This isn't going to be lovely and eloquent like so many of the articles and testimonies on this site, and I apologize in advance if this sounds garbled or angry but this is, truly a rant. A rant from a young woman who is slowly losing her father to religious fervor.
This story begins over twenty years ago, when my parents were young and newly engaged. My mother was (and still is) a truly nondenominational Christian and my father came from a very devout Born Again Christian family. My father brought my mother to meet his parents and my Grandfather locked my mother in a room with him for over 2h and demanded to know who she thought the "head of the household is". When she answered that a marriage was an equal partnership he berated her with Bible verses that said a woman was to obey her husband and that man was the "head of the house and how she was wrong and sinful. Then he asked my father the same question and he answered that marriage was a partnership.
Fast forward to my senior year of high school and my grandparents move from California to North Carolina. My grandfather is "miraculously" diagnosed with multiple myeloma by the first doctor he sees here when "TEN doctors in California couldn't figure out what was wrong with him" (I have a conspiracy theory about this, but that's another post for another day).
Anyway, they move to NC with nothing but their RV and social security and retirement checks. They move in with my family and my Grandfather claims that Jesus came to him in a dream and told him to sell his home in CA and live with us in NC. I was skeptical, but I shrugged it off. Back then I was still identifying as Christian even though I didn't care about Jesus or church.
What needs to be understood, though, is that my father is the only successful son in his family. His other two brothers are... well, they're not nearly as well off as my father is. I mean, we're not in a lot of debt, we have discretionary income, we live in a nice area and they have stable jobs. You'd think my father would be proud--but he puts pressure on himself to impress his parents and be the "good son". It's this strange complex he has where he puts his parents, especially his father, on a pedestal and is blind to their flaws. So when his parents moved in with us, he became rigid and tense and all-consumed by being the "good son" all the time.
It began wearing down my parents' marriage. My mother and I couldn't say a thing about his father unless it was positive. We weren't allowed to complain about their mean old dog who bites and nearly ruined the carpet in the guest room and howled at night. We weren't allowed to ask my Grandfather to cover his mouth when he coughed or point out that it was rude to simply tune us out in the middle of an attempted conversation. We couldn't say that we didn't want his mother to cook because she made the same thing all the time and it tasted terrible.
Then they found their own house and we thought things would get better. They received a huge inheritance from my Great-Grandfather's passing and bought really nice new cars and they had a reverse mortgage and the cancer treatments were covered by insurance and grants. They were much better off than my parents who were still had bills, two teenagers to clothe and feed, four pets and countless other expenses. Yet, yet they acted like they were destitute and my father always paid for their food (and they never once offered to split a check and got expensive entrees) in fact my father got mad when my mother suggested that they pay for their own food once. They lived over an hour away (at first, later they moved closer) and guilted my father into driving over there all the time to do menial chores (like changing a lightbulb or hanging pictures) and kept him away from us.
It got worse when they moved closer. They kept pulling him away from us, and we were called selfish for wanting him to stay home just for one weekend.
Then, my mother's mother was diagnosed with cancer (too late, it had metastasized by the time she sought help) and the family was thrown into turmoil. My mother was destroyed because her mom was literally dying and she lived in California.
My Grandfather, as I'm sure you have determined, thrives on attention. He's always been that way. So he felt jealous that conversation was turned away from him to my Nana and he wanted us to pay attention to him.
So he lied to the entire family. To his church congregation. He said that he had three months to live. Purely for attention. It was my father who caught him in his lie and made him admit to it. His excuse? "I was depressed, I needed your love."
I remember that day so clearly. My grandmother went to the kitchen and cried in my mother's arms. My father looked angry and heartbroken. I left for a few hours. It was then that my father began to see how his father was using his disease as a way to pull sympathy from him, lying about needing money, never considering that he had feelings or wanted to be with us, not caring about us at all really. His idolized view of them began crumbling while his father was in remission.
Then his cancer came back, my Nana died, and he began holding "private Bible studies" with my father and his brother. My father began sounding more and more like him--saying misogynist things about women's places in the house, talking down about science and interfaith cooperation. One day my mother asked him who the head of the house was. His reply?
