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Deeper Perception Made Practical

Might I Have Any Impact on the "Christians" in My Family — Besides Puzzling Them? A Guest Post by IRENE

"Dead certainty is for corpses" -- Rose Rosetree in "The Empowered Empath"

“Dead certainty is for corpses.”
— Rose Rosetree in “The Empowered Empath”

My heart goes out  — and my respect twirls directly over — to Blog-Buddy IRENE. Today she has written a powerfully touching guest post about growing up in a “Christian” family.

Note: In today’s post, not just my introduction, I’m the one to put “Christian” in quotes. (Not IRENE’s idea.)

Because, really! Jesus Christ didn’t come to teach bigotry, self-righteousness, and hatred — did he?

Or is there an alternate “New Testament”? (And, quite possibly, an alternate version of “Earth,” simultaneously lived within this same world I inhabit? 😉 )

Just today, the New York Times carried an article,Pope Francis suggests Donald Trump is ‘Not Christian’ And if the Catholic Pope can use the term “Not Christian” along with so many others, I think it’s safe for a humble observer like me to at least start using some judicious quotation marks to convey irony.

Beyond that, I’m not messing with IRENE’s guest post, except to add headings and minor edits for clarity… plus non-visible, and humanly-inaudible (but very real) praise for her exceptional kindness.

Hers is one of the stories I requested yesterday, over at A Spiritual Snapshot of Supreme Court Justice Antoinin Scalia, Comment #25. We have  already had some magnificent shares from SANDRA, CARLOTTA, IRENE, LOUISE, and SARAH.

  • I’m still waiting for more comments and guest posts (the latter just emailed to me at rose@rose-rosetree.com). These can round out our collection, including stories from those of you who agree with putting “Christian” in my little irony marks.
  • Also those who DISagree.
  • And also, how about those of you who go to mass every week or church every Sunday?
  • What from you Blog-Buddies who find great beauty in your Catholic or Protestant (or other) faith? Whether you’re now involved in organized religion or not!

How do any of you like dealing with “Christians” in name only?

Well, here’s IRENE’s guest post, everyone.

The Impact on Me of Being Raised “Christian”

I was raised in a “Christian” home.

I’m fortunate that it was “only” emotional manipulation (a lot of guilting), not rejection or ostracization when I left organized religion. Ever since, many topics have just been avoided in family interactions.

Before I wrote this sentence, I didn’t quite realize just how many topics are taboo.

No wonder I never seem to connect with my family – there’s almost nothing we can talk about!

I have not done aura reading on my family members, as I’m not very skilled at that yet. I can, however, relate my experiences on how a strong belief in hell impacts relationships and how that belief impacts being kind to others.

They’re So Certain I’m “Destined for Hell”

I haven’t spoken to my “Christian” family members about religion for many years, so I don’t know their current stance, but my understanding is that they believe I’m destined for hell since I’m not a “Christian.”

They don’t relish what they see as my future suffering. I expect they view any current life challenges I face as “fitting.”

For example: “If only she would practice ‘Christianity’ again, Jesus would be with her in this pain and she’d at least be comforted if not have her problems fixed.”

But their motivation is sadness that I’m going to hell, in their view, and that they therefore won’t be able to spend eternity in heaven with me. They love me, so they feel sad that I’m going to suffer forever.

Among some, there is a significant dash of self-righteousness, that at least they’re not doing something so stupid (from their perspective) as choosing to not be “Christian.”

With others, it’s just straight sorrow that I’m (supposedly) “Choosing hell.”

Interpreting Problems Differently

My family members tend to dismiss and disregard my perspective about a lot of practical life things, such as:

  • Healthy relationships
  • What constitutes spousal abuse
  • Possible careers for women
  • Which choices women should make about their bodies
  • Whose business it is to police other people’s sex lives, family planning, and all the rest of their life choices
  • What style of clothes people should wear
  • What actually happened in history. And why.
  • What happens now, in current events in other parts of the world
  • And more.

I think of these topics as things that happen in objective reality. It seems to me that I make observations based on what actually happens in reality. And sometimes I decide that things that cause pain to people I love are not so good.

How Matters Grow Even More Complicated

I don’t feel this perspective of mine is “tainted” by my (non-) religious beliefs.

However, family-members’ assumption — that my observations will tend to lead them towards my own state of non-“Christianity” — means that they have a very difficult time allowing themselves to see any validity in my perspective.

They don’t want to go to hell, so they can’t risk contamination with what/how I think.

This consistent dismissal of my “tainted” opinions makes it impossible to have anything beyond a very superficial relationship with these family members.

