Religion and the family

/ posted in: FamilyReligion

A few posts ago Brandy asked in the comments, “Also, how did you go from Christianity to and how does it work w/ a still Christian husband?”

I didn’t answer that right away because I knew it would tie in with my story of my weekend. You see, I spent the weekend with my parents, my brother, and my brother’s fiancee. This weekend revolved around a wedding. A wedding that took place in a church.

My conversion to paganism wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. I didn’t wake up and decide one day to be a pagan. I didn’t go looking at paganism and decide to change my worldview in order to become a pagan. It was a gradual process of questioning my faith over six or seven years. I was a hard-core Christian. That’s why the conversion took so long. The key part of it was moving to a different state and not finding a church I liked. I liken it to stepping away from what had been indoctrinating me. Christians would say that I got out of fellowship and was drawn into sin. I’ve written about this before so I won’t go into it all again. But eventually I started blogging. I was writing about the way my views on religion were changing. I was using TBlog at the time. They had category listings of other posts written on TBlog. In the religion section I saw posts written on the blog I Am of Her. She’s a pagan. I started reading mostly because I thought calling yourself a pagan was sort of weird and exotic. But I kept reading and started reading some other blogs she linked to. I realized that these people thought the exact same way I did. That’s when I realized I was a pagan. See, blogging ruined me!

But as I’ve been moving out of Christianity my family has been moving farther in. They always were devout fundamentalists who went to church every time it was open. Thinking about missing a church service was cause for serious discussion and only happened on very, very, very, very special occasions. But they weren’t obnoxious about it in real life. They lived their faith but didn’t pray in public or pepper their conversation with god-talk.

That’s changed. They have become closer friends with my brother’s future in-laws. They’ve known them for years and now spend a lot of time socializing. The in-laws are more in-your-face Christian. So they pray in restaurants and things that my family would never have done.

My brother is also now working at a church. When he was hired to run the church’s TV show I wondered how he was going to fit in. He was a Christian but you really wouldn’t know it. I’m sort of freaked out by the change in him. Besides the husband he’s the only person I ever came out to about paganism because I knew he would be cool with it. That was a year and a half ago. I don’t know that I could have done the same thing now. I’ve wondered how much he was faking in order to work there. I didn’t know how to ask. But after this weekend I don’t think he is. At dinner Friday night they had him pray. This is a kid who coined our family grace of “Thank you for our food. Amen.” That was delivered as one word to save time. He gave a prayer on Friday with all the Christian talking points that totally freaked me out. The thing that cemented it for me was on Saturday. When we got in his car he had Christian CDs playing. He tortured me with loud rap music as a kid. I keep looking at it as brainwashing. Because this is his job too church has become his whole life.

At some point this weekend the husband was looking at me and the word “god” came out of his mouth. I jokingly said that I loved it when he actually acknowledged my divinity. My brother sarcastically muttered, “Or whatever divinity you are following.” Sarcastic asides are the foundation of our relationship so I don’t know how seriously to take that.

The wedding yesterday was in an Episcopal church. It had a full litergy with a printed script that the congregation was supposed to take part in. I stood and sat on cue but didn’t do the mass readings that were written as prayers. When they got the to part about wives submit to your husbands, the husband nudged me. I whispered, “Not a Christian,” back to him. Not long after in the homily the priest said, “Now for us as Christians…” The husband whispered, “Oooh, he’s not talking to you!”

We joke around about it but it is not a joking matter to my family. The wedding had communion. Confrontation was avoided by me telling them that it was ok to just stay in the pew and skip it. Since it was not their type of religious ceremony that made them most comfortable.

The whole weekend was dedicated to trying to convince us to come to church with them this morning. My mother used the direct approach:

The husband: What’s the plan for tomorrow?
Mom: You’re coming to church with us in the morning and then we will go to lunch…

My brother’s fiancee would work it into conversation. When talking about the husband’s post-retirement paln to write Christian video games she would suggest that maybe he should go to church once in a while to see what to write about. Or after he told her a dirty joke he made up she told him (after she stopped laughing hysterically), “Yeah, you really need to go to church.”

The husband just does not see the potential confrontation coming. He was talking to the fiancee and said, “Heather’s a satanist.” (Let the record show that he learned nothing from the talking-to I gave him after he told my mother that I didn’t believe in god.) I silently gave him the wife-look that stops intelligent men dead in their tracks. He paused briefly then patted me on the leg and said, “That’s ok. She’ll be cool with it.” A second look stopped him. Luckily he says so many off the wall things that my family thinks that he is always joking.

But even he is starting to notice the change. This morning after they all went to church he said, “You know they are going to blame me.” That’s probably true. My questioning of faith happened to start right before I met him. My parents won’t believe that I changed my mind on my own. My parents don’t believe in change. Especially about something as fundamentally important to them as religion. Everytime I come here there is a bit more tension. We aren’t the kind of family where someone would say, “So tell me your feelings on faith now.” It will simmer just under the surface until something brings it to a boil. I’m guessing if the adoption ever comes through that will blow it wide open. It will be ok for me to screw up my life but not taking a child to church is equal to child abuse.