First

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“What can I do for you? What does it mean for me to put you first and love you more?” Sadly, the question surprised my husband in the last hour of Valentine’s Day. It shouldn’t have—it should be a question he hears every day. Instead, he hears me say things like “My family, my rules” when it comes to our interactions with my parents, who we spent the day with yesterday at my niece’s birthday party.

Don’t talk about natural selection.

Don’t talk about theoretical physics.

Do read these articles my dad sent about the beautiful Alexis Tsipras, so you can speak intelligently to agree with him when he refers to Tsipras as the Antichrist.

They can’t. Find. Out.

How selfish am I? Have I ever written a post that explores how this fear of consequences with my family might affect my husband and my marriage? Have I ever thought about it?

Fear of consequences—is it rational? I think it is. I think my husband agrees. There would be consequences if my family found out that I no longer believe. They would likely blame it on two things: my husband and my education. More the former than the latter. Then they might even try to blame each other. Their response will be to say more and say it louder, even though they have already said enough—for a lifetime, they’ve said enough. They’ll hate the gay people, the Muslims, the Hindus, the atheists, and the black people I call my friends—my mom still uses the N-word from time to time, and rage stirs within me as I firmly correct her. Most of all, they’ll hate my husband—the scientist. They really already do, but it’s usually a silent hatred. They often ignore him when he speaks. If they acknowledge him, it is often with rolled eyes. I’ve confronted my mom before for passive-aggression. “Stop. You have to be nice. He is my husband, and you have to be nice.” It ruined the weekend—but my husband felt loved.

They hate him because his knowledge challenges their lies. They hate him because his curiosity reveals their ignorance—a choice they have made out of stubbornness and laziness. They hate him because his arguments obliterate fallacies and because their flaming arrows cannot penetrate his gentleness.

Oh, they love Jesus.

But they hate the man who looks more like him than anyone I’ve ever known.

“It appears as though the Antichrist has risen to power,” my dad says of Alexis Tsipras.

YOU ARE THE FUCKING ANTICHRIST.

Capital letters because I’m screaming inside. Mistyped words because my hands are trembling. Typing through tears.

No, I didn’t say it out loud. Gentleness and respect. Gentleness and respect. Gentleness. And. Respect.

My husband barely said a word all day. How could he?—most of what he would say isn’t on the “safe-list.” He’s a different man when his flame is smothered—only when we’re around my family. How often is it like this? Probably a weekend every month, a week in the summer, two weeks at Christmas. Manageable, right?

Wrong. Not because he can’t pretend for a brief time. Not because he isn’t willing to make the sacrifice for me. It’s not sustainable—because of what it says about my heart for him. For that weekend, that week, that holiday, I’m loving him second. I’m not okay with that. Not for my parents, not for my kids, not for anyone—not ever. He is first. If loving him first offends someone else…well…let the chips fall where they may.

Where might they fall? I don’t intend to suddenly announce my faith position and then storm out, slamming the door behind me. And I don’t expect that I’ll be thrown out immediately, either. What I anticipate is that I’ll be slowly smoked out. They’ll say more and say it louder. They’ll hate my husband with renewed vigor, and I’ll defend him with rediscovered loyalty. They’ll aggressively try to evangelize my children. Choosing my husband first and children second will require us to keep our distance. None of this is guaranteed. Much of this is likely. All of it is possible.

My husband’s answer to my question was what I thought it would be. He feels so chained around my parents. He would love to have the freedom to be himself, but he will not ask me for anything. He understands my struggle and the likely consequences of telling my family, and he does not want to cause me that kind of pain for his sake.

He won’t ask for it—but he shouldn’t have to.

What does this mean? Is The Day coming? No. I don’t know. It must. Yes. I’m petrified. Who will take me in if I’m rejected? Who will take me in if I reject them for my husband’s sake?

