Saturday, August 20, 2011

What do YOU Believe?

Courtesy Google Images

I have to admit that I struggled a little bit with what image to put with today's post. Because I am touching on a "touchy" subject that I usually do not write about or discuss, I wanted to make sure that I didn't put a picture to my words that did not express how I actually feel. This picture pretty much sums up what I believe.

I am having a problem right now. My problem is with someone whom I like very much and think is a very sweet person. The problem is that she has overstepped her boundaries and I do not exactly know how to make her stop. I have asked her politely in the past and she just isn't getting it. Now, her overreaching has extended to my youngest child, who has autism, and I am not happy. I do not want to upset this person or make her angry or argue with her about what is right and what is wrong, but I cannot allow her to force her beliefs on my children.

Okay, here's what I'm dancing around. Religion. It's one of two topics I swore I would never touch on in my writing (the other is politics) because I don't have the answers, I don't know enough about it, and I don't know what I believe. I have a pretty good idea of where I stand on both subjects, but not enough information to effectively argue my position on either, so mostly I just respect what other people believe, hear them out, and go on my way, making my own decisions based on what feels right to me. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to allow me to do that in peace and, when someone will not stop trying to bring me around to their way of thinking or insisting that what they believe is right and I need to believe it also, it starts to get under my skin. When it touches my children, especially my youngest child, I start to get mad.

I firmly believe that every parent has the right to educate their child in the area of religion. The schools do a fairly decent job of educating my kids in the things they will need to know to be employable. I feel that the moral compass of my children is something that Justin and I reserve the exclusive rights to.

I was thinking of posting exactly how the conversation on the phone went yesterday, but I'm going to just sum it up for you. Because I still, despite the attempts at religious conversion this person is pushing on me and my child, consider her a good friend. I know she believes that she has the answer to peace and happiness. She is one of the most content people I know. But I also am tired of her trying to convert me to her beliefs. And yesterday she really stepped over her bounds and told me that my son had told her that he was afraid at night and was scared of ghosts. She said something to the effect of, "I just wish he knew about God, because if he could just pray, God would be there for him and give him peace."

Wait a damned minute.

When I later asked Joey if he was having trouble with being afraid at night, he looked at me, kind of puzzled, and said, "No." I said, "well, Miss T. told me that you told her that you are scared at night."

Joey: "I never said that."

My son is the most honest kid on earth, mostly because he's autistic. I know that kids lie, but this is not something he would have any reason to lie about and generally, I know when he isn't being honest with me, so I believed him.

We then had a discussion that went something like this:

Me: Well, Joey, if you are ever scared at night, you know where I am and you can come get me any time.

Joey: Well, the only thing I'm really scared of is that a baselisk might come out of my closet.

Me: Why do you think a baselisk would come out of your closet?

Joey: I think I've been reading The Chamber of Secrets too much!"

Me: A baselisk couldn't come out of your closet because you don't speak parseltongue. A baselisk only comes when it's called in parseltongue and none of us speaks parseltongue, so we couldn't call it. Also, it wouldn't fit inside your closet. In fact, it couldn't even fit inside of our house.

Joey: Mom. Baselisks aren't real.

I guess I can be grateful to this person for sparking this imaginative conversation, one of those that I have with Joey every so often that makes me think I should be writing a book about him. For awhile, I was writing these conversations down with the idea of a book and that still is something that might be a workable idea. These conversations are not only priceless to me. I believe they should be shared with the whole world because my son is so awesome. Who wouldn't want to hear that conversation?

But, back to my original point. First, I believe this woman fibbed (I won't say lied) to me because she was trying in a nice way to guilt me into teaching my son what she believes to be the truth about religion. To be honest, I was kind of horrified when I realized that she used my doubts about my parenting abilities as a way to try to convert me and my son to her brand of Christianity. Second, I worry about what exactly is going on over there when Joey goes over to play with her children.

In the past, she has asked if she can pray for me when I am going through a tough time or pray for members of my family and I have always graciously accepted the offer. I have even let her pray with me, even though it made me uncomfortable. But, where I get upset is when she starts to say things like "If you would only Seek and read the Word, God is there for you. God can lift you up and give you peace when these bad things happen." Or something along those lines, for, like, two hours on the phone. With me saying, "uh huh, uh huh" and mouthing to Justin to "Help me!"

