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Newbie Here With Her Story And A Few Questions...


Ryanna2911
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Greetings!

 

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?! :lol: 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! :D

 

onelove,

Ryanna

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Wow!

 

Although my parents were never drug addicts, etc. I grew up in the same kind of church setting. We were allowed to "do" Halloween but no playing cards, no going to movies etc.

 

I can't tell you what to do but I can tell you what I do. I generally stay away from discussions on politics and religion. If my parents do get preachy I kind of raise an eyebrow, listen, and that is pretty much it. Occasionally if I'm up for an argument I'll disagree with them. I have the distinct advantage of having a Master's Degree in Theology which gives me an edge ;)

 

Keep in mind, I live across the country from my parents. I also have a "little" sister (who is your age) who is even more liberal them I am -- not an easy thing to be, either!

 

 

My parents are in their early 60's and have mellowed out some. When my oldest sister and little sister were arguing about gay marriage he reportedly said that people should be able to marry who they love. I think he still thinks it is a sin (the sexual behavior) but realizes that keeping people who are gay from getting married is pointless.

 

I have never been in your exact situation but it seems that telling them the real reason why you aren't going with them is a good starting point. If you already where the label "the liberal child" they will not be in total shock! My parents don't know a whole lot about my specific beliefs but I occasionally let them in with a hint or two.

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Hi Ryanna:

 

Well I can sympathize with you because many of us here have been injured or abused by the regular institutions of religion over the years, but the degree to which that has happened varies a lot with each individual.

 

In my own situation I have never had anything but an open and loving relationship with my folks, although my Dad is gone now, and my Mom is 89. Dad was never a churcher, but Mom and I were for a long time. Dad always said that he didn't have to go to church to be a "good" Christian. He proved that each day in the way that he lived his life.

 

I'm well into my 60's so I probably cannot offer specific advice on your situation, but I would agree with OA that this trip is your opportunity to begin breaking away from their patterns. Since you do live far away I would put it into terms of you and your husband beginning to find your own spiritual priorities since you do have a separate life where you live. And that being said you could probably look elsewhere on this excellent site and find a progressive congregation near you. In lieu of that shop around in your area for a church home that fits your needs after you and your husband fully discuss your priorities. You should look into volunteer opportunities where you live to keep that "helping others" urge that you seem to have burning brightly.

 

I'll suggest the same two books to you that I have found to be the very best self-help books ever written and are very informative on finding new directions to head when your life is changing. They were written by the late M. Scott Peck in the 1980's and are titled, The Road Less Travelled, and, People Of The Lie.

 

That's all I have for now, and I hope that you know that you are very welcome here.

 

flow.... :)

Edited by flowperson
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I feel the need to tell my story in order to pose my questions. . .

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?

Ryanna,

From what you have described so eloquently, I hope that you will find my web site helpful. I have been improving on http://LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/ which I put on the www ten years ago, most every day. There are now over 200 pages covering all kinds of political and/or religious issues, including the most controversial of our time, abortion and homosexuality. I would recommend that you start by printing out http://LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/about/christlike.html and prepare yourself to use it to show how very LIBERAL Jesus was. I would recommend that you study http://LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/about/liberals.html so as to understand what the word "Liberal" actually means, but don't try to present it to your family unless they are ready to do a substantial amount of reading. I would recommend that you not let the discussion move to every other arguable point imaginable (like abortion, etc.). Just ask them to stick to that one page and all of the scripture which shows that Jesus was far more LIBERAL than CONSERVATIVE.

 

Let me know how that goes and then we can move on from there!

 

P.S. I don't visit this forum regularly, so if you want to be sure to reach me, use my email addy:

Ray@LiberalsLikeChrist.Org

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Wow.

 

Thank You all so much for your warm, thoughtful and considerate responses. I very much appreciate your words.

 

It's generally sort of comforting to hear that others have been in the same boat, it somehow makes this easier to understand. I do think there is something that needs to be said about finding my own path, but I don't think they have to hear EVERYTHING about my truth. I need to just find where that line is for me.

 

Flow - I have had the book "The Road Less Traveled" for years, given as a gift and never read. It's just sitting on my bookshelf, just waiting to be cracked open! I think now might just be the time - I appreciate the reccomendation...

 

additional replies welcome!

 

onelove,

ryanna

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Ryanna, I think you probably figured out by now that you've reached your conclusions on your own . . . but isn't that exactly what therapists do? At least you weren't charged $125 an hour for it.

