My husband and I got a mass email from our former pastor (we were still on the mailing list until a few weeks ago) with an attachment about how Muslims were going to storm the White House to pray and noted that a Muslim leader wanted to turn the White House into a Muslim White House. The tone of the message was fear for our nation; that Christians needed band together and pray before the Muslims took over. Even though the email didn’t suggest we wage war, it was enough for my husband and I to be disgusted. That night, as I considered the possibility of a Muslim/Christian war brewing in our country, I felt an outrage toward religion-a feeling I’ve very much been trying to temper since that feeling conflicts with my ultimate goal, which is to live peacefully and lovingly with those around me. I am surrounded by Christians and the last thing I want to do is be labeled as angry and intolerant. My Christian family and friends are very dear to me.
In January 2009 we notified family members and friends that we were “taking a break” from church. They knew we felt like we didn’t believe and were having faith issues, but we didn’t at that time dis-identify ourselves with Christianity. After that email from my pastor…we were ready.
Unfortunately for me, this admission has plunged me back into extreme sadness and frustration. Up until then, I was experiencing a nice stretch of joy and peace. When I started the school year, the joy hit me (I am a Spanish teacher). I looked at my students and it hit me hard that we’re ALL o.k. NOBODY is going to hell. I am part of them and they are part of me and we’re on this journey of life together. I don’t have to “be the light” for them, but maybe I can brighten their day and they can brighten mine (which they do)! I was enjoying a reprieve from the mentally and emotionally taxing issue of de-conversion.
But now it’s back. I called my brother-in-law who is on the board at our former church to tell him. I wanted him to hear it from us first. Matters are complicated because he and my sister live right next door. Needless to say, he was very disturbed. I am frustrated because when we first announced our doubts back in January he was sympathetic and even told us our doubting made him question his faith. I sent him a few things and his response was that the points addressed were “very disturbing.” But since those early days, I believe he has talked to his very devoted family members, my sister-who deeply believes, and he is reading many books encouraging him in faith and he is full on board with Christianity. I asked him a few months ago if he really believed women have pain in childbirth because Eve sinned (he is a doctor-and a very good one) and he said he does. Sigh.
After specifically denouncing my belief in Jesus as the risen savior (Is that blasphemy? I’ve always been confused about what that is…) my sister and b-i-l changed appointed guardianship of their kids to my b-i-l’s side of the family. I knew that was coming, but to hear my sister tell me this was painful. My sister and I went out to dinner to discuss this issue and I told her how hard this was for me because I know I lose when pitted against their faith. I knew if somebody said, “Deny Jesus now and for the rest of your life or your sister dies…” I would lose. She didn’t respond. I had told her back in January that when my husband and I told my pastor we were taking a break from church and having religious doubts that she (my pastor) basically compared us to the worst child criminal. She told us if we were abusing our kids or not sending them to school she could call social services on us but in this case her hands were tied. She also told us that we, nor anybody else has heard the worst of what she thought of situations like this. I imagine she thinks it is better for us to drown in a lake with a millstone hung around our neck as Matthew 18 suggests. She did not say this though. My whole family knows my pastor said this to us. I told my sister that if she and I worked or volunteered for some organization together and she told me that our boss told her these same things our pastor told us, I couldn’t continue to work or volunteer for that person who had such a negative view of my sister when I know what a wonderful mother she is. I just wouldn’t tolerate being around somebody who thought that way about my sister. But in this situation, not only does the whole family continue to embrace the pastor and the organization-they must also on some level adhere to those views about us. Nobody will consider what we have to say, nor read anything that doesn’t promise to support faith. They prefer to love, support, and commune with the very person (and probably people) who have such a lowly opinion of who my husband and I are.
It is hard. I remember being a devout believer and what I thought of people who left the faith. I never would have considered marrying a non-Christian. I wouldn’t spend much time with a non-Christian. I also would never appoint guardianship of my children to a non-Christian and if my original selection deconverted…I would change guardianship too. But now that I see this all for what it is I want to share it with my family. I want us all to close this crazy chapter of our lives together, take each other by the hand and walk into the sunset together…with full support and allegiance towards each other.
But I lose. Their flesh and blood…visible and real…I lose to Jesus. They are very sure about Him. One thing that Jesus got right is that he didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword and to turn family members against each other (Matt 10:34). It just shouldn’t be like this.
So does anybody have advice? Am I over-reacting? I have such hurt feelings over this but I know they do too. My goal is to not become cynical and angry, although I feel both of those things. I want to be kind and loving and live in peace with them, but I don’t know how. I think communication is key to working problems out, but this seems to be a topic where discussing the issue makes things worse. Nobody wants to hear what I have to say regarding the Christian religion nor anything I’ve learned from reading about the history of the Bible. I’ve forced it a few times and it never goes well. Who has “been there done that” with family members and been able to maintain a healthy and loving relationship? How do people do this?