Family get togethers are fraught with peril for this closeted atheist. I must keep my emotions in check, not roll my eyes at certain Christian-isms, remain silent when I don't agree with something, and often end up leaving the room to play tickle tag with a four-year-old because I just can't stand it any longer.
Last night I failed. Last night I finally told my brother and sister-in-law, with both my parents in the room, how frustrating it is that their kids are so extremely sheltered. It happened because I was repeating a joke. The joke was clean (otherwise I would not have shared it), but one that I thought my family would like and was in context with a subject we were talking about. My brother stops me in the middle of the joke , shushing me and telling me there were "little ears around".
"What are you talking about?" I asked him.
"Oh, We don't talk about R-A-C-I-S-M around the kids."
"We don't want them to know about..."
"No, I get that. What does that have to do with the joke I was telling?"
"Well, I thought it was going 'there'."
"You thought wrong. Let me finish the joke now that you ruined it." I finish the joke, completely pissed off at this point.
"Sorry," he says, "We just don't want our kids exposed to stuff having to do with that."
"This is getting ridiculous," I more than mumbled.
And then I went on a bit of a tirade. Do you know how careful I am around your kids? I feel like I am walking on eggshells all the time. All the time! They can't know about anything remotely negative. You know this is why [my husband] doesn't even interact with them. He is sure he is going to say something you don't agree with and that you are going to cut us off for it. You don't want to talk about prejudice. How lucky are you that your kids are so insulated and white that you can get away with that.
Among some of my more favorite Christian-isms and right-wing white priviledge that came from them:
"We are raising our kids in the Biblical tradition."
"Our kids don't see color."
"You know [our son] loves science, but we have had a hard time finding science books in the Biblical tradition." (aka: young earth creationism)
"We are homeschooling them for the sole purpose of protecting them from the world."
"We want our children to remain as innocent as possible for as long as possible."
"I don't remember getting mad at you for telling them about cancer."
"Well, we finally did tell [the oldest] about divorce because he met someone who was. All my fears came true because he was afraid we would get divorced. This is why they don't go to school."
"Adam and Eve are really the ones who messed this all up for us."
"I wonder how long Adam and Eve were in the garden? 70 years? 1000? Doesn't matter. We'll know when we get to heaven." (my though: Zero)
"It's not that we won't tell them about this stuff one day, but we will wait until they come to us with questions. We want to tell them though. We want to make sure that they know what we believe."
"We are like any other parent, we want to raise our kids to believe what we believe. Just like you will do with your kids."
Among the favorite things I said:
"I don't always agree with you, but I do try to honor you as parents. You should also know that sometimes I am diametrically opposed and I think I am an exceptionally good person for not saying anything about it."
"It makes me sad sometimes that your kids will never be the ones raising money for kids with cancer or volunteering at a homeless shelter, because you don't even want them to know those things exist. I see such compassion in them, but they have no outlets outside of their family to express that."
"You know there are Christians out there that are not young earth creationists right? That you can teach real science and God and the two can be compatible?"
"You are so lucky that you don't have to talk to your kids about prejudice. You know that right? That by being white, you don't have to?" (they actually acknowleged and agreed with me on this)
"Your kids aren't blind. They see color. They just haven't been taught about the history of prejudice on our world. How are you going to explain to them about the Holocaust or the 60s, without talking about prejudice and racism? Are you going to pretend like it didn't happen so they can remain blissfully unaware that human beings suck sometimes?"
"You telling them when they ask questions works for now because they are young, but one day they are going to quit asking you and will seek answers somewhere else. If you are lucky it will be church, if you are unlucky, it will be friends, books, internet. Although, since the only friends they have is their family, I'm sure it will be fine."
"We do not want to raise our kids to believe what we believe. We are not missionary adopting. We want to raise them to think for themselves, have analytical thought, and be respectful of others. I don't care if my children grow up to be Christians." (you should have seen the shock on their faces)
In the end, I assured them that we would honor their wishes as parents, agree or not. They promised they would never cut us off if we slipped up. The conversation then shifted into picking chapter books for the seven-year-old that didn't deal with all the scary subjects they are avoiding. Of course, my husband and I discussed it on the way home as he overheard the conversation from upstairs. He is in full agreement with me on this one. We both agreed that if they knew I was no longer a believer or even what he believed, that we would definitely have more limited access to the kids, especially as we got older. We also don't think that they will allow us to babysit anymore once we adopt. They seem very open to adoption, but due to the sheltering and the hard life our kid will have lived, I don't think he/she will ever be allowed to be alone with their cousin. Consequently, I do think that if anyone rats our my atheism to my family, it will be my adopted kid when they are mad and trying to hurt me.
It was an infuriating conversation. One full of so many statements concerning indoctrination that it made me dizzy. Is this how my aunts and uncles felt when my parents talked? Is this how they felt about our homeschooling? I used to tell people I was homeschooled because our school district was so horrible, but this was only a half truth. The full truth was that my mother, by that point, had instilled in me a fear of the world and other people who weren't Christian. I was happy to be homeschooled because I saw those heathens as scary. I think it is horribly sad that my nephew, who tells people he wants to be a chemist when he grows up, is learning young earth creationism and will probably never fulfill that dream. Let's face it, he would be laughed out of any mainstream science program in the country...as he should be. I have no way right now to talk to them about those things because they are so young that they instantly go tell mom & dad everything I say. By the time they start seeking answers outside of mom & dad and know how to keep a secret, it will be too late. It was for me. By the time anyone started challenging my beliefs in my late teens, I was fully entrenched. Last thing, my brother and sister-in-law absolutely believe this. They were fully indoctrinated just as I was and unlike me, neither is interested in reading, intellectual pursuits, logic, or analyzation. They will be Christians until they die because their parents (my parents) taught them how to be from the time they were very young. They know nothing else and they will never question those beliefs because neither are the kind of people who question things. Their children, unlucky for them, will follow the same path. Perhaps they will be like me and my siblings, two atheists, one agnostic, and a die-hard conservative Christian, or maybe their parents will be more successful with the brainwashing.
I have to wash my hands of this though. I love my nieces and nephews, but I have to not care. I'm related to those monkeys, but they are in a different barrel. I can no longer care if they grow up to become Christian imbeciles or not.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.