She keeps professing sorrow that Justin and I do not have an organized religion, that we do not teach our children about God, that we are not true Christians, that we do not pray. Who says I don't pray and why am I not a true Christian? How does she know what goes on inside of my head or whether I am asking God for strength or thanking him for the things I have to be grateful for? And how does she know what I am teaching my children? I think it's a little presumptuous of anyone to butt into something so incredibly personal as what I teach my children about religion. And frankly, I am growing tired of the conversations where she tries to bring me around to her way of thinking.

I know that she honestly believes that she is trying to help. I know that she thinks it would help us if we would only believe what she believes, read the bible every day (or other religious books), pray daily with our children, go to Christian counseling about the bad things that are happening in our lives, and go to church every Sunday. The problem is that we don't believe that and we would like to raise our children to make their own choices when it comes to religion without outside intervention or "help."

As far as religion goes, I do not know what my beliefs are. Do I believe in the afterlife? I don't know, but I have been to Gettysburg and had some weird things happen, so I don't rule it out. I don't think life stops when we die, but I don't think we're going to all go sit on clouds with God and play harps. Frankly, I would find that boring. The "kingdom of heaven" doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun. After I die, heaven would be to find myself on a beautiful beach somewhere, pain free, seeing my loved ones and pets who have passed before me, being able to swing in a hammock, walk on the sand, wade in the ocean (no crabs of course), soft breezes blowing, napping whenever I pleased, and feeling pleasantly peaceful. And I like to believe that everyone gets the heaven of their choosing, where they are not old, sick, confused, in pain, disease riddled, and are happy. Does God figure into this? I have no idea. If God is the benevolent entity that he is supposed to be, won't he grant us our vision of heaven when we die? If there really is a God, which I am not sure that there is.

What it boils down to is this. I value this person's friendship a great deal. I appreciate the fact that her beliefs give her peace and contentment. But they are her beliefs. We have lived here six years and for six years, she has tried to convert me to what she believes. I have told her very nicely on several occasions that I simply do not believe what she believes and I would prefer not to discuss it. And she keeps bringing the conversation back to it. Frankly, she is getting to be insistent about it, as if my not believing is something she simply can't live with. While I understand that this is her life's purpose, I do not want to come along for the ride with her. And I certainly do not want her teaching my kids her view of what religion is because what my kids believe should be up to myself, my husband, and my kids. Justin and I will teach them what we believe they need to know and give them the option of choosing a religion that they are comfortable with and that makes them happy.

We are giving our children the ability to look at every religion and decide what appeals to them and what most fits with their personalities and beliefs. We are not pushing them to believe something simply because we believe it. And we appreciate it when others do the same.

Chelle

 

8 comments:

  1. Chelle,

    I think this woman is way out of bounds! I wouldn't put up with her for another minute, if I were you. I think she needs to be told, point blank, "WE educate OUR children on what WE want to believe, thank you very much, and I would appreciate your no longer pushing your religion down my throat!"

    Okay, maybe you don't want to say that, because you want to stay friends with her, but this is a hard situation to be in, because I can guarantee you she is going to continue to aggravate you, and I have to ask you, is it really worth it to go through that just so you can be friends with this person who is so annoying?

    I personally believe that we all have a right to believe in God, or not believe in god, and to believe in religion, or to shun religion, and that nobody, ever, has the right to impose their personal beliefs on anybody else. Ever. I think parents should raise their children however they see fit, with the understanding that when a child comes of age to think their own thoughts, they will eventually form their own beliefs which may be different from the parents' beliefs altogether, and that should be okay. I am not a parent, but if I was, I hope that I would parent in this manner.

