Burn In Case Of Evil: Cain’s Story, Part Three
Burn In Case Of Evil: Cain’s Story, Part Three
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Cain” is a pseudonym.
In this series: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four
Why It’s Not Just About the Past and My Bitterness
As I sat down to a steak dinner with my parents after my MA graduation ceremony (8-2012), the conversation drifted to my younger sister’s future plans. She is being homeschooled much in the same way I was, except with a hefty dose of Victorian ideas on gender roles and sexuality. (She is truly brilliant and reads tremendous amounts of literature. She could likely score a 30+ on the ACT and receive a scholarship.) I asked her if she still intended to go to college — she used to talk of being a veterinarian – and she replied that my father gave her a choice. She could either have him pay for her wedding or her college. I said that giving a young girl such a choice was cruel and my father replied that he had “lost confidence in college since [my] education obviously failed me.” And I said, “Well, I guess it failed [my older sister] too.” He said, no it hadn’t, because she is now a Christian, homeschool mother who generally agrees with them religiously. So basically, he said college failed me because I don’t believe what he does.
Throughout my years at college, in a rural town in the Bible Belt, he has used this line of thought many times. I discovered in conversation with my extended family that he led them to believe I’d been “brainwashed” at college by my professors. I’d confronted my father numerous times about how insulting this was, but he really didn’t get it. Not until I told him that my being a liberal was actually going against the grain did he begin to respect me.
They continue to expect me to be a person that I’m not. I’ve written about how there are two versions of me and I want to focus on a few occasions during and after college that illustrate how their beliefs have continued to hurt me. Nearly every time we get together, conversations devolve into arguments about politics because their identity as conservative Republicans is almost as important as their identity as Christians. They insult my beliefs by saying that they are just a phase – when I am living in the “real world,” I will surely be conservative like them.
When I tried to explain that their twisted worldview makes nearly every minute political and social issue into a religious issue, my father simply did not understand. He responded…“Yes I try to live my life in obedience to the Word of God in the Bible. That means these beliefs inform all I do in my life. If that insults you then truly Jesus was correct in stating that those that followed Him would enter into conflict, even with their own family.”
When I visited home for Christmas with my then-fiancé, my mother started a conversation on Christmas morning about how the rise of feminism ruined America. To give some background, my wife is incredibly close to her mother, who divorced when she was young. My wife’s mother worked extremely hard and worked her way up the corporate ladder. My wife draws a lot of inspiration from her mother. Now to the conversation. My mother said that women should never have been given the right to vote, that birth control broke down the American family, and women in the workforce was simply not the proper place for women. My mother subscribes completely to the submission doctrines of fundamentalist Protestantism and, suffice it to say, my wife is very empowered. Like most Christmases with my family, it devolved into a heated argument and my wife was very offended by what my mom said. My mom was literally saying women like my wife’s mother were ruining America.
Nearly six months after my graduation-fight with my parents, my mother finally decided to weigh-in. My father and I sent a barrage of emails back and forth, because I cannot control my emotions when we get into arguments. After a lot of small talk, the conversation turned to my sinful lifestyle. My mom asked me if I was “pure” on my wedding day. I told her no I wasn’t and I didn’t want to talk about my sex life with her. She reminded me of a pledge I made to her at the age of fourteen, promising abstinence until marriage. I told her that was very unfair to bring up something like that. Then she proceeded to tell me how I would face “consequences” later in my marriage because of my sins.Then she told me the reason we fight is because I just “feel guilty” about all my sinning. She never said anything about my living with my fiancée before our marriage. Only after we were married did she choose to judge me. She didn’t even understand why her comments were judgmental – to her she was just imparting some righteousness. It’s like she forgot to judge me two years ago, so she did it then. But to my mother, it’s not “judging,” it’s just telling the truth – she likes to call herself a prophet.
So I told her some truth. That I think they raised me in a fundamentalist cult and that’s why I don’t get along with them. Especially because they believe all the same things they used to. She tried to say they believe differently now, but couldn’t name a single area where they’ve changed their minds, except they watch more TV now. So when mom is crying on the phone telling me that “we don’t get along because your conscious is guilty” or that I broke a promise to “stay pure” that I made to her at 14, I go to a very dark place.