Back at the Late Supreme Court Justice

That’s what I see happening with Justice Scalia.

Though, from what I’ve read, Mr. Scalia did this dismiss and disregard anyone who disagreed with him very much more extremely and vocally than my family does.

It can be very difficult to maintain a level of respect for someone when you fundamentally believe that all of their opinions are wrong and/or dangerous, as evidenced by their choice on something so very basic (in your opinion) as whether to end up in heaven or hell.

Among the “Christian” members of my family, there’s a touch of bafflement that I could possibly choose not to be “Christian.”

From their perspective, I’m choosing eternal damnation and suffering… with full knowledge of that choice.

It would understandable (though very sad and they’d deeply pity me) if I’d never heard about “Christianity.” But I do know about it. And yet I’m still choosing to be “non-Christian.” This is baffling to them.

And Yet I Live

Yes, I still live. And since I’m:

  • Still alive (No lightning bolt from heaven has struck me down)
  • Still happy (Visibly happier and more confident than I ever was in the past)
  • And still a decent person to be around,

I puzzle some of them.

Might I Have Any Impact Beyond Puzzling these True Believers?

I also occasionally trigger some questions that maybe “Christianity” isn’t the only possible perspective.

At the very least, I provide evidence that non-“Christians” are real people with real feelings, interests, and relationships.

I have noticed a tendency from “Christian” people I know to be so surrounded by “Christian” things, people and culture, that they have almost zero contact with non-“Christians.”

This ends up feeding a lot of mythology about what it’s like to be non-“Christian.”

I suppose this is similar to what happens when a white person is surrounded only by white people. It’s much easier in that environment to just never learn that a person with brown or black skin is just as human as you.

Sometimes the only information received about non-“Christians” is from newspaper headlines, chance viewings of TV sitcoms and movies, and the filtered information that is used by “Christians” to reinforce how important it is to be “Christian.”

This very much others the non-“Christians” (to use a new verb), and makes it difficult to see any similarities between what a “Christian” might experience, in contrast to a non-“Christian.”

Yet Last Time I Checked, Guess What? I’m Still Human.

Is this necessarily strange? I’m a non-“Christian,” and I’m human too.

For some people I know, this is a strange conundrum.

  • Sometimes interaction with a non-“Christian” expands acceptance for a “Christian.”
  • Sometimes the opposite happens. A “Christian’s” beliefs are solidified about being better, wiser and superior in every way.

I really enjoy and appreciate it when contact with me triggers a “Christian” family member or friend to wonder, “Oh! Maybe that’s a valid life to choose too, even though I don’t want to choose it.”

However, my experience overall suggests that a firm belief in hell tends to mean superficial relationships and pity (rather than respect and kindness) for those who don’t hold the same belief. Except insofar as it’s possible to entirely ignore that other person’s difference of opinion.

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  1. 1
    Cathy says:

    Ditto. Oh good Lord, yes.

    As someone who was raised in the same environment. And is non-‘christian’.

  2. 2
    Cathy says:

    There’s been the odd comments from loving, but puzzled relatives, like the uncle who swears his gay son (my cousin) will continue to struggle in life and finances until he changes his life ‘and commits all to the Lord’.

  3. 3
    Cathy says:

    And then added, ‘of course, that doesn’t seem to happen to everyone’ (referencing my life and the fact that I seem to be doing alright).

    It was rather amusing.

    Oh yes, Irene, I can relate.

  4. 4
    Irene says:

    Cathy, yes. It’s a unique perspective looking back!

    I really appreciate RES’s techniques of deeper perception. It makes it so much easier to relate to these people I love and to accept them as they are when I can start to understand the inner workings of the decisions (that is, what’s going on at an aura level). And also me having less STUFF really helps too!

  5. 5
    Irene says:

    Rose, thanks for posting this, and for adding the quotes to “Christian”. That’s much more appropriate as this is not what every Christian believes, and in many ways it seems to be quite a bit different than what the documents of the religion (i.e. the Bible) state.

    I actually do know one person who professes to the religion, but typically refuses to label themself as Christian, precisely because other people then associate them with a bunch of stuff like this that they don’t believe in.

  6. 6
    Kira says:

    Great post, Irene!

  7. 7
    Irene says:

    Thanks, Kira 🙂

  8. 8
    David B says:

    I was also raised “Christian” but not like this at all. Gratefully, none of the guilting that several sects have.

    Not that my parents where happy with some of my life and career choices. But that didn’t create a long term barrier to relating.