    I grew up in a fundamentalist, pentacostal, Christian, born-again, over-the-top, conservative, crazy church and school. The assistant pastor of my church went to prison for molesting girls I knew, at church. And the people in the church said that God forgave him, and let him return to that church when he was released. I refused to ever go to church again. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I am not a believer. I don't care what other people believe, but I choose to think logically and I have never seen any evidence that there is a real God, though, I do have my times when I honestly hope there is one so I can pray for someone and something good might happen. This makes me a bit of a hypocrite, so I don't say I'm an atheist. I'm agnostic. And I'll probably always be that way. The only church I ever step foot into is a Unitarian Universalist one that accepts atheists and doesn't push God/god down anybody's throat. But I only went to that church a couple of times, because even that much religion was too much for me.

    But I have dealt with people like the woman you are dealing with. These people truly believe they are trying to save others from burning in hell for all of eternity, an they truly believe that this is their job to do, and they truly believe that if they do this properly they will be guaranteed a first class trip to the Pearly Gates. They think they are helping people by pushing their beliefs down other's throats. I think they are oppression people with their self righteousness, crossing boundaries that should never be crossed, and harming others in ways they have no right to. That is my thought on those people, and I have known many of those people in my life. I will no longer have anything to do with them.

    Good luck dealing with this obsessed woman. She sounds like more trouble than she is worth in your life, but that is just my opinion.

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  2. Jen,

    Thank you so much for your support. I was a little worried when I was writing about this because I know religion is such a touchy topic and I have many people on my FB page who are very, very religious. While that is fine for them, it is not what I believe and, quite honestly, I don't want to be saved through FB either.

    I have struggled whether to continue to allow these children to play with my son and I keep coming back to the fact that it is so hard for him to make friends because of his autism. But I can not allow her to lie to me and make me feel guilty about something that I should not have to feel guilty about. My husband has offered to talk to her and he won't be weak like I am and back down. She is extremely pushy in her way and I am a very people pleasing person, so I usually end up backing down from the conversation, just to get to the end of it.

    She definitely stepped over the line, apparently thinking I would not find out that Joey had not told her what she said he told her. I was very angry at her last night when she stopped by, but did not bring it up. I am sure she knew I wasn't happy though. I did not want to have the conversation while I was feeling that way and I am pretty sure I would prefer that my husband have it. So I let it go last night, but it will have to be addressed before Joey is allowed to play inside of their house again.

    I wonder why people make things so difficult without intending to?

    Thanks again for your support.

    Hugs,
    Chelle

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  3. Chelle,

    I am completely with you. Religion is very personal. It is not okay for someone else to try to coerce you into their beliefs. NONE of us know what is really true or what happens after death. NONE of us truly know who or what God is. I think of organized religion as branding. Why is one brand better or more right than another. Why can't I sit at home and practice my religion quietly and personally and have it be just as valid as going to some manmade church and practicing with others?

    And, you have EVERY right to be upset that she is trying to convert your child. That is without a doubt stepping way over the boundary. Don't let her, or anyone, make you doubt what you know about your child. Sounds to me like you have a wonderfully open relationship with him. You KNOW him!

    I don't know exactly how I feel about religion either. I was deeply wounded by the church when I was young and it has taken many, many years to be able to say the word "God," look at a Bible or contemplate Christianity without having an outright panic attack. It was NOT religion I was taught by the church, it was fear. I now know that I do not believe in a retributive, judgmental God. Other than that, it is up in the air and I am okay with that. I absolutely demand that I be left alone to experience my own quiet faith in the way that feels right to me. We all should be respected for your beliefs just as your friend wants you to respect her beliefs.

    Okay, I really didn't intend for this to turn into a long rant. I guess I still have quite a bit of emotion about the whole religion thing.

    Hugs Honey...you know what you are doing and it is perfect for YOU.

    Tamara

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  4. Tamara,

    I appreciate your support, absolutely! I have had a couple of brief conversations with her today and have not been able to bring it up but I am sure she knows that I am not very happy with her. I would not allow Joey to go over there and play inside her house today. I won't until this matter is addressed, but I want to address it in a way that puts the whole thing to rest once and for all. So, I am thinking through exactly how I want to deal with this.

    Since school starts on Wednesday and Joey will be going to a different school than her children, this will cease to be as big an issue until next summer comes around. But I still feel it is something that stepped way over the boundaries and needs to be addressed.

