What can I do?

From Kristen

I'm 21 and still live with my parents. I go to college and they foot the big so I have to. I don't believe in god but I am forced with the burden of playing pretend. I don't feel I am don't well at all, as my mom (who is a missionary in the church) keeps saying " I need to talk to you".

I hate church. I go to a pentecostal church. They are sexist, homophobic, and elitist -- full of pomp and circumstances. Someone else described church as a side show, ladies dressed up in ridiculous hats and elaborate dresses while large men shout from pulpits.

I have been going to this church for my entire life. I grew up there. I have been a Sunday school secretary, a youth teacher, and participated in youth group when I was younger. I remember the good times and feel guilty when I realize I want to leave. They could hold that against me.

As I have gotten older, I have tried to distance myself from this church. I go to college and come home once a month. I stay away from youth services and anything else that isn't Sunday worship. I have tried to skip Sunday school and just show up to Sunday service, with little luck ( as my parents want me to be a part of Sunday school).

The "first lady" (pastors wife) pulled me aside and said:

" Pastor____ is looking at you. When are you going to give your life to the lord? I want you to say something to the church ...".

So my question is difficult:

How do I play pretend?

I don't want them to come on to me and realize I am not a Christian anymore. They look up to me, because this is a small church and they have known me all my life. They know my mom and my dad. I suppose they notice I don't care anymore.

Wish I could talk to my parents, or stand up for myself but I feel like a GLBT person in the closet, I really can't take the risk of coming out as an unbeliever. I have given my mind the gift of reason and reality, I see there are options to life and no one way to live it.

The thought of having to wait maybe 3 - 5 years before I graduate and move out scares me. I would take a job on Sunday, but I don't know how my dad would react, as he can be a spoiled child and a patriarch at the same time. I assume once I get out of college and have an official job I will be able to work on Sundays and my decisions will carry more weight with them.

Any ideas ???


Fletcher said...

Any chance you could transfer to another school out of town? If you're not in the house it makes it easier to lie to your parents, and gets you out of the small, closed-minded community you find yourself in.

If that's not an option, you have to weigh the options and decide what's best for you: You can suffer through church, pretend to swallow the company line at home and at church or you can come out and risk losing your relationship with your parents and their financial support. Neither option is great, but these are the positions we find ourselves in living with rational minds in irrational communities.

The good news is, you're old enough and smart enough that you're going to be able to support yourself. You can always move out-- there are always student loans. Sure, it's nicer to have the 'rents pick up the bill, but the rest of us will be spending the next two decades paying off our student loans, you can handle it too.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Fletcher. Time to move on out of the parents house. Trust me, I know all too well how hard it is to face down the barrel of independence and handling the bills (especially for college) yourself. You might need to find alternate means of paying for college and/or go to a cheaper college. I stayed under the apron way too long, in retrospect, so today I encourage people your age to get out on your own; you won't regret it!

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry, Kristin. I can't imagine how painful this is right now. Raising kids in cults like this is a form of abuse, in my humble opinion.

fletcher has a good point; you are growing up in a day and age where it is expected that parents help their children with college but it hasn't always been that way. My husband and I managed to pay off his student loans and still be able to set money aside for vacations and the future etc. It's not ideal, but I think it's a better option than being trapped in the hell you describe.


Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you. I think there are no easy answers in your situation.

It may seem impossible to you, but I think you can stick out your situation until you graduate, at which point you can sever your relationship with the church with less consequence. Claim the needs of your college education against the demands for your participation in your church.

Or you can be honest about it now. Tell your parents that you have a crisis of faith, and live with the consequences. The likelihood, from what I can read into it, is that they will continue your education in the hopes that you will come around. There is always the possibility that you will "come around", although I suspect you won't.

And if they won't continue your education, there are alternate ways of achieving your goals. Ways like student loans.

I personally think you have to be who you are.

However you decide to go it, you have my best wishes in the matter. I wish I could offer more.

Anonymous said...

I only see a couple of options. (a) Continue to suck it all up for the sake of your realatives and your own future. (b) Take a stand for what you believe and commit yourself to dealing with the results in a positive way.

Whatever you do, you'll find support and understanding from everyone here. We've all lived it too.....ain't it a bitch?

Good Luck

Anonymous said...

To agree and disagree with fletcher I would suggest that you cut off the financial assistance and ties with the family if necessary. While underneath their financial umbrella you are obligated to do what they say and perform as they will. Money = Control.
I am all for being open with yourself and everyone because only then do you feel liberated. If you pretend, you lie, and that makes you a normal christian. If you have to live on your own it will be a great experience. If you have to use student loans the responsibility is rewarding.
At the moment I am in school at 25 because my parents cut my funding, kicked me out of house (17 yrs old at the time, reconciled at 19 and kicked out 3 weeks later)and I have a wonderful wife and talkative kid also. Being honest and open makes up for all the joys, pain, and happiness that has come with my post parent life. I wouldn't trade it for the world, and I definitely wouldn't play pretend anymore. That stuff is for the dogs.
Before you do anything a wise man once said "pray hard"
O wait, that was a dumbass.
Gather your thoughts and make an educated decision. Jump into life and not tippe toe around it. You only have one!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kristen
We all have had to learn to live as 'strangers in a strange land'. You won't find very many 'believers' that are going to allow you the respect you deserve. It's just a part of their insane way of seeing the world.
I say you should continue to tough it out for a while longer so that you can insure that your future has it's best shot.
In time you'll sort out your personal relationships. Your education is one of the most impotant tools you'll ever aquire.

