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Family Traditions


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Family Traditions

Families are full of traditions. From those rather harmless ones of whose house to visit at Christmas to more sinister ones of drug use abuse and alcoholism. My family chose religion. My maternal grandfather was a Methodist pastor, thus mother was a PK. My uncle and one of his sons are Baptist. Sister is married to a Methodist pastor. Father was raised Lutheran. My family name is known in the Lutheran hierarchy through some distant relation. So, you see where this is going.

 

Church was just something we always did. Every Sunday unless I was sick or we were on a road trip, we were at church. I was usually just bored with it. From about 1st or 2nd grade I was told I had to sit in the sanctuary for the whole service. I would get bored listening to sermons about things I didn’t understand or care about. So I learned another family tradition, the sermon nap.

 

Needless to say I was pretty bored most of the time. So I would do things like eat the program. This led me to be involved in children’s choir, handbell choir, when old enough the adult choir. Plus I went to all the usual stuff like church camp, VBS, Youth group, even on a couple of mission trips. So pretty normal, for a good Christian boy of a good Christian family.

 

The reality is I hated going to church. I hated it for 18 years because it was never my choice to go. See, one of my few early memories of church is actually leaving it on day. I couldn’t say if it was a Sunday or not. I think I was <=5 at the time. I remember running across the parking lot to the car. I remember my father coming up and unlocking the front door for mom and then closing it. Then I remember be grabbed painfully by my hair and shaken. He growled something at me. Then jerked his hand away and it felt like he ripped my hair out. He didn’t but to a little kid there is little difference. Mother asked what was wrong and I just looked out the window and tried to hide the tears.

 

I could relate more incidents like this but this one example should suffice. I tried always to not get the attention of my father because it was usually bad new if you did. I found out much later. One of my uncles was very similar. My paternal grandfather apparently took over the family farm at fourteen, in 1928 or 29. So, temper and reactions like that were another tradition. So dad said we would go to church so we went. No questions asked. So I didn’t ask.

 

There are many painful aspects to my life. Ironically, for this site few had to do with religion, I thought. It wasn’t until years later, like 10 – 15 after I left, that I really noticed and put the pieces together.

 

Based on the example above, you can probably guess that home life was unpredictable. It was. Dad always seemed to be pissed off, especially when I was younger. My mom told me many years after their divorce that she had gone to marriage counseling three times during their marriage, once without him and twice with. The first time was in the early 80’s. Being, The Man of the house, my dad said he wasn’t going. During that time my mother also went to the pastor of the church. He basically told her that she was obligated to stay with him. I asked her when she told me why she didn’t talk to her dad who’s also a pastor. She said she didn’t know. I said, he would have told you leave, and added I wish you had left.

 

Also years later, my mother admitted to me that her father had molested her at some point. She gave scant details. Turns out he also molested my sister and I suspect my mother’s older sister too. My sister cried hardest at his funeral because he was dead.

 

I remember my dad being gone in the evening regularly when younger to some church thing or another. Then he suddenly wasn’t. From his own lips, I learned he had been on some committee. He ended up in an argument with someone and was either asked to leave or stormed out. He never volunteered for another or joined even if asked.

 

I remember my mother just having gotten into an argument with my sister I think. The phone rang and I answered it. It was someone from church. She got on the phone just as sweet as you can be. Then hung up and paused as if trying to catch her breath. I asked why she did that. She said because “they don’t need to know what’s going on”. A lesson I learned well.

 

So you get the idea. There was always these little things that I would catch a glimpse of or just had a feeling about. While those kept building up, things happened more directly.

 

I was playing in the handbell choir one Sunday. About a dozen of the middle school guys decided to skip Sunday school and we went over to the Youth house to basically mess around. We were having a wrestling match. I lost track of time. My father comes over. He grabbed me off the guy I almost had pinned and tossed me. Then I see its him. I get up to walk out and he hits me in the middle of the back for no reason. I had taken my glasses off to wrestle. Now he is standing right next to me playing the handbells. I can’t see shit and he’s getting pissed because I’m not playing right. He actually pointed to where we were in the music. I can’t remember if I left the sanctuary or sat through the rest of the service. But I never played handbells after that.

 

I remember my dad being excited about a bible study series on the book of Mark.

 

“Why not Revelations?” I asked.

 

“Cause we only have eight weeks” he scowled, “and there is too much in Revelations to cover. Besides we’ll barely get through Mark”

 

“Oh. Can I come?”

 

“You wouldn’t understand it.”

 

Great parenting pops. Kid shows interest in something you’re doing and you completely shut him down and make him feel stupid at the same time. Bravo.

 

The best two direct incidents were the backbreakers.