  9. 9
    David B says:

    Most telling is the fear of contamination. That indicates the belief is driven by fear rather than considered choice.

    In what way is this “spiritual?”

  10. 10
    David B says:

    Best thing you can do is be who you are and enjoy your life. Your example will make far greater impact than anything you can say.

    🙂

  11. 11
    Louise says:

    Yes Irene, I’ve gotten the looks directed towards me with pity along with a shake of their head back and forth. Now I would more likely say to them ” what do you mean by that”.

  12. 12
    Irene says:

    David B, definitely agree with your comments #9 and 10. Ever since I started to grow out of the “Christian” environment I grew up in, I feel such compassion for the fear-based clinging to the beliefs I was raised in. More so, because I know what it’s like to be stuck there.

    And now I just have to live and enjoy my life. So nice to only have to be responsible for me and my path!

  13. 13
    Irene says:

    Louise, thanks for sharing. It’s great to hear from others who’ve had similar experiences 🙂

  14. 14
    Sandra says:

    Irene, your description of your relationship with your Christian family matches mine. Thank you so much for putting it to words–it will help many of us in similar situations.

  15. 15

    SANDRA, IRENE, others — maybe this question is too personal.

    But I’m wondering if you would share (whether as a full blog post that you email to me or as a quick little guest post)…

    How did you find the courage to defy both famiily and “God”?

    (You would email a guest post to me at Rose@rose-rosetree.com )

  16. 16

    Here is what one friend of mine told me about dealing with her Evangelical upbringing.

    GLADYS’s parents insisted that she attend church without fail. So this is the coping strategy that GLADYS developed. Silently she would sass.

    Yes, in the privacy of her own mind, GLADYS would add extra words to the sermon and the hymns, like “Right. 😉 And there’s also supposed to be a big scary monster under the bed.”

  17. 17
    Sandra says:

    Rose, I just emailed a little something to you before I saw your request. It might not be exactly what you asked for here,

  18. 18

    SANDRA, how sweet of you to make this blog comment. Maybe it will inspire others to wake up a bit of their triumph stories by sharing them here; then benefit our community as well.

    We’ve already had an email exchange over this. As I wrote you, “I’m in the midst of my peak time for the day, so I save reading things like this for Luxury Reward Time. Oh, I am so interested!”

    How am I spending that peak time? A combo of sessions, writing a blog post, then back to editing my new book — those “final, final edits.” (Which have gone on for weeks.)

  19. 19

    And how great, SANDRA, that you volunteered to send something before I sent out a request! 🙂

    This is a fascinating topic, indeed. And so appropriate to share in a community dedicated to finding deeper truth in life, a truth that need not necessarily involve organized religion… although deeper truth does illuminate every religion.

  20. 20

    I wonder, in fact, if any of you Blog-Buddies who have left the old-time religion of your upbringing, find great inspiration — in an a la carte way — from one religion or another.

  21. 21
    David B says:

    re: comment 20
    Yes – I’ve studied world religions, even formally in grad school. I’ve also studied Interfaith and explored multi-faith approaches.

    The great lack in so much of modern faith is that it is pure belief, driven by an authority figure with an ego. It would be much better if that faith was driven by direct experience, a relationship with the divine, and self-authority.

  22. 22
    Kira says:

    I have so much to say about this topic and so little time to say it in!

    I grew up a member of a United Church of Christ church. I also attended an Episcopal school from kindergarten thru 12th grade.

    I can remember even at an early age comparing the chapel services at my school with the Sunday services at my church.

  23. 23
    Kira says:

    I didn’t know it at the time, but a friend who attends a Unitarian Universalist church told me that United Church of Christ is considered almost as liberal a denomination as Unitarian Universalism.

    Episcopalianism, by contrast, is more often considered Catholicism “lite”.

  24. 24
    David B says:

    Many have responded to the lacks in modern faith by doing a kind of roll your own spirituality. That’s become a bit of a circus.

    I do think it’s a good idea to have guides and consult authorities. But to do so from your authority.

  25. 25
    Kira says:

    Even so, it always seemed to me that there was a decent amount of tolerance for differences of opinion and worship style and even other religions in both my church and my school.

    The school, perhaps, by necessity—there were kids and teachers of other religions.

    My church had choir members from churches of other denominations, and even a Jewish member or two.

  26. 26
    Kira says:

    So I guess my experience growing up Christian is close to the opposite of many who grow up in an evangelical or fundamentalist setting.

    I don’t remember Hell being mentioned very much, if at all.

    The focus of the sermons I remember from both places was on helping others, loving others, being a good person in general.