Selfishness again. As much as I want to draw support and have a plan for The Day, if it comes—the only person I need is in a Benadryl-induced coma next to me right now. If my family rejects us, and if all other supports fail, I still have him—the one I’m doing this for. He will always be first, even if that demands a vast reduction in those who follow.

Let the chips fall where they may.

[Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

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50 thoughts on “First

  1. I have no idea how to respond to this. Suffice it to say that I have been where you are, and I do not envy you the position you’re in. I am, as I have said before, a compulsive sharer, so I almost didn’t have a choice in telling my family what was going on.That, and we’re a fairly close-knit family, and they knew something was going on anyway. Even so, it was a scary, scary thing to do. So I wish you the best of luck.

    All we can be is who we are. Anything else is a cage. And sometimes the cage is more comfortable than the freedom that comes with breaking out of it. It’s a heck of a thing…

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re exactly right, Toad. A comfortable cage. But I guess life is not about my comfort, is it?

      Thanks for your support, even if you don’t know what to say. It really helps just knowing that you’re here and that you’ve been through it—and survived.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Gentleness and respect. Gentleness and respect. Gentleness. And. Respect. It goes both ways. They should be offering you and your husband gentleness and respect as well. If they don’t it says far more about them than it does you or your husband. Please do not take what I’m saying as to be advocating for you to announce your beliefs and storm out. No one can tell you when the time is right for that.

    That question of “who will take me in if I’m rejected,” sounds as though you already are. You are not being fully loved because you are not fully known. Are they accepting you because they love you or because you are what they want you to be?

    Just some questions that rolled around in my head as I read this. Also as a person who is not “out” herself. I just related so much to this and am coming closer than ever to being out of the closet. I must for my own sanity.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Such a thoughtful comment—thank you.

      My parents’ acceptance of me may not be unconditional or based on something real—but it still feels good. You’re right about gentleness and respect though—they so often fail to offer it.

      Don’t worry—no storming out. At least no plans for it. I may be the only example of this way of life they will ever truly know, so how I carry myself is of utmost importance. How interesting—I might be more concerned about representing atheism well than they are about representing Christ.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My parents’ acceptance of me may not be unconditional or based on something real—but it still feels good.

        I completely get that. Hence the not being completely out myself. Knowing you’ll be rejected is a difficult thing to deal with.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Please do not take what I’m saying as to be advocating for you to announce your beliefs and storm out. No one can tell you when the time is right for that.

    The telling them part, not the storming out part.

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  4. The family that matters most is the one you choose, and the ones that choose you. From what little I know, you seem to have an excellent suport system and a wonderful spouse. It is terrifying, but not knowing is worse. Once you know, you can act. I hope they surprise you, but it is obvious that Russell will always be there to love you as you are.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, this sounds like such an awful situation for you all. And having to go through this during Valentine’s must have made this even more difficult for you.

    Have you and Russell tried to brainstorm about the different ways you can approach this? Even if you can’t see changing the approach anytime soon, it may be better to be prepared so that it doesn’t all come out to your parents in a moment of frustration or anger.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Howie—how well you know me! Russell and I just laughed out loud at your last sentence. That’s definitely how it happened when my Bible study group found out about my disbelief, and those were pretty much Russell’s exact words to me yesterday when we discussed this.

      Yes, lots of brainstorming, and we’re open to ideas. Ultimately, I think it will be a letter, and @Pascal will help me write it. #wishwordpressletmetagpeople #wishwordpresshadhashtags

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      • That’s how it went down with my parents. An almost 40 page letter, and I was glad I did it that way. But my situation was much different from yours (and opposite direction).

        There’s also the slow way which some friends of mine chose, although I’m not sure that would work well for you. They basically stopped going to church, and the parents were kind of left guessing what was going on. Whenever the parents asked questions my friends would quickly think of something else to talk about. Eventually it all comes out if the parents are persistent enough.

