be here, and I promise that my subsequent posts will be more concise now that I have gotten that out!