  27. 27
    Kira says:

    There was nothing about Christianity as I learned it that really pushed me away; it was more that other religions pulled me.

    In 3rd grade, we studied Native American tribes. I forget which specific tribes by now, but I was really drawn to their honoring of nature and animals. It just felt right to me, more so than believing in Christianity, even the way I was taught it.

  28. 28
    Kira says:

    We studied Native Americans again in 5th grade, making kachina dolls in one project and learning about Inuit peoples in another, and again, something about their beliefs felt right to me.

  29. 29
    David B says:

    re: comment 16
    For awhile, I went to new thought churches. It was a place I found many like-minded people. But over time, there where a few things that grated. Like the tendency of the church to promote flaky stuff. Lack of discrimination.

    Had a further wake-up call when I realized all the guided meditations and prayers where a form of hypnosis. Some containing the above.

  30. 30
    Kira says:

    I was also drawn to mythology; I loved the stories.

    My father was a history professor whose area of specialty was biblical archaeology, and more broadly, ancient Near-Eastern history, so I learned a lot about ancient Egyptian mythology as a child.

    I moved on to Greek and Roman mythology and liked that even better. I also picked up a smattering of Norse mythology.

  31. 31
    Kira says:

    I loved the stories, but didn’t believe in them at gut level the same way I had responded to the various Native American mythologies I had learned about earlier.

    Nevertheless, when I started reading up on the mythologies that include fairies, I had a bit of that same old pull again.

  32. 32
    Kira says:

    I also started studying Eastern religions during college. I took courses that gave broad overviews of Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.

    I was most strongly attracted to Taoism, of those.

  33. 33
    David B says:

    I responded by distracting myself, somewhat like Rose’s example. But I also became more conscious of the group vibe.

    A move away resolved the question.

  34. 34
    Kira says:

    I eventually met friends who are Wiccan and added some more beliefs into the mix.

    It’s not really that I picked and chose various beliefs because I liked them and said to myself, “I think I’ll believe that!” It was more a process of discovering things that I already believed at some level, with refining here and there as I learned more things.

  35. 35
    Kira says:

    I have mentioned before at this blog that I learned shamanic journeying; I think that was the culmination of all the different bits and pieces I was picking up from different sources.

    Once I got comfortable with journeying, my personal version of God revealed herself to me, and since then I’ve felt like I have an actual belief system rather than just scattered bits and pieces of beliefs.

  36. 36
    Kira says:

    The thing is, it feels so personal to me that I really haven’t discussed it with my parents.

    I think they’d understand, and I’m sure they’d be okay with it.

    I think most of the church members I knew well would also be okay with it, but I don’t think they’d understand. And that’s okay. No one except me needs to.

  37. 37
    Kira says:

    I believe in God, so even if I don’t believe in all the little details of Christianity, I believe in a great many of the same things.

    Had I grown up in a more restrictive denomination, I don’t know if

    a) I would have even gotten to this point, or

    b) I could have told anyone about it without serious backlash.

    So I really feel for those who are at odds with their upbringing like that.

  38. 38

    KIRA, even by your generous and thoughtful standards, this is an exceptional series of comments.

    I had no idea that you were brought up as (what I would consider) spiritual royalty. Wow!

  39. 39

    Thanks so much for ALL the comments today, so wonderful!

    Regarding your Comment #29, DAVID B, when you referred to encountering hypnosis — not represented as such — in houses of worship, some of you newer Blog-Buddies may be curious about this.

    In which case, you might like to have a look at this article about common confusions between meditation and hypnosis, and vice versa.

  40. 40
    Joyce says:

    This post is extremely helpful for me.

    I grew up in a household that wasn’t what I would call religious at all (church occasionally).

    I did however always have a friend or two throughout the years that had strong Christian upbringings and were regular church goers.

  41. 41
    Joyce says:

    The older I got, the more I wondered was I “supposed to” be doing what they were doing even though I didn’t really enjoy sitting through long services.

    I also had conflicts with some of the messages I heard when visiting churches and the feeling of being an outsider by not “belonging” to a church.

  42. 42
    Joyce says:

    None of this was messaging I received at home, but influenced through some friends and visiting some of their churches.

  43. 43
    Joyce says:

    Being an unskilled empath likely had a large influence on my inner conflicts in this area.

    Today, I can sit through a service, take what has meaning to me, and disregard the rest.

  44. 44
    Joyce says:

    I also feel very comfortable with my personal spiritual path and no longer compare to what others are doing.

    This blog really supports my growth (of course, along witH RES sessions).

    Thank you all for sharing.