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  6. Again – right through my heart.
    SO much to relate – that I fear it is no use to begin.
    What struck me so much is the wonderful irony of your statement regarding your husband being more a reflection of Christ than your family. And for me how it is so reflective of how your heart actually has so grasped what being a believer is about – even as you are not in that place now… forever – it is in your heart – written there. Though you walk away from God – you walk not away from his hands and his presence – nor his ways… as he draws you closer to them.
    In your belief and earnest search – the ways of truth were discovered in your times of yearning for love in its purity… and in your heart it fell and touched you and your Husband as you are one.
    That cannot be removed – for nothing – not even ourselves can remove us from the love of God even us we turn away because of the evil and false impure ways of others…no nothing once it is written – once written in our hearts… can we be torn. Through our reasoning our minds can change – but our hearts have forever been changed and in them lies the one love that holds all together in unity … though we walk different paths and understand in different ways – it IS the heart that he judges.
    Be at peace.
    And place you life and heart in the hands of the man who was given to take you as his bride and care for you and nurture you whole in his tenderness.
    Oh and –
    HAVE AN AWeSOME week! 😀 (and – screw em all.. in gentleness.. and love… of course 😉 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks idiot—okay I seriously cannot call you that. Thanks, friend.

      I can’t say that I agree that some truth from God is written on my heart. But if it is, and if God judges the heart’s intentions and the honest quest for truth rather than the actual possession of it, then so be it. I hope that’s the case.

      I know I sound bitter sometimes, and I’m sorry for that. I write so that you all can know what was on my heart at a given moment. But when I take the time to think things through, I really don’t have anger or hatred. No need to “screw em all.” I have never felt more weak or afraid than I do at this moment, and in that vulnerability, I am quiet and tame and tired. All I have is love and the desperate hope that others will return it. And a really, really bad headache.

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      • All those emotions… of course you have a headache! Know what I do when I think and feel so hard and exhaust myself over such things? – I tell myself… not in anger or bitterness – but in the weakness I feel in that position… ‘screw em all – for now… I must get strong to face this and then I can be who I want to be to love through it’

        If hope you may see that sentiment in my words –
        CC ( I do not like calling YOU that – may I call you J?) matters in this equation you discuss too.
        And she has some really tough decisions to make – some very black and white ones – that are faded into grey.

        I wish I could ask you a few questions and sit and talk with you of practical outlooks involved in this phase you are walking into to – but – as I have before mentioned… you have a vast amount of wisdom surrounding you – continue to embrace it as you do…
        And – to emphasise – ‘screw em’ = please do not beat yourself up… we live and learn as life progresses and where you are now is just part of the process right?

        I apologise if I ‘upset’ you – I truly only wanted to encourage you to keep some strength for yourself to be able to think with a clear head instead of emotions… though – this IS a place where emotions have a rightful place to come to light!! with our writing. I only know so many folks persecute themselves for their inability to solve human dilemmas without hurting others – when in the end – ANYTHING they may have done would not have changed the outcome. I wish for you to consider this in your approach to your relationship with your folks. I am NOT inferring you HAVE not – ofcourse you have – but we do SO hope for the best… and often forget to prepare ourselves for the worst. And when the worst happens we wonder why we did it because we knew all along what the inevitable outcome would have been. Sometimes – we really want that outcome… at least then it is over. But when everything in us begs for it to be different – perhaps – only sometimes perhaps – there is a alternative way forward.
        I am sure you have tried to look at this from almost every conceivable angle – and I hope you have. I do not know the advise nor council nor knowledge you have had available to you to walk you through – and – I do (I have NO idea why) care that you will be OK and not ‘create a mess on your own doorstep’ so to speak. I shall be cautious to not fling about colloquial terms that we all possibly associate different strengths of meaning – and meaning to. Maaan it gets hard to summarise this stuff! But hey – we do what we can yes?