 

If your father recognizes you as a Christian, then the basis for a continuing relationship is there, period. You believe in the same Christ; you just externalize your beliefs in different ways. You needn't get into what I occasionally have to do, which is to politely remind the more theatrical evangelical folks in my community that Jesus already was telling them about manifestations and expressions of their faith, as He said so well in Matt. 6:5-7, just before The Lord's Prayer: "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites [OUCH!] in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men . . . And do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words."

 

It may sound like a cop-out, but many progressive believers and ministers state that there are many paths to salvation, and that we should not put limitations on the power of God, Who can certainly let into Heaven whomever He wants. I for one have a problem with keeping Ghandi out of Heaven but letting in Hitler, if Hitler had come to his senses and asked for forgiveness as he was dying, accepted Jesus, and got in. Certainly as a Christian one has to believe that anyone who is truly repentant and accept Jesus DOES get into Heaven.

 

My story is fairly remarkable, and how I became to be a believer and accepter of Jesus is a cool story. On January 11, 1998, my ex-wife showed up at my house at 10:30 at night pounding on the door. She had a couple of bags of groceries and informed me that she wanted to spend the night with the kids and have me fix everyone breakfast the next morning for her birthday [Note: Her birthday and mine are exactly six months apart -- January 12th/July 12th. I'm sure that astrologers would have a field day with that!]. I let her in, went back to bed, and fell asleep.

 

The next morning, I got up and began fixing breakfast. I'm disabled and have a severely arthritic back, with bone spurs, no discs left, and extensive nerve damage. I hadn't taken my meds yet and fixed breakfast quickly so that my son and daughter wouldn't be late for school. That having been completed, she took the kids to school and I took my meds.

 

My back hurt so badly, I couldn't walk up the stairs to my bedroom. The muscle spasms and the severe pain from the nerve burning forced me to climb up the stairs on all fours. The pain was so unbearable, I turned to prayer as a last resort. The minister of the local Baptist church had been meeting with me in a one-on-one Bible study he'd begun, and I was his first pupil. In our first session, I'd come to realize that what I considered "God" fit with his definition as well, but I still didn't consider myself a Christian.

 

So for the first time in my life, I prayed in earnest. "Lord," I asked, "please give me the power to stop this pain> I believe You can do that and that my pain will stop. I ask this of You in Jesus' name, amen." I put my right hand behind my back, and it didn't feel right. I moved my hand an inch lower and relaxed my back against it. I had this odd, warm, almost tingly sensation all over my body, as if I'd slipped under the water of a warm jacuzzi. The pain stopped immediately.

 

Remember now, I had been an atheist all of my life -- the Catholic Church saw to that at a very early age. I sure didn't believe in miracles or the spaced-out-looking evangelicals who believed in them. But, there was no pain. I gingerly pulled my left leg up to my chest with both hands: no pain. I drew my right leg up to my chest by itself: no pain. I sat up: no pain. I laid back down and had the dumbest grin on my face. I went through the mental checklist. I'd just taken my meds, and they take 30-45 minutes to take effect, not 30-45 seconds. I considered that the brain could've released endorphins and that stopped the pain, but in a few seconds??? Not likely. I considered that I'd put my hand behind my lower back, but I had not placed any pressure on my back; I didn't dare. And, I didn't press any accupressure points or any chakras or any of that other nonsense. I came to the realization as did Sherlock Holmes: When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains -- no matter how improbable -- must be the solution. I came to the realization that I HAD been given the power to stop my excruciating pain.

 

I walked down the stairs -- the same ones I'd had to crawl up just a minute before -- and called Pastor Dave. "I know you believe in miracles," I said. "I do," he replied. I then told him, "Well, I don't . . . or, I didn't until just a minute ago," and I told him my story. "Hallelujah!" he yelled. He was happy as an entire congregation all rolled into one. At our next meeting, I told him I was a believer and I accepted Jesus as my savior. I was baptised -- this time, for REAL -- a few months later.

 

For all my life as a biologist/naturalist, I was empirical. I couldn't believe in what I couldn't see or prove. If God were to book time on "Larry King Live," I'd at least believe that God existed, but I still wouldn't necessarily follow Him or become a Christian. It took a personal intervention -- a miracle -- to convince me. I'm still not sure what God has in mind for me, or for that matter, what or who god IS. I know what happened, I experienced what happened, but I can't explain it other than that whatever or whoever God is -- whether an entity, a universal force of nature, an energy -- intervened and did something unexplainable.