 

In 1994, my family moved to Fresno, CA because of my dad’s new job. I had graduated High School and was looking forward to going to college. It had already been a rough time, for obvious reasons. Dad took us to “our” new church on Sunday. I remember sitting through the service and literally thinking what the fuck is this shit. I realize now that the pastor had taken a page from the fundy handbook. It was still a Methodist church, but the deviations from what I knew were obvious and shocking. It felt like a show. It felt like it was just supposed to fill you up with happiness get your money and throw you back into the world.

 

“So what’d you think about”, he beamed.

 

“It felt like a show,” I stated.

 

Pause

 

“If that’s all you saw then that’s all it’ll ever be, “ he fumed.

 

My dad then told us he had an affair with a woman from the church. I could spend pages talking about everything that went through my head during that summer. I could spend hours just typing the gruesome ends I imagined for my father, but that’s not the point. The point took place 500 miles south in Ontario, CA.

 

My mother took my sister and I to her family, in SoCal. It was great for her, all that loving support, everyone willing to comfort her. Not so much for my sister and I. We basically had to rely on each other.

 

I remember we were at my uncle’s house. Everyone was in the living room talking about the affair. Then two things happened. First, they called my father and said we forgive you and still love you. WTF? Second, the exact words out of my uncle’s mouth were “what are we going to do about, [me]. He seems very angry”. That did it. I walked out of the house. I left my family at that moment, and with it I left all their traditions behind.

 

I only set foot in a church after that if I decided to. Now that I have a son. and a daughter soon enough, I am learning to not be as reactionary as my father. I have not and will never claim to be perfect. I have screwed up royally on numerous occasions. But, I have learned to be who I am. But that is another story.

 

 

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Thank you for sharing. It's good that you're breaking the old traditions and starting some new ones. I know with my own father there is many things about him that I despise yet it's so hard not to be like him. So in that regards I wish you luck with your family and that you'd be a better man than your father was.

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Stryper - thank you so much for talking the time to write out some of your story. Your 'testimony' touched my heart. Ya'know, some people should never be parents - and some people should never be parents and be in 'religion' at the same time. It's like mixing alcohol or drugs with a bad personality.

 

I'm sorry that you had to go through some of this bullshit. You sure sound to me that you turned into a real nice,strong person and family man!

 

I can sure relate to some of the 'insanity'.

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So I shared this with my sister and the resutling converstaions have been...intense.

 

I'll not post any of what we discussed here as it would be inappropriate to the forumn and disrespectful to her.

 

It has however brought up something that I think all ex-c's have delt with at one point or another. In my case, it took something like 4-5 yrs from the last time I was in a church against my choice before I stated to anyone that I wasn't a christian. I never spoke about my doubts openly with my family. I had been adjusting to this for so long that it was second nature to me. I assumed my family understood. Turns out this is just another family tradition. We would never talk about anything important.

 

My sister and I have been breaking that. We talk, well, more frequently then anyone else in the family about those issues that matter, or did. I have also begun to lose patience with "unspoken problems" or having "family secrets". All they do is create tension and cause stress in the family. This has been something I am working on with my wife too. A sucessful family talks about issues and deals with them as they come up. Something mine growing up never did.

 

I guess part of me just thought my de-conversion was only about me. And to a large extent it was. I knew from reading other testimonials that families reacted with shock, suprise, anger, aviodance, etc. when other told them. I had just assumed based on the fact I never went to church, posted things on facebook from here, openly talked about a differnt teaching, etc. that the dots would've been connnected.

 

But that circles back to the begining, I was putting the responibility of figuring it out on their shoulders. I was avoiding talking about it with my family, thus perpetuating the tradition. I was not taking responibility for my deconversion.

 

I guess in telling my sister and discussing it with her was my way of addressing the issue. I believe just the writing and the posting of the testimony was a start to say this is who I am. By then sharing it with my sister, it was a way to deal with multiple issues at the same time as gauging reaction and/or clarifiy my position.

 

It seems, in my case, the rejection of my family when I was 18 cataylsted by my father's affair was an out right rejection of them and everything associated with them. Over time, I have begun to seperate the people from the religion. While she is christian and a pastors wife, she is still my sister. She was the one who witnessed many of the same experiences I did. So she is someone I can talk to who was there, and can shed more light on certain events that were unknown to me.

 

For that, I can say thank you, sis.

 

The difficulties of the past and ahead are perhaps easier to see and deal with because I am brother first and all else is second.

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  • 3 months later...

That's a rough experience, and because you spoke of so many communication issues in your family, I think it was really healthy for you to write it all out and share. I know I benefited from reading it. So thank you.

 

I can relate to the doing everything in my power not to be like my father. So far, so good. :)

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