        We can get so many varying perspectives on these things – sometimes from emotional points of view – sometimes from bias points of view – and wading through them all is a nightmare. Once we have done so – all we are let with in the end – are the cold hard facts – and I want to ask you this question in my first comment but I fear rebuke.
        Have you really looked at the cold hard facts here? It is pointless doing anything but that…
        This is not so much – how I see it- (which is ONLY an opinion and you can tell me to mind my own…) this is not about belief – it is about control. Theirs…over you.
        Love conquers all – love wears many different faces.
        Be courageous – be strong – be humble – be bold – stand tall and hold your ground – gently – in kindness as is your call. (sorry – one can but talk the way we know with words)
        So to sum it all up – screw em – and do what you have to do for YOUR family. You do not really have to give an explanation all at once either – that CAN – or could – come as time goes by.
        Dear lady – I have said what has been in my head from the get go reading here – though I wished to tread with caution as such a delicate process is taking place – I can be callous and blunt – but – It does not mean I hate… I am not sure I know how to do that.
        I also forget that new friends have not known me long and do not always understand my expressions and the sentiment behind them…
        I have not stopped thinking on you all day and have been waiting to come here to try convey my heart to you – concisely.. well we know where my other weakness is then do we not? 😉

        ~Idiot-friend~ ( so you understand – I am always the class act clown – I make fun of the worst things possible even as my heart bursts with emotion – it is how I cope with the immense emotions I feel from the many people surrounding me in reality and online – and it always will be handle things – mostly…)

        I hope your headache has lifted by now and some physical calm has settled over you – just breath beautiful – just breath.

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        • Yes, you may call me J. And I cannot call you idiotwriter, so feel free to provide an alternative :).

          You did not offend me. Thank you for caring and for your sensitivity. You’re right about love—it has to win. True love will let me be honest; it will let me disagree. Real love will survive disappointment. I’m not just walking away from counterfeit Christianity, but also from anything else in my life that is counterfeit—even love. If it is authentic, it will last. If it doesn’t, it was false and I want nothing to do with it.

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          • You have made a choice – and therefore you must understand ALL consequences that may occur. I believe you have weighed those all up – and you come back to the same answer… whatever the outcome you wish to maintain a sense of being true you who you are and either it is accepted or not. Can’t fault that. 😉
            I JUST keep thinking about this gently thing. HOW does one go about such a thing gently?
            I am sure this is the conundrum you face or else it would not be causing you such turmoil as to the best approach!
            Patience and wisdom – certainly cannot go amiss –

            If I may J – I have often thought of doing things in the past to accomplish a certainty or ability to break the status quo of certain situations. In hindsight – and not always too long after I have either been to fearful to open my mouth (speechwise or in written form) or have felt the consequences may have been to much to bare up under – in has slowly figured itself out anyway without me saying much. Simply by my behaviour toward the issue. Not in an offensive way or ‘mean’ outlook – but with firmness in not accepting certain treatment. Sometimes that has resulted in seeing the truth of the ‘love’ being fake – and sometimes it has resulted in a slow progress of awareness from the other party of my stance and also my feelings for them – rather than the behaviour or lifestyle.
            Ok – so the BIG thing is the acceptance of your belief and life choices. That IS a fairly HUGE deal to us with parents – (and other loved ones)
            But truly – the mindset you SEEM to be dealing with (and only you could know the degree of indoctrination they are under) – you MAY as well be telling them you are a Satanist. But you know this.
            Is this a test for them from you? DO they love you enough to accept something that is entirely unacceptable to them?
            Your wish to have an open relationship where they know your feelings and to have such with your children is fantastic – but – occasionally we can but learn from our parents mistakes and flaws and not pass this down to the children. SO we break the cycle and to speak ‘spiritually in bible talk’ we break the sins of the fathers.
            I truly HOPE and I shall say pray – for an outcome that both strengthens you and gives you peace – a sense of closure perhaps?
            I can but say one more thing in this thread of conversation –
            Are you prepared to accept it if it is false?
            And will you lean on your friends and family if it seems your parents only love is to hear their own thoughts regurgitated and a love of themselves and their righteousness? Are you prepared for that?