 

Certainly there are things in our lives we can't explain. Example: my kids can read my mind. I know that sounds whack, but they can. And it's not just a finishing a sentence thing. My ex had left me when the kids were 5 and 3. She moved to L. A. to be close to her screenwriter-wanna-be/porn movie bit-part actor boyfriend. The kids were left with me. One Sunday night, when they were 6 and 4, my daughter had gone to bed but my son was still awake. He crawled into bed next to me. I was reading "Native Trouts of North America;" he was reading a kids' book.

 

In my book, the author saw a pileated woodpecker chipping away at a cedar, and he wondered out loud what a wonderfully scented home that lucky woodpecker was going to have. For some reason, my mind jumped from cedar scent to wonderful smells to the aroma of a coconut cream pie [explanation: I'm a really good cook, so the inductive leap isn't all that great for me). I thought to myself, "I haven't made the kids a coconut cream pie in a while -- I should do one tomorrow." At that instant, Ian put his book down and said, "Dad, we haven't had a coconut cream pie in a long time. Can you make one tomorrow?"

 

I almost ruined my pants. That hasn't been the last time one of the kids has done that. Just this past Fourth of July, I was driving home from watching the fireworks. The kids were with friends, and the ex had gone to pick them up. As I was driving at about 9:45, I thought about how pleasantly balmy it was outside and remembered one 4th when it was so foggy and cold, I had to make hot cocoa for the kids. "No hot cocoa tonight!" I thought.

 

Fifteen minutes later, my daughter called to talk about the fireworks. She then said, "Do you remember when you made us hot cocoa after the fireworks?" I freaked and told her I'd just been thinking about that. Turns out that at 9:45, she was thinking the same thing.

 

We live in Lake Arrowhead, CA, up at about 5,700 feet in elevation in the San Bernardino National Forest. The kids and I lost nearly everything we owned in the horrific forest fire three years ago. All I could save were our pets, my computer -- on which my first screenplay was stored -- and one suitcase of clothes. Kristen and I were several miles apart, on opposite sides of the lake, when we had those concurrent thoughts. How in the H-E-double-toothpicks that can possibly work? I can't explain it, but I know it for a fact.

 

In our home, I was attempting to put together a tiny natural history museum. I was going to get a contract with the San Bernardino City school district and get paid for presenting assemblies. I'd already done a few for free and they were quite impressive . . . and fun. But the fire was so hot, it destroyed all of my rocks, fossils, minerals, and sea shells.

 

Pastor Dave and I had once discussed Judas -- whether he was in Heaven, if he'd asked for forgiveness, why he did what he did -- and I thought a movie about the ministry of Jesus as seen through the point of view of Judas would be a fascinating flick. Pastor Dave loved the idea and encouraged me to research it, which I've done. I've even pitched the idea to several agents and production companies, and there is some interest in it. Despite the controversy it would certainly generate -- read, FREE ADVERTISING! -- and the apparent heresy of it, it will be the most Christian movie ever. People will see the real Jesus, not the Jesus of the money-grubbing televangelists, and people will read the Scriptures to verify everything that I'm putting into it. And they are going to ask their pastors, their ministers, their priests, "Why haven't we been taught about the REAL Jesus?"

 

Now, you thought YOU were wordy!

 

I apologize for all of this, but I guess it answers your questions. God IS big enough to accept anyone He chooses to. Anyone who says otherwise either is ignorant or is a "false prophet," of which there are, unfortunately, far too many. The wonderful teachings of Jesus and the fascinating sacrifice He made are incredibly compelling, and His ministry and words have been distorted by the moneychangers in the temple for far too long. The absolute crap that people are force-fed to believe turns millions away from The Word of Christ. Example: Several months ago, Kristen agreed to go to Sunday Mass with my ex's sister and her kids. Lori told Kristen that before they entered the church, she had to cross her arms across her chest to signify to everyone that she hadn't been baptized in the Catholic Church by a priest. Now, I know church dogma and teachings. I knew the Mass in English, Latin, and French when I was seven (I was, um, rather precocious). You show ME where in the Bible it says a Christian has to do that! Just incredible.

 

My God and my Jesus believe in kindness, not punishment. My God and my Jesus believe in forgiveness, not retribution. And my God and Jesus include, not exclude, people. A person of faith who worships God in whatever manifestation that person believes will be saved. Let God be God, and do not judge or put limitations on Him, is my answer.

