Awkward Conversations About Religion

Kind of off-topic, but I struggle a bit with the fact that I’m an Old Dad. I don’t feel weird about it, but I know people perceive me that way. I try to look on the bright side: hey I’m ten years younger than George Clooney and thirty years younger than Mick Jagger! But of course I’m no Clooney or Jagger.

To the other topic, having been raised Christian in the south, I know that it’s shaped who I am. And whenever I go back to visit family, it’s clearly a big factor in the life of my extended family, which is a little funny because quite a few of them didn’t give a damn either way growing up. But at the risk of derailing the thread even further, a lot of my disconnect with them can be laid at the feet of Donald Fucking Trump.

I’ll lay it out here - I have an deep and intense aversion to all things Trump. I realize I’m taking no personal risk writing that here, nor am I outside the norm saying that. What I want to express here is that I find my depth of feeling a bit disturbing. I hate that he wants to gold plate everything he owns. I hate that he can eat a taco bowl and think that puts him in touch with hispanics. And I really hate that can say “I’m a Christian now” while expressing absolutely no indication of any such values in his life, and he’s just accepted wholeheartedly by the Christian community.

This disturbs me, and there’s no one I can talk to about it. Not my family, they think he’s great. I mean my family down south. My wife hates him too, but seems to be able to compartmentalize better than I can. My kids were taking about Trump around election time, and I’ve tried to tell them to be fair. Other parents aren’t doing so, and my son came home telling me that Trump wanted to kill Canadians. A misunderstanding, to be sure, but I don’t want my kids carrying that burden. Not yet.

But I’m getting far afield from the topic - I may not be Christian but I agree with some of its tenets. You’ve got to be able to forgive, as much for your own peace of mind as that of the person who has wronged you. And I’m a long way from being able to forgive here. Oh well, pardon me for using this thread as therapy.

I suggest Jesuit schools, if you need to go down that path. They are pretty much universally high quality schools that don’t sacrifice things like science in the name of religion.

Man, I hear that loud and clear. It’s like whatever doubts, or disconnects, existed before blew wide fucking open in the last year+ as the ‘Christian’ community gleefully embraced Trumpster Fire. Like if you can claim to believe any of this, and buy into this man who is so diametrically opposite of any New Testament teaching, what worth does it have? If it means so little to you, well, then, me too. If you understand so little of what Jesus says that you embrace this evil hateful man, then I want nothing to do with you, or your religion.

There were cracks before, but it exploded. Forget not that initially the Christian church was the religion of women, slaves, and the poor. His message was not for the powerful in society.

We don’t have any nearby, but at this point I’m gearing for the discussion. We actually moved to a real high quality school district, top tier. Partly picked our location for that, as we could have moved about 2 miles east to the neighboring district and saved $20-30k on the house.

But beyond that I simply don’t see the value. Why spend the extra money when we already have a great option we pay for with our taxes? I’ve got two years to see how this goes before it really comes to it.

Sorry for the verse quote, I feel very similarly, but it reminded me of this. I hesitate to even post this here:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…” Galatians 5:22-23 (Right before this is a list of those traits not of the spirit. And the general summary here is, “walk the walk.”)

You could pick so many others that are similar, but essentially, Trump represents none of those things. Nor any other major values of Christianity for that matter. It is absolutely absurd that he was someone sold as a representative of a Christian candidate.

And to be honest, you could pick most other religions and apply the same measurement against Trump. He values little that is good, and appears to value only himself and things that bring him gain. I don’t blame you at all for laying it out there to your family. I wish I could do the same to some of mine. Instead I just say nothing.

I wouldn’t. If you got a good public school, then that’s the way to go.
Until Trump destroys the public schools somehow, anyway.

A couple of weeks ago my family got together in Texas for a few days, and I overheard an awkward religion conversation. It was between my dad and my eleven-year-old niece, grandfather to granddaughter, and it turned out better than I’d expected.

Some important background: My two brothers and I were raised by my parents in a evangelical Christian environment. They did a lot to keep us focused on that community: Christian schools for the most part, church multiple times a week, family Bible story sessions, Christian kids TV shows (anyone else watch Superbook and Flying House a lot?), and so on. My parents are currently missionaries, which gives you an idea of how they feel about evangelizing. Personally, I maintain a Christan faith, but in a sort of laissez-faire manner that strongly rejects forcing my views on anyone.