  45. 45

    JOYCE, how lovely to hear from you at the blog.

    Yes, longer wads of language are broken up to be savored. If you don’t do it, I will, not changing anything else about your wonderful comments.

    There is great power in sharing our personal stories of empowerment, when it feels right. I’m glad your share today felt right. 🙂

  46. 46
    Louise says:

    What began to give me the courage to leave, which was a 3 year process, was when in bible study the pastor was teaching and several of the followers in class were replying to his teachings in unison in robot-like answers or comments.

    This to me just turned me off so terrible and seemed so wrong and mindless that I gradually withdrew over time. To me it was almost cultish and it took me awhile to think for myself again and leave.

  47. 47
    Sandra says:

    Louise: hooray for you! People who question what happens in Bible study are often not welcome, anyway.

  48. 48
    Sandra says:

    As a young girl in Bible study I dared to question why a child in the middle of tribal Africa would be consigned to hell because he didn’t believe in Jesus.

    As a result, all of my “friends” left for the church service without me.

  49. 49
    Sandra says:

    Kira, what an amazing, well-educated spiritual journey you have had!

  50. 50
    Sandra says:

    David in comment 29: I had a similar experience when I joined a Unity church for a while.

    The Unity teachings fit my beliefs quite well; however, the practices at this church likely contributed to the Spiritual Addiction of many!

  51. 51
    Kira says:

    Sandra, thank you for comment 49!

  52. 52
    Kira says:

    And Rose, comment 38 just blew me away!

    I couldn’t have timed my reading of it any better; I had trouble getting to sleep last night before my (way too early for me) surgery, and your comment gave me a warm, comfy glow that really helped.

  53. 53
    Kira says:

    (Surgery’s done now.)

    I have felt for much of my life, even off and on while depressed, that I lead a charmed life. In 2013 I realized it’s a blessed life. Somehow, though, “spiritual royalty” never occurred to me! ?

  54. 54
    Irene says:

    Kira, your experience here (#22-37) sounds lovely! This in particular is just wonderful: “I think they’d understand, and I’m sure they’d be okay with it.”

    And seeing as I’m so behind responding to many comments here, I’m so happy to hear that you’ve come through your surgery ok. Hope all continues well as you heal!

  55. 55
    Irene says:

    Joyce, I hear you with the unskilled empathy part in particular. That complicates things like this for sure.

    So nice now to, as you say in #43, just take what has meaning and disregard the rest.

  56. 56
    Irene says:

    Louise (#46), Sandra (#48), I’ve definitely been in similar situations. Openly questioning what doesn’t make sense tends to stir up thinking when people just want to stay where they’re at and ignore what doesn’t make sense.

    When the questions scare them too much, they just want to get away from anything that makes them face it. Hard to be stay friends then.

  57. 57
    Irene says:

    I do want to make sure to clarify that I know many kind, loving, compassionate “Christian” people. My experiences of not being able to share deeply with them makes no difference to the fact that many of them try (and succeed) at being perfectly lovely people.

    Even if I ask questions and do things with my life that make them feel uncomfortable, typically they react with sadness, not anger or attack.

  58. 58
    Irene says:

    “Christian” people can also be the most practically giving people around as well.

    One woman I know stays in her church even though she isn’t really on board with the belief structure because, as a single mother, she can’t find housing, child care, health care and work support anywhere else that comes close to what’s available in her “Christian” community.

  59. 59
    Irene says:

    While it’s unfortunate that she has to fake her beliefs to maintain that support, it’s also understandable – any community needs commonality in order to stay viable, otherwise how do you decide where to allocate the always-limited physical, emotional and financial resources. This is not only a “Christian” thing.

    The bigger problem to me is that no other community is set up to help her in the practical way she needs.

  60. 60
    Sandra says:

    Irene, you might suggest to your friend to look for that kind of support from nonprofits, which help people in all kinds of difficult situations.

    Of course, not all areas of the country have many nonprofits.

  61. 61
    Irene says:

    I realize I needed to be a bit clearer here.

    *I* think it’s unfortunate my friend needs to hide that she doesn’t really buy in to all the “Christian” beliefs.

    My friend doesn’t seem all that bothered by it. I suspect spiritual shutdown in her case actually.

  62. 62
    Irene says:

    I wanted to point out that “Christian” communities can be excellent places for practical life help, friendship and support – if you can match up with the beliefs enough to fit in.

  63. 63
    Irene says:

    Sandra, you’re quite right.

    Nonprofits and other volunteer-type spaces can be other great ways to build this kind of support network.

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