            What are the black and white solutions- practically to protect your children and husband from abuse or manipulation if they become hostile?

            Do you have a game plan for the worst possible outcome?

            The faith you had in a god is one thing – faith in human kindness is another – I have experienced it when people turn and fight to destroy your life. This – is my fear for you – and only you and your dearest friends can know the probability and the potential solutions should the proverbial – S–T hit the fan 😉

            Sorry – I thought I signed off with my name last time – (far too much lack of sleep of late!)

            BEST well wishes –
            Belinda 🙂

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            • If the worst case scenario becomes a reality, I have people to lean on—people here in comments beneath this post and a few others who do not join me here.

              If my parents love me, I will love them. If my parents reject me, I will love them.

              If they become hostile I will protect my family—I don’t expect it to come to that at all. If it did, I would love them still…from a distance.

              Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.

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  7. I’ve had this browser window open for at least an hour, and I’ve read this and read this and read this until the words have become little more than black markings on a white page… though the message remains. Forgive me. I’m babbling.There’s a lot to sit with here.

    We can only be who we are, and yet that’s the one thing we often don’t allow ourselves or even others to be. I have compromised who I am for pretty much my whole life, and that’s a reality that came crashing down on me in 2013. By that point I had left the church culture (and perhaps belief) for good, and I’d nearly divorced my wife and almost got consumed by depression… so, yeah, just a wee bit going on there. Clearly, I wasn’t coping.

    Your hubby sounds like the perfect man actually. I don’t really know you from a bar of soap but I’m glad you have him in your life. His unconditional love and support will continue to be a bedrock in all of this, and never feel selfish for standing on it. You need him. He needs you. It’s a beautiful thing. And anyway, quicksand is not your friend!

    Okay, I don’t know how to draw those threads together. I’m sure there was a point to them but it eludes me for now… so… I’ll leave it at that. I won’t always comment but I will continue to read. I think reading your thoughts and feelings on all of this will be beneficial. It’s not an easy road to travel, is it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s not easy at all—but easier with friends, so please keep reading and comment as often as you like. I hope you reach a point where you would know me from a bar of soap, even if only in words. I want to know you, too; I want to read your story and learn where Tony finds himself in all of this right now. I have a harder time with pictures and captions, and I think that might be how you prefer to tell it—although your gift with words is undeniable.

      Is my husband the perfect man? Common sense tells me no, but observation argues. I know he’s capable of doing wrong, but I see it rarely enough that it escapes my memory.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It just occurred to me that I may have inadvertently caused you offense by writing, “I don’t really know you from a bar of soap…” If this happens to be the case then I must apologise. I merely wanted to allude to the fact that I’ll be attempting to make no assumptions about you or anything else in your life. Even those that I have known for years have held the capacity to surprise me with the things they’ve thought and done. I’m not always very clear about what I say, I’m afraid.

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        • I promise you, I was not offended. Soap is not all bad, anyway. I appreciate your no-assumptions approach, and I still say that I hope we can get to know each other (although I’m certainly full of surprises, and manage to shock even my husband far more frequently than he is comfortable with).

          Liked by 1 person

          • Well, husbands are meant to be kept on their toes. It keeps them honest! 😛 (As for getting to know each other, I am open to that. Reading your thoughts is a good start. Thank you for having me here.)

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  8. I think it will have to be a letter.

    Here’s the difficulty for me. I don’t think that your parents model authentic Christianity. Truth tempered by love is so hard, but love criticizes. Paul said that he became all things to all people. To a Greek he was Greek, to a Jew he was Jewish. The more I consider your upbringing (and mine) there is a fundamentalism that must be left – – an improper separation of faith from the people and earth we were called to love. You know that I rejected my parent’s faith, but was reconciled to a deep faith of my own. I was also reconciled to them, but it took time.