You'll always have to deal with your surroundings, make the most of what it can give you.

Anonymous said...

The old saying 'freedom isn't free' is very true. If you desire to be free of the mental slavery of religion, you are going to have to learn to provide for yourself, because more than likely your parents support will wain as a result of your decision to leave the church. Life is not easy and it is even harder when your conscious is bothered by nagging doubts and conflicted feelings. I believe that honesty is the best way to approach life because living free with a clear conscious is more valuable than any amount of money or support.

Make a plan to be able to support yourself and go through college. Have is all in place and ready to go, then sit down with your parents and tell them how you feel. Worst case, you have to use your plan because you are going to be out on your own. Best case, they accept your decision and decide they still want to support you so you dont need to go to your plan. Just know that every decision has consequences, and as an adult you should be ready to address those when they arise. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kirstin,
What a sad story. You can only pretend for so long and only so well. It annoys me that your relatives and church seem to know better than you do what your "relationship with the Lord" should be. They want you to give your life to the Lord, but really they are asking you to give your life to them and to behave the way THEY think the Lord wants you to behave. Even when I was a believer I didn't feel that the interior motives which I attributed to God's voice were in harmony with what was being told to me in his name. So, yeah, they are asking you to pretend, especially to pretend to yourself. It is easy to get sucked into that mind trap and to lose your identity in it. If you do a good acting job while maintaining your integrity it will be a miracle - I suppose it is possible. I suppose you can read your Bible (critically) and keep your thoughts to yourself while outwardly praising the Lord . . . that would be so very hard to do though, at least in such a tight-knit community. I certainly couldn't do it!

Anonymous said...

How about copping a feel of the pastor's wife? Should either get her off your back or get you laid.

Either way she won't be a pain in the ass any more.

Anonymous said...

I hate to have to say it, but I side with the notion of sucking it up for awhile longer. It's a matter of priorities - and nothing should be more important than getting the education that will enable you to make your way in the world. You say you are coming home once a month - can you stretch that to once every six weeks, or occasionally claim an invitation to visit a college friend for a weekend? There are just some times when you can't be what you are, but when you eventually achieve financial independence, you will have all the power that word implies. Hey, I didn't come out as an atheist until a few years ago (daddy was a priest), but I happen to be older, retired, and financially OK. I say, trade the short term pain for the long term gain.

Anonymous said...


Although it's been said many times before above, this is your ONLY life, so you can either stay and submit and regret it, or get out. Yes, it will be tough, but it will feel like you had the weight of the world lifted from your back.

Seriously consider student loans. My wife couldn't take the religiously oppressive environment of her home, either, so she got some students loans and moved in with her trusted and mature best friend. Maybe you have a close friend that is also looking for a roommate to help defray the cost of being out on your own. It's worth it.

Let us know what happens.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kristen,
Wow-alot of advice, huh? I have to throw my towel in with tjmarcink, enjjpt and others-being true to who you are sometimes comes with a price but it is so worth it in the end. If you have the ability to have gotten to this point in your reasoning, then you are strong enough and smart enough to take care of yourself, be independent and still succeed in your life, school, etc.

Someone up above (on this thread) said something about the tragedy of raising children in the christian culture, and I couldn't agree more. I feel very lucky in that I was raised with fairly agnostic parents. I think it allowed me to escape the warped christian mindset a little easier. Or maybe it just didn't get its hooks into me as deeply! In any case, I have always been very independent and could not imagine a less desirable way to live than being under someones rule or at their mercy so to speak. I think pretty much anything is preferable.
I would bet that you feel the same when you are out, looking back.

Good Luck Kristen, and be strong;)

sillywhispers said...

I wouldn't jump out of the closest if I were you until I had at least one other person physically around me who accepts me for who I am without trying to change me. It's simply too hard to deal with the likely rejection I'd get from my family and friends. You are in a very vulnerable place right now.

After you are standing on your own two feet(with or without a college education), that's the time to discuss your own religious beliefs with those you know will strongly disapprove. They can no longer dictate to you or make your life hell at that point.

You said, "I go to college and they foot the big so I have to."

If you don't want to go to college, don't. While college can give you better opportunities than you might otherwise have to earn a living, there are other avenues. Before you leap though, for Sagan's sake, get something going to support yourself. Living on your own, away from your parents might be right for you. Ever thought of the Peace Corp?

That said, I get you don't think not going to college is an option. So, how about transferring to a University that's way far away from home and constant surveillance?

