My wife and I are heading to a family reunion and I need some advice from the community.
First some background.
My wife Jeannette (new TA member!) and I are both atheists/humanists. I come from a very conservative evangelical Baptist family, where the matriarch & patriarch and most of my aunts, uncles and cousins are either deeply involved in the ministry. I myself was once a youth and worship pastor, fully dedicated to serving Christ, but that’s another story altogether.
The members of my family are very loving and kind people, however their faith is stronger than their reasoning skills. On the last day of our last family reunion a few years back, my aunt told my wife she was going down the “Golden Path” to hell based only on her beautiful Egyptian tattoos. I know this came from the kindest place in her heart … she really didn’t want her to go to hell! However, at the time it truly hurt Jeannette who, coming from a Catholic background, didn’t understand the concept of evangelizing or that it came from a place of love. At the time, I was a very green atheist, so I didn’t have the strength or knowledge to say or do anything about it.
I abhor this kind of behavior from Christians and when it coming from my family it somehow felt much worse.
So … fast-forward to today. We’re heading out to another bible-soaked family reunion. Imagine jesus-themed campfire sin-alongs, grown adults performing plays and skits about how much they love being redeemed and every new conversation starts with the question “So, how is your walk with Jesus going?”
I’ve grown as a freethinker and I know exactly why I’m a humanist. However, I really don’t feel like outing myself to my family during this reunion, especially since both of my grandparents will soon be gone and I really don’t want to stress them out with thoughts of my eternal damnation. However, I KNOW I’ll be asked how my walk with God is going, and I’ll be asked why my family will not be going to church on Sunday.
This is severely stressing us out. We don’t want to come out, but I need some kind of loving response to these questions. I want to say something that will not incite more questions, but that will let people know were just fine with our lives and don’t need to be preached to.
We’re at a loss. If anyone else has some personal experience or advice on the matter, we’d be SO appreciative!
Jeannette and I just want to thank everyone for your amazing advice. We'll be mulling these suggestions over for the next day or so before we go. Actually, hearing all your comments has made me feel a little more at ease about the whole thing.
We'll still be going to the reunion. Like a few of you have said, this is family and no matter what their beliefs family comes first. I agree with Robert and Kate: I chose my own discomfort over making my family (especially my grandparents) uncomfortable. That being said, I think Bonnie might be right: maybe there is another person in the family like us, and maybe we'll strike up a conversation.One of my cousins has recently converted to Catholicism, which to my family is just as bad as being an atheist ... maybe we can find common ground :)
Thanks again for all your well wishes and comments. This community has proven to be a great support for me.
Looking forward to hear if "David" survived the Lion's Den. Hmmm..can't remember how that story went, but must have been in David's favour. :D Hope you are your wife have fun.
Hi Marc! I can relate to what you're going through. Although my family isn't as in your face about their evangelism, I'm sure they would get along just fine with your family.
I've always been able to avoid going to their very disturbing churches by relying on the Catholic/Protestant division. It's a really handy trick! You just imply that your new faith tradition makes you uncomfortable with going to a Protestant service and that your family hopes they can respect your wish to worship with the traditions and beliefs that your wife's family embraces. You can even imply that you've been studying religion, perhaps thinking about changing denominations. Start talking about things like RICO, CCD, the blessed sacraments... Be sure to use vocabulary like mass, priest and homily.
Start talking about things like RICO, CCD, the blessed sacraments... Be sure to use vocabulary like mass, priest and homily.
@ Kairan - lmao! Sounds like a plan to me. I do that with my friends sometimes. I talk bad about Catholicism to my Baptist friends, then I talk bad about the Baptist faith with my Catholic friends, just to amuse myself (none of them know I am an atheist).
I realise why you have been silent thus far but I don't think you should sit at this gathering and squirm. I would personally avoid these situations and tell everyone concerned of your unbelief. Everyone other than the old folks of course. The rest of the family may be happy to play along for their sake and with any luck honesty will count for something.
This is certainly an alternative to worrying about future invites. I'm not sure if this is very helpful but it is the action that I would take.
I have a feeling that at least some of the younger family members would be ok with talking about it and accept it without trying too hard to save me. it's really the aunts/uncles/grandparents that I really dont want to find out.
Always stay calm and when the situation arises, ie - thanking god or Grace over dinner then just ask a statement type of question like "It has always troubled me why god hates starving people especially the new born babies?" Try to appear as if they need to answer your question and not as if you are trying to be awkward. The best way of getting them to think for themselves is make them do it.