I was listening to the Thinking Atheist podcast a couple days ago, the episode titled “Religious Family/Conditional Love”. As the title suggests, in this episode, Seth Andrews speaks to people and reads emails that were submitted about how some religious families hinge their love on the requirement that they’re of the same religious persuasion.
This episode struck me, as you may imagine, and in a powerful way. I still feel like my relationship with my parents has been rocky ever since I moved in with my husband three years ago when he was just my boyfriend. Add the facts that he smoked and we had a pagan wedding ceremony planned, and it truly strained the relationship that I had with my parents.
Even now, things are strange with my family. A couple years ago my sister started reading things that were written by a man who’d been excommunicated from the Church. She called me up and talked to me about it, sent me a couple links that I never really checked out. A couple days later, I got a call from my mom that my sister had been “reading the [anti-Mormon] material” and she was warning me that I shouldn’t listen to her.
This sister just called me a couple days ago to tell me that her husband has received his letter from the Church that he has his meeting with the Church Disciplinary Council, and they’re anticipating that he’s going to be excommunicated. With this news, I’m surprised my mom hasn’t called after this news to ask if I’m reading and praying, like she does every time my sisters tell them some news about how the Church has strayed and how they’re pursuing their religious faith from a source other than the Mormons.
A couple years ago, during this ongoing family religious drama, my younger sister had tried to counsel my father that he needed to let his children know that he loves them even if their opinions don’t agree with his, even if their beliefs change. She tried to tell him that if he wants to keep a relationship with his children, he needs to be accepting and work to preserve that because it’s not a one-way street. His response (as it was told to me) was that the preservation of the relationship is on us.
With that said, how am I supposed to tell my parents that I’ve also left the church, but not to go to another belief system, but rather a lack of one? I fear that if I ever voice that, I’ll either never hear from them again, or it will be a constant stream of Mormon guilt that our family “won’t be together in the Celestial Kingdom” because of my choice.
That in itself makes me grateful that I have people around me that I can talk to. Those who support me in my theological exploration and intellectual discovery. I gladly count them, even those I’ve known less than a year, as family.