So my dad and niece are hanging out at the dining room table while my mom is in the kitchen. Her parents and sister are off somewhere else, while my other brother and I are sitting nearby messing around on our phones. I wasn’t listening too closely, but somehow the subject of religion comes up at the table. (Almost certainly started by my dad, who will talk God with anyone at any time.) He says something along the lines of “How do you feel about Jesus” to my niece. And she thinks for a second, and says “Well, Grandpa, I’m an athiest.”

That gave my dad pause, and damn near made me drop my phone. For different reasons: I’m sure he’s worried about her immortal soul, but I’m concerned this is going to turn into a brow-beating featuring hell and the devil and all that. Now I’m listening closely, ready to jump in if this gets ugly.

But to my dad’s credit, there was no attempt to frighten or otherwise coerce her. He spent the next few minutes asking why she was an athiest. She didn’t answer in great detail - she’s only eleven - but the gist was that she didn’t like what religious people did, and thought the world would be better if everyone was an athiest. It didn’t go on long; eventually she said she didn’t like talking too much about it, and the subject was dropped. (For now, at least. I’m sure it’ll come up again as she gets older.)

That conversation made me proud of my whole family. My niece is clearly thinking for herself, and her parents are letting her do so. My dad has clearly mellowed a lot since the days when he tried to keep his own kids in a sort of Christan walled-garden environment. And even myself, biting my tongue instead of jumping in to head off a disasterous conversation that never materialized.

Oh no, don’t get me wrong, I dodge the subject of Trump with my family that support him. I was down there visiting a couple weeks before my grandfather died, and among his friends I actually heard the word “libtard” used unironically. I lack the fortitude to even attempt outreach to such people.

My extended family is a crazy mix, as with some of the old school North Carolinians. We have a wide range of very left-leaning Democrats to very right-leaning Republicans. But a common theme is that most of us were brought up in typical Southern churches.

I’ve heard some choice remarks at get-togethers and I’ve also seen some petty Facebook posts among all of them. I try to just stay above it and not get involved. Sure, I’ll debate a coworker or friend over politics, but I would just rather not wade into it with family. It’s a no-win situation.

And McGee and Me, and even Bibleman. Yeah, your story rings familiar ;)

We’ve been taking our kids to a local Unitarian church on most weekends. I really like their broad, multi-religious education. The kids take trips to synagogues, mosques and temples and learn about the history and beliefs of multiple religions, including many that aren’t mainstream. We are not a religious family at all, but I do like the exposure to other beliefs the kids get.

I wish I had gotten that experience growing up. That sounds great.

I’m also a laissez faire mixed-religious guy (it’s complicated), and raised my son in the faith yet with an eye toward finding his own path. He’s done exactly that, and I couldn’t be prouder.

As noted above, my extended family has an interesting mix of faiths, and even the nuclear family I grew up in had a little friction in that department. I was also taken to various churches, temples, and mosques to soak in various faiths and choose what I felt would be best. Being a smartass little kid at the time, I told my parents that I wanted the one that took up the least amount of time on weekends. Never the less, I did find my own personal manifestation of belief somewhere in between everything.

The most difficult conversations about religion, however, haven’t been with my family. Instead, they’ve been with militant atheists. And no, not the “Oh, no - I find my beliefs challenged” sort of difficult. Rather, it’s the “Why the hell do you get such a kick out of insulting me?” kind of difficult. I suppose it’s their knee-jerk reaction to proselytization (something which neither I nor my faith(s) partake in), but they sure put an emphasis in the “-jerk” part of that.

I agree, hardcore atheists can be just as intolerant as militantly religious folks. It always annoys me when an atheist tells me I should just call myself an atheist, it’s really what I am. And I have to tell them no, I’ve done my homework, it’s really not. And then get to hear I’m intellectually lazy or some bullshit. Yeah, good talk.

Speaking of hardcore atheists, my youngest (15-year-old daughter) is in an honors science class this semester and they have to read a “science-focused” book and do a report on it.

The kids can pick whatever book they want, but they must get it approved by the teacher first. Alternately, they can pick from a list of some 20 books that she’s approved in the past. I looked at the “approved” list and most are kind of what you might expect: Origin of Species, Silent Spring, Cosmos… that kind of thing. But to my surprised, one of the “approved” books was God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens. Great book, but I was surprised to see it on a list of books from a public school teacher.

@SpoofyChop When was he asking for your respect?

Everything you said there is really familiar.

It will work out fine. Or at least fine enough. ;)