Whenever we go back to arguing about the things we’ve literally been arguing about for a decade, I am physical affected. The sort of panic attacks I used to have come back and I have a lot of trouble controlling my emotions. They still think rock is evil, they are going to push my sister into courtship like they did me, they are going to fuck her up. My only twisted hope is that I can reach out to her when they start to become senile.
I don’t enjoy spending any time with them because I just leave feeling shitty. I’m so sick of it. It’s emotionally and intellectually exhausting. They say things like “we’re proud of you” but they only ever talk about my accomplishments. When it comes to my intelligence, morals, or ethics, I’m just a dirty liberal sinner to them. The fact that, after seven years of this, they still refuse to see past my political beliefs and have made no real efforts to get to know me is incredibly discouraging. I have made a lot of efforts to be more reasonable, less argumentative, and I try to never bring up an issue that would spark an argument. The reason it’s still hard for me is because they aren’t over it and they still inject it into my life. In the past, it was easier to pretend like it didn’t bother me and I figured mom and dad would grow out of it (like almost all of my friends’ parents).
It would be different if my parents made an effort to get to know me – instead of the me I used to be. They still give me Lamplighter books for Christmas, which are out-of-print works of fiction, re-printed by Christian Book Distributers because they are explicitly Christian. I have no interest in these shitty books – I will be reading Harry Potter to my children. I recently moved across the country and they have taken literally no interest in my safety or my new home. Part of why I moved was to get away from them. I don’t want to be obligated to see them – ever. Maybe after years of space, I can start to forgive them. It feels like every time I make myself vulnerable, usually against my better judgment, it ends in pain. Every time I let things go, more gets piled onto me. It’s unfortunate, but the less time I spend interacting with my parents, the happier I am.
To be continued.
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Thank you for your passion Cain, I feel so lucky to have been raised by educated aetheists but I understand how it could have all been different and intensely isolating. I’m so glad you got to college. It may also be an idea to minimise contact between your children and your parents to short supervised visits. That hatred can be transmitted.
Am interested in how you relate to yr older. “Good” sister?
Your series has been insightful, Cain. I am a homeschooling mom with a 14-year-old son and have felt torn between the conservative bent of many of my homeschooling friends and my desire to let our son explore and express himself within a loving, understanding home. Your words have helped me see that the biggest gift I can give him is space to understand himself and unconditional love. We have taught him the basics of God’s word, but have resisted getting too political or counter-cultural. I’d rather our faith be relevant to the culture, with an emphasis on respecting and loving others, not fearing their behaviors are going to infect us.
I especially appreciated your comment of feeling alienated because you did not understand cultural references to TV and movies. My son has made similar comments. Perhaps it is time to give him more media freedoms.
When you are ready to become a parent, I wish you many blessings. It is a challenging road to navigate, and I hope you and your parents can ultimately raise the banner of mutual love and appreciation.
Ah yes, the “just a phase – when I am living in the “real world,” I will surely be conservative like them.” argument.
My parents are still waiting for me to renounce my atheist liberal ways and return to the true path of conservative christian republican.
A decade on and I’m still the same liberal atheist. Except now I think they are the ones not living in the real world.
It’s so comforting to see things like this. I relate to you on so many levels in your story, regarding a family that turned on me when I was an adult because of differences in beliefs. I have all-but cut contact with them by now because it is so exhausting and unpleasant to be around them, even when they are trying to behave. They are oblivious of how hurtful some of the things they say can be, or how inappropriate. I’ve gone down the horrible path of homosexuality, and they are determined that, someday, I’ll see the error of my ways and be restored to them. I don’t think they’ve ever even considered that a) even if I broke up with my long-term girlfriend, I’d still be gay, and b) even if I renounced my homsexual orientation somehow, that wouldn’t make the way they’ve treated me any more right! It’s comforting to me to hear others who have gone through similar things because I feel less alone. Thank you for writing this.
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