    I didn't write the rant that I really wanted to write because I do not want to offend anyone, but I find it offensive when people post up what my mom calls "God talk" on Facebook. Maybe they should save that for Christian groups they belong to instead of forcing it on everyone on their pages? I don't know. It just bothers me to be forced to look at it and constantly see it. I am not interested in converting or being saved and I wish people would stop sharing the "good news" with me. If that means I am going to hell, well I'd rather go to hell than sit on a cloud playing a harp with Jesus anyway, because that sounds really boring. At least the devil probably curses.

    And now I have probably offended multiple people, but I'm tired of keeping quiet about this.

    Hugs,
    Chelle

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  5. I'd like to approach this from a different stance. I understand your friend, as my church believes the same way she does, but I feel uncomfortable forcing my views on someone for the very reasons you mentioned. I'm afraid I would do more harm than good. Instead I try to live my life consistent with the values of God and if someone notices my peace and contentment, and asks the reason why, I'm more than happy to share, but then I leave the rest to them and God. I have a greater concern and that is the fact she lied to you. Lies shatter trust. I would explain kindly to her that you feel trust is essential to a deep friendship and now that you know she will lie to you, you can't depend on her. I'd let her know that you will be there for her in an emergency, but for the kind of deep friendships you are looking for, trust is essential and you no longer can trust her. She will be hurt, but God doesn't advocate lying to get someone to believe in him. Perhaps even though losing your friendship is a high price to pay, she will reexamine her methods and ask God to guide her in the way HE wants her to speak and act. Just a thought.

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  6. Thank you very much for a different point of view. I completely understand where you are coming from and I can appreciate when someone else has that faith. I think it's a great thing, but it's not MY thing. And like you said, it can do more harm than good when someone is constantly pushing something on you. It makes me want to run the other way instead of remaining open to the idea.

    There are two major issues here. One is that she lied to me, like you said. It is not the basis of a good friendship to lie to someone and there is no way I can trust my son in her care any longer. It's a shame, but she has put herself into a very bad position.

    The second issue is that she is trying to force her views on my son and is also trying to make me feel guilty about my parenting, or what she perceives to be my lack of parenting. Her mission in life is not to save my children and she needs to leave it up to me and my husband as to how we want to raise our children. She had no right to try to impose her religion on my family through my 12 year old child who has autism.

    I do not look forward to this conversation that I will have to have, but I know I will have to have it. It's been coming (again) for a long time, but now it is imperative that I talk to her about this and I am distressed by this because I have enough bad things going on in my life without having conflict with my neighbors.

    Thanks again for reading and for leaving a comment. I appreciate your point of view.

    Hugs,
    Chelle

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  7. Chelle, I think your friend is why so many people now days, myself included, are so turned off by organized religion. Like you, Jen and Tamara, I have had my own dealings in the past with "church" people like your friend that have left a bad taste in my mouth. It took many years, and lots of study of differing world religions and faiths before I made up my mind about how I felt about God and my own personal faith. You are absolutely correct in feeling that your friend over stepped her bounds, especially where your children are concerned. When they are old enough to be curious about such things, perhaps you can explore them together, or direct them toward a trusted friend to guide them on their journey. Hopefully she values your friendship enough to respect your wishes.

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  8. Jen,

    It's so funny that I just found your comment in my in box, because I woke up thinking about this just a few minutes ago and wondering what the heck I am going to do about it.

    I really dislike conflict with people, to the point of I will go out of my way to avoid it. It bothers me a great deal when someone puts me in this kind of position where I have to confront them, but as my middle son said last night, "Wouldn't you do that for your son?" Of course I would and I will.

    Jamie, my 14 year old, said it's not fair for her to be teaching his brother about religion because that's my job. That really sums it up. I also have a very bad taste in my mouth from the whole organized religion thing and am very turned off by it. I prefer to see spirituality in all things and not have to give my life up to serving a God that I don't know exists or proselytizing and trying to "save" everyone around me. People should always have the right to their own beliefs and absolutely the right to teach their own children; not have someone else's beliefs foisted on them.

    I think it's a shame that this person cannot hear me when I say that she needs to back off. I am pretty sure she is going to hear me the next time we have the conversation, however.

    Hugs,
    Chelle

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