 

Hopes this helps a little.

 

Pete Xander

 

Sorry about the supersized text at the beginning. Couldn't figure out how to fix it. AND, I don't waste prayerful intervention on such things. Let it stand as a reminder of my imperfection!

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Hi Pete:

 

Lots of words, but very interesting stories. Welcome to this little bump in the road that keeps attracting all sorts of people. Things have been a little quiet here the past few months, but with a few more prople like you, that shouldn't last for long.

 

Again...welcome.

 

flow.... :P

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Wow.

 

Thank You all so much for your warm, thoughtful and considerate responses. I very much appreciate your words.

 

It's generally sort of comforting to hear that others have been in the same boat, it somehow makes this easier to understand. I do think there is something that needs to be said about finding my own path, but I don't think they have to hear EVERYTHING about my truth. I need to just find where that line is for me.

 

Flow - I have had the book "The Road Less Traveled" for years, given as a gift and never read. It's just sitting on my bookshelf, just waiting to be cracked open! I think now might just be the time - I appreciate the reccomendation...

 

additional replies welcome!

 

onelove,

ryanna

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Hi Ryanna

 

I would like to mention 2 books that you'd probably like to read. One is by Marlene Winell, and is called "Leaving the Fold", and although she is not a well known author, I think this is worth reading. Also, M. Scott Peck's books are really good, and there is a section in "Further Along the Road Less Traveled" and also in "The Road Less Traveled and Beyond", I believe, where he talks about the stages of spiritual growth. I think you'd like these books. I also enjoy John Shelby Spong's numerous books and Marcus Borg's as well. There are a lot of other good authors out there if you keep looking. I think you're amazing to have grown up in such a religious home and have the ability to grow beyond it and obviously struggling to maintain good relationships.

:)

Crystal Gail

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Thank You so much Pete, Jen and Crystal for your positive and encouraging comments!

 

To abandon these relationships would be hypocritical to me. My parents abandoned so many relationships with people who did not "give everything over to Jesus" after they became born-againers, and I find this disturbing. If I was to abandon them for not seeing things my way, I would essentially be doing the same thing!

 

Anyway, thanks to all who responded, I feel encouraged...

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I would add that Marcus Borg does a great job of pointing out the differences between Christians of the "older paradigm" and Christians of the "emerging paradigm." He believes it is possible for us to live in the same tent but it will take a lot of loving and patient work. He writes in a crisp and concise manner and has helped me clarify my Christian beliefs immensely. Probably his best is: THE HEART OF CHRISTIANITY.

 

"Older Paradigm" Christians take the BIble pretty literally although not all believe in the talking snake! "Emerging Paradigm" Christians take the Bible metaphorically and sacramentally finding truth far more important than facts. But many OP Christians also seek truth but haven't yet wanted to discard their literal approach. I believe the Holy Spirit is working on them and that many will want and need to move into the Progressive camp as the years go by. Borg, however, is far more concerned that we reach the people who have left Christianity behind because they can't accept a literal approach. They can and must be reached with the metaphorical and sacramental approach.

 

I believe that conversation within the family is a good idea IF mutual respect and patience is honored. Otherwise, it can be more damaging than helpful. A loving father will surely try to hear about the spiritual journey of the daughter or son. We all have so much more to learn about life!

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Thank You so much Pete, Jen and Crystal for your positive and encouraging comments!

 

To abandon these relationships would be hypocritical to me.

 

I agree with you, and particularly that it isn't good to cut people off if you don't have to.

 

I've had similar situations. What I think I'd do is, keep quiet as much as i can and then, when you reach a point where you just have to say something or feel like you're lying, say something to the effect that you need to say that you don't agree; that you're a follower of Jesus, but don't agree with them on many, many doctrinal points; and that, as your relationship with God is as important to you as theirs is with them, and as unlikely to be changed by counter-discussion, you'd prefer not to get into a discussion-with-no-end about it right now.

 

You're unlikely to convert them and they're unlikely to convert you; and being in family, the discussion can get angry and divisive. So maybe the best you can do right now in a very charged situation is to stop what feels like "lying" yet avoid pointless, angry warring. Stick to your guns about not discussing it until you're ready, because I think you have a pretty good idea where that's going to lead (brow-beating you, etc.).

 

Tea

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