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 firstname.lastname@example.org). 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.