"The man is the head of the house." He had changed completely. It caused an explosion between him and mom. She finally blew up and he seemed to listen... a little. My mother and I are convinced that he's being brainwashed by his father.
Then, recently, very recently my friend--a Hindu--was called a devil worshipper by some crazy Christian girl and I was entirely appalled by it. I was still struggling with my faithlessness but I knew that was wrong and posted on facebook about religious tolerance and supporting the inclusive "happy holidays". It was an innocent post, despite the ugliness that caused me to post it. My Grandfather proceeded to say that anyone who wasn't Christian should "get over it" and he'd say "merry Christmas" if he damn well pleased and that America is a Christian nation... all sorts of nonsense ultimately ending with saying that nonChristians should get out of America.
I was angry, I admit it. I had always known he was a racist and a misogynist but that he would put something like that out there on my wall. It made me sick, and I basically told him that whether he likes it or not that America is a secular nation, that multiculturalism is not an attack on Christianity and to refrain from posting ignorant and blatantly bigoted statements on my wall ever again. He retorted that I was just a stupid kid who didn't know any better and I told him, basically, that age doesn't trump reason. Two of my friends, who are far more understanding and eloquent than I, tried to explain that times are changing and that our generation needed to be inclusive and understanding of other cultures.
Four days passed and I figured it had blown over and he had realized that what he said was incredibly offensive.
Then I got a call from my mother, in a panic, saying that my Grandfather had called my father and that I would not have a place to come home to if I didn't apologize to him. I was floored, pissed, hurt. Why should I apologize to him when he offended literally everyone who knows me? He put his opinion out there and, as an adult, he should have been prepared for people to disagree with him. My mother said he was embarrassed (rightfully so) and had defriended me.
I asked her why he went to my father instead of coming to me directly. Her answer?
He wanted attention again. He was willing to throw me under the bus under the guise of "defending Christian values" and use my father as an emotional weapon against me. He knows I'm in college under his GI Bill, I can't marry my fiance until I graduate or I lose my funding, I can't move out because I need to remain his dependent to get full benefits. He knows I am financially unable to support myself and that my father would willingly be his white knight against me. Because my father values him over me, over everyone.
So he called me, told me I was stupid, that my friends were stupid, that my opinions were wrong, that I was selfish and mean spirited for telling my Grandfather that he was wrong for being ethnocentric, that I was immature and that unless I "fixed" what was "broken" that I was not welcome back.
I was devestated. I called my Grandfather and apologized--felt lower than low and was told again that I was wrong for having liberal opinions and that he felt that I was purposely baiting him by posting them. I asked why he involved my father, why he waited almost a week to even bring it up and he tried to feed me some BS about how he was "crushed" by my callousness. I honestly stopped listening.
Then after all of that, he said that he forgave me for my rudeness and then my father said he forgave me and that his love was unconditional.
I have since come to terms with my lack of belief in God... but now I have nightmares about being kicked out of my home over my lack of faith. I'm terrified of going home. If a facebook opinion pushed my father to threaten me with being turned out, what would knowing that I'm an atheist do?
I have to bite my tongue when either of them make callous remarks about atheists being evil and about nonChristians burning in hell. I am not allowed to dissent. My father never used to be this way. He was never this much of a tool for his father, he would have never used my dependence on him as a weapon against me... but ever since his father moved here he's become different. Meaner, more judgmental.
I suppose I'm calling for help now. What do I do? I almost don't want to go home because I'm scared. Scared that they might find my copy of The God Delusion, scared of sharing my opinions, of being true to myself. I'm afraid of my father, afraid of the wrath of him and his family for disagreeing with them and their God.
How do I deal with this? I've lost my father to the religious fervor of his own father. He hides behind his disease and his God to justify his actions, his thoughts.
As pathetic as it sounds, I miss my dad. I miss the days when I thought I could go to him for unconditional support. I miss when he would defend what was right and consider my opinions as worth something. I miss my dad who loved me.
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