Man, I could not have handled living at home and going to college. There is something about bonding with your university peers that you just can't do when you live at home. Without that bonding with classmates (preferably your own age), there isn't that social network there that helps many people stay in school. Living at home you'd miss a lot of the college experience.

I'm sure a case could be made to your parents for some University with dorms offering a far better education or superior career counseling/job placement/alumni networking services, or is just one that is a better fit.

I've a nephew whose parents are desperate to ship him off to college anywhere. Are you making yourself too much of a joy to be around. Do you conform too well?

I'd hit my parents with not being able to make it at my particular school. There are teachers there with foreign accents that I can't understand, they use too many student teachers, the profs are only interested in publishing, the classes are way to big, until I'm a junior of senior I'm just a number, I need remedial classes or the school is changing the required classes on me all the time, the bureaucracy is ridiculous, I can't connect with the people there, and I'll never be able to graduate. There are too many liberals on campus and whatever other groups of people your family dislikes.

Have a hundred and one justifications for transferring. No one ever gets hired in my field from here. There simply aren't enough eligible nice boys to date, they are all losers. How am I ever going to climb the socio-economic ladder from here?

Somehow or other you should convince them this college isn't working for you. There's probably some truth with a small T in there. I bet, if you really think about your arguments you could make a very legitimate case.

Then guilt them by quoting scripture to make sure they don't drop the idea of sending you to college at all. There's a verse somewhere that you need to educate your children least you make of him a thief. Just don't acknowledge the verse was only speaking about male children.

Anonymous said...

I'd say get credit without your parents knowledge, then check and see if private lenders will accept your no-cosigner loan applications. If they do, then jump out of the house, transfer out to a school further away, and start hoofing the bills on your own dime.

It might not be obvious, but money equals power, and so long as your parents are paying for you in any way, they're directing your life and not you even if there is the illusion of choice to the otherwise.

Cut the money, and you've got your freedom.

I did something similar, and while it's pretty awkward when I go home for holidays, the religious hassle is minimal and really only surfaces on weekends when church comes up.

Anonymous said...

" It annoys me that your relatives and church seem to know better than you do what your "relationship with the Lord" should be. They want you to give your life to the Lord, but really they are asking you to give your life to them and to behave the way THEY think the Lord wants you to behave."

This is exactly why I do not want to get baptized with this church. And I stand firm on that. They seem to expect me, 21, to give up my life to thier service, it has very little to do with god. I dont give money either, because I cant stand to support that church anymore.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kristen -

Even though people are coming down on different sides of the stay or go question, they seem to be pretty agreed about the costs and benefits on each side.

You know better than anyone which of those costs you can manage right now. If you listen to yourself, and keep your life goals in front of you, your path will get clearer over time.

Either alternative will take strength that may feel beyond you, but you are probably stronger than you feel. You can also draw on the support of others, here and maybe even at school. Even if it is a pentacostal school I can assure you that there are others in your situation. All you need is one lucid, understanding friend to keep reminding you that you're not crazy and you can do it.

My best wishes are with you!

Valerie Tarico

pebc said...


I would like to converse with you about the pretending!

If you would like to do so please email me at pebc@email.com.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that you compare your feelings to those of an in-the-closet GLBT person. Counselors of closeted alternatively-sexual teens sometimes advise them to maintain a facade of heterosexuality if there's any chance that their coming out will lead to their losing their homes and the financial support of their parents.

While you have the advantage of being legally an adult, you'd still have many hardships to face if you were suddenly to lose the support of your parents.

For this reason, I'd also suggest sticking with the act until your education is complete. This is not just for financial reasons, but also for your emotional and academic well-being -- because while I'm sure you'll feel relieved to admit the truth about your lack of faith, this may be counterbalanced by a host of new problems (e.g., confrontation and pressure from your family and their church community).

Regardless of what you decide, I wish you the best of luck. And, though your situation is far from ideal, at least you have something of an online support group here.

Take care and be well!

Lori :)

Anonymous said...

I don't realize how good I had it when my mom was all "I don't care if you don't believe Christianity as long as you continue to strive for financial independence" when I admitted I dropped out of Christianity for good last summer. Anyway, there's not much I can say that hasn't already been said. One thing I haven't seen suggested is doing the "my faith is my business" act with your parents. Even when I was a Christian, I believed in that statement so I can see it possibility working for you if you aren't not ready to come out of the atheist closet yet.

Anonymous said...

Wow, your story sounds so similar to mine, but I have a little twist. I am BOTH a closeted GLBT person and an exchristian. I, too, attend a small pentecostal church where my family has been for many years. I have been very active down through the years and it seems that the church and my family are all very convinced that I am "saved". I am in college & away from home, so I have an excuse to be less active in church. I feel like such a phony, and I don't know how much longer I can keep up the fascade. I want to come out in both ways. I'm tired of holding back who I am from the world. Oh well, I guess I'll just tough if out for a few more years, maybe until I graduate. I wish you well on your decision.

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