    It was ultimately the defense of my bride that allowed me to escape the gravity of my mother and forgive the passivity of my father. Madalyn said it – – the family you choose and that chooses you. The Bible says it too – – for this reason a man (or woman) shall leave his father and mother. Your loyalty now belongs to Russell and your girls. You are growing up and now have more responsibility to act as a mother and wife than you do a daughter. Will there be consequences? Oh yes. So, I agree with the letter and I’ll help to vet your ideas. You are a writer by disposition, not just vocation. Several of your readers here are also gifted writers and they genuinely seem to care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I know I can write, but I want your wisdom to soften the edges. I don’t even know how to start—do I bomb them with my position from the beginning and then explain it? Do I slowly build, tempting them to skip to page 40 to see what the hell this letter is about?

      Any thoughts, readers?

      I can’t believe it’s about to happen. I can’t believe that almost everything I’ve ever known is about to be turned on its head. How long is this nausea going to last? Will this headache ever go away? Will every single conversation continue to be about this until I do it? Am I going to be okay? Are they?

      Thinking out loud.

      I’ll write the letter, run it by Russell, then send it to you. It may be next week. It may be 2020. But it will happen.

      Liked by 1 person

      • When I wrote my letter to my parents I let them know my position right away (in a kind way of course) and then explained why in all the other pages. But that’s me – I don’t like to beat around the bush, and I never like it when people beat around the bush with me.

        Yes, the nausea and headache with go away for sure, and while it won’t be easy, I believe you will be fine because you are surrounded by a lot of people who will support you through this.

        If you think it would help I’ll read the letter you write as well and offer my thoughts.

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        • Thank you, Howie—I think I’m leaning toward doing it that way. It’s just going to shock them. I literally worry about my dad having a heart attack right there, and not in the hyperbolic way (“Such-and-such nearly gave me a heart attack!”). He is prone to significant arrhythmias during intense emotional exertion (he once went into one during an argument about the Monty Hall Problem).

          I’ll definitely get your input—thanks for the support!

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  9. Let me introduce myself. I have been in the shadows, but have read every blog here. As for myself I am no longer a Christ follower, for 14 months I have acknowledged to a few close people I am an athiest.

    The purpose of my desire to insert my ideas is because I was not willing to tell my dad or mother my new life position. My dad has passed, but I do not intend to tell my mother. I wanted to tell them many times. With the passage of time I realized how hurtful it would be to me if anyone of my children would tell me that the very core of my belief was destructive to them. I kind of believe both my parents figured it out. If they know, they have kept their head in the sand and never asked my position.

    Why not just let the relationship grow colder. In time they will make the move to know or just maybe they are closer to your understanding than you think. Make sure you are not trying to hurt somone. Accept their love. Keep living your life. You are grown.

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    • Thank you so much for reading here and now commenting, Free. I appreciate your perspective, since you’ve faced what I faced. It’s interesting to me that you say that it would be hurtful to you if any of your children were to tell you that the core of your belief was destructive to them. I certainly agree—but is there something more hurtful? For me, nothing would hurt me more than to know that I didn’t really know my girls—that they had felt such a need to keep something from me out of fear of the consequences that they had sacrificed their own identity. I want to truly know my daughters, even if we disagree. I will love them no matter what, and I want them to trust that love. If they question it, I have somehow failed.

      Why not let the relationship grow colder? Good question—it’s because that would be completely against my nature. I don’t give up on people I love—I probably hold on to them longer than I should. But I can’t settle for letting them love who they think I am—I want them to love who I actually am. I know the truth will hurt them, but that is certainly not my intent—just an inevitability. I think my silence would ultimately hurt all of us more.

      Again, thanks for commenting! You are always welcome here.

