By Kenneth Justice
~ “My father says I’m in sin for hanging out with non-Christians” that’s what the young woman who sat across from me at the café began telling me about her situation. Apparently her father is a deacon and her mother is the church secretary of a strictly conservative fundamentalist Church on the East Coast, “My father hates it that I dye my hair pink, have piercings, and that I don’t stay at home and read the bible every night…but at least he hasn’t kicked me out of the house yet like he did with my sister” she said.
This young woman was hardly the first young adult whom I’ve met with that was dealing with religious conflict from their parents and will most likely not be the last……The Western World is filled with men and women who have come from homes where religiosity has burned them out. I’ve talked with Roman Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Muslims, and even Hindu’s who have been burned out by the religion of their family and parents.
Sadly, although religion should be a positive opportunity to carry down traditions from one generation to the next; too often it ends up being a double edged sword that certain communities and peoples use to antagonize their children and others. Too often people use religion to heap heavy burdens upon others that are too difficult to bear.
—-) Don’t smoke
—-) Don’t drink
—-) Don’t chew tobacco
—-) Don’t cuss
—-) Don’t hang out with people outside of our community
Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t drink, don’t chew, and don’t run with those who do”?
No matter the religion or ethnicity, these are merely a sampling of the don’ts that many children and young adults have ingrained within their heads. When the child begins to veer slightly away from the course their parents or religious community have set for them….the adults in their life begin to panic and turn to condemnation as a way of trying to harness the child back under their control. But does condemning someone really work at controlling their behavior? Even if it does work; should it really be a tool we incorporate as a part of our interaction with others?
Of course there are some things we should most definitely condemn; such as murder…..but for the plethora of other behaviors that fall well below murder; should we really be so quick to condemn others for their actions? I mean, isn’t a normal part of growing up; venturing away from the nest and learning things through trial and error?
Sadly, as the young woman at coffee continued her tail she told me of her sister who had been kicked out at the age of 18 (the year before) and was currently living in a homeless shelter for pregnant women; the parents were wealthy enough to support the daughter but because she wasn’t willing to abide by their religious rules they weren’t willing to help her out, “My mom and dad mean well, but it’s hard for me not to resent them for what has happened to my sister. After they kicked her out she started smoking crack and now she’s pregnant with twins and all by herself at a homeless shelter. I go and visit her but it’s not like I have any money to help her out” she said.
It simply doesn’t look very good for a deacon and the church secretary to have a unwed and pregnant daughter living at home…about to give birth to twins…….especially if the daughter doesn’t believe in the religion anymore….and so they’ve chosen to kick her out of the house??? Seems rather extreme if you ask me.
One of my dearest friends who died last year frequently said, “It’s easy to love people when everything is going good…..but you really find out the true measure of a relationship when conflict occurs”
Isn’t that the true fact of the matter? It’s easy to love our children, parents, coworkers, friends, fill-in-the-blank when everything is going well……but how will behave towards them when they do something we don’t like? How will we respond when they make choices we don’t agree with? What will we say when they mess up and say something negative towards us?
There are certain moments in our lives where we must stand our ground and speak our mind…..but don’t you think that more often than not the problem in our culture is people simply don’t demonstrate enough patience and grace towards each other? It seems to me that everywhere I go people are at the precipice of blowing up at a moment’s notice……but rarely do I meet people who are kind and patient in the face of adversity.
Are the parents wrong for kicking their pregnant daughter out of the house because she doesn’t agree with their religious views anymore? It’s not for me to say how they should live or behave……but if they ever want to have any kind of relationship with their daughter or grandchildren…then it seems to me they might want to rethink their philosophy.
Maybe I’m too laid back…..I’ve received a few emails recently by people who think I’m too soft. But I wonder….can you really be too forgiving? Can you really be too gracious? Can you really be too loving? Maybe I’m simply a loon and all this coffee I’m drinking is pushing me to the precipice of a cliff and I’m slowly falling off the side into a pit of nonsense……
But if I am falling off a cliff I would really like one last coffee to sip as I fall down
P.S. join me tomorrow as l wrap up this week’s series and tie it all together