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      • This blog has been based on gentleness and respect. I laughed when I heard the concept. You are dealing with opposites which by default have never mixed well. Is there someway your readers can either as Christ followers or one that needs to look back to the time they were Christ followers, discuss what they would do if they learned their child was an atheist. Second I am curious as to what word seeds could have been planted to make the data more palatable. I personally don’t believe radical Christ followers really know how to see any logic that does not come through their religious filter. Your need to let your parents know who you are today, is always on the table, it can only be played once.

        A little different thought. When Abraham decided his God told him to sacrifice his son, Abraham was human enough to look for a way out. He figured a way to avoid killing his son. I have a Feeling my dad, given the same message from god, would have sacrificed me. Gods word would have been law. Good luck, you don’t have an easy decision.

        Liked by 1 person

        • “You are dealing with opposites which by default have never mixed well. Is there someway your readers can either as Christ followers or one that needs to look back to the time they were Christ followers, discuss what they would do if they learned their child was an atheist.”

          I’d like to do this but not now. Time for tea. 🙂

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  10. “CC
    February 16, 2015 at 6:41 am
    […]

    I can’t believe it’s about to happen. I can’t believe that almost everything I’ve ever known is about to be turned on its head. How long is this nausea going to last? Will this headache ever go away? Will every single conversation continue to be about this until I do it? Am I going to be okay? Are they?

    Thinking out loud.

    […]”

    I’m nervous. I haven’t emailed you yet and still can. I want to share that I have written a letter, not specifically about belief, that came later in person. Rather than give specifics I do have some thoughts based on my own experience.

    less is more (40 pages are too much.)
    you mentioned fear of your dad having a heart attack . . . my mother did
    I suffered terrible pain (headaches/migraines) . . . they did not get better as a result of the letter. The letter made things worse. They claimed absolute confusion and ignorance at anything I said. This made me feel even more invisible. My letter was about 1 and a half pages. There was no attempt to try and understand. Only panic on their part and no attempt at all in getting it.
    a letter and a personal conversation which culminated in my confession of unbelief changed nothing
    yes it did relieve my truth and my need to empty my heart
    I regret it now Why?
    they are not me and I am not them
    I am a conversationalist, a writer, a thinker . . . they are not. They are black and white (I was not raised in a Christian fundamentalist home but a fundamentalist home nonetheless.) Black and white.
    I don’t regret speaking truth to the matters. What I regret is not having the insight to know that we don’t speak the same language. I knew this, it was my life-long agony. I kept thinking that eventually my words would make a difference, that they’d suddenly see the light, that they’d now understand. I thought my words were teaching words. They weren’t. You can’t teach those who already know the truth. You can’t teach those who know everything and anything you know is wrong.
    In looking back I wish the Zoe that knows now could have said to the Zoe then the following things:

    a) are you going to be okay if your mom has a heart attack? (I had a sibling warn me that I couldn’t do what I did because I’d kill her (mom))

    b) your parents have never heard your words, why do you think now that they would?

    c) if they don’t hear you, continue to plead ignorance and are oblivious, can you take it?

    d) are you prepared for irreparable loss (my mother did not die from her heart attack but my words and my actions didn’t change the dysfunctional dynamics.)

    Just my own insight.

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  11. Wow, I am not sure what to say. Some things you wrote worry me. Perhaps these are some questions you need to ask yourself. You have made points about your parents that show them to be really unloving, scathing, prejudice, Christian-fundamentalist…so why does what they might think of you (when they hear of your unbelief) bother you? Yes, I know they are your parents and you love them and I do believe it is important to honour ones parents but you are very much aware of their shadows and how wrong they are on many levels. The opinions that others have of you should only matter if they are people who you respect on a very high level and whose outlook are similar to yours. If they are that judgemental, then they are opposing what Jesus came to accomplish. According to the bible, the greatest sin of all is judging others. That is what the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is all about. If they are that judgemental then they are also in opposition of what you yourself have as a personal standard. The second thing that worries me is that you say that if you make a stand, you would be doing it for your husband. The whole situation you are in every time you visit your parents under a guise is not healthy for YOU. So yes, it is loving to do it for your husband but don’t you think you should foremost be doing it for yourself? And lastly, one more thing worries me…you said that they will ‘aggressively’ try to evangelize your children. My gosh, these are YOUR children. This may be the biggest worry of all. If you make a stand and request that they don’t try to evangelize your children and they do not honour your request, what happens then? How deeply do your parents love you? Because if it was me, I would rather not talk to my grand-children about God at all (when I do have them), then lose my relationship with them or my children altogether. On a side note, my son-in-law is an Atheist and he and my daughter will probably bring up their children that way but it doesn’t worry me as I know they will be awesomely loving parents.

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    • Thanks for your comment—these are all good points. You’re mostly right about my parents, and sadly, my representation of them is fair. What I haven’t talked about as much is that they really are mostly loving toward me, my siblings, and our kids—so if I lose my family, I will be losing something very dear to me. I fought so hard to keep this family together (if you’ve read some of my other posts with my dad’s story, you’ll understand what I mean)—and now I could potentially tear it apart. One of my favorite things in the world is to spend the day with my mom and sister—days that are usually free from prejudices and hateful words. Those negative things tend to come up more often when I’m watching Fox news with my parents—it adds fuel to their fire. Despite what I could lose, I have to move forward. Why?

      Is it for my husband, or for me? Both. But my own discomfort wasn’t reason enough for me to potentially sacrifice what is dear to me. Maybe it should be, but that’s just not my nature. I will keep everyone else comfortable at my own expense (within reason—never again to the level of abuse). It’s not some kind of slave or victim role—it is a joy for me to lift others up, even if it requires sacrifice. But I was asking my husband to sacrifice his interests and his voice for my sake and my parents’ sake. Not fair. So yes—being able to live honestly will benefit me greatly. But I never would have done it if it were just for me—the pain it will cause my parents isn’t worth it. I’m doing this for my husband and kids, and we will all bear the burden and reap the benefit. Modern psychology would say I should make these decisions based on myself—but that’s just not how I do things. Still, I acknowledge that it will ultimately be good for me, and I look forward to being able to be honest.

      Will they try to evangelize my children? I will ask them not to. I’m fine with my kids attending church with them when we’re there on occasional weekends. I’m fine with reading Luke 2 at their house on Christmas Eve. I’m fine with prayer before meals—this is the culture that my children are a part of here in the Southern U.S., and I want them to be exposed to it and to know how to relate to people with faith—these people will be their educators, their colleagues, and their bosses. If my parents cannot honor the boundaries that we set, we will have to keep our distance until they can. We realize that the shock of all of this could lead them (or any of us) to make mistakes—we will always be open to forgiving the mistakes and to reconciliation if my parents agree to operate within our parameters. The line that spans the distance between them and us may lengthen at least for a time, but I will never sever it. I hope my parents will feel the way that you do about your son-in-law and future grandchildren.

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  12. Free above commented: ““You are dealing with opposites which by default have never mixed well. Is there someway your readers can either as Christ followers or one that needs to look back to the time they were Christ followers, discuss what they would do if they learned their child was an atheist.”

    Zoe responds: This might depend on the age of my child. If at age six I would take note and continue to evangelize my child. If at age thirteen I might think, well, they are thirteen. Give it time. At age sixteen I might think, rebellion and why not? If age 20 I might think I don’t blame you. All this depends on my age too. It depends.

    If though I was who I am now (in my 50’s) with the belief I had then and say my children in their 20’s or 30’s said to me that they no longer believed I might be devastated. The same sort of devastation I felt when one of our children converted to Catholicism because of marriage and occupation knowing they were in fact probably the first atheist in the family. A former Christian.

    Life is messy.

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