Monday Morning Advice: Losing My Religion Edition

This is one of those questions where I tread lightly because religion is a very personal issue. That said, I’m hoping to get this mom some advice from all sides of spiritual fence and hopefully help her find a resolution to her problem. 

Dear Guilty Parent,

My son came home the other night from a trip to the beach with his friend and his parents and when he got home he told me that his friends parents were starting to make him uncomfortable with their talk of religion; specifically the Rapture and how he should welcome Jesus into his heart and be saved.

My first gut instinct is to be upset with his friend’s parents. I take religion to be a personal topic and I don’t know how I feel about someone else pushing their religious views on my children. On the other hand, I guess I should be glad that they feel comfortable enough with my son to bring up the topic (or maybe this is what they do to everyone?? I don’t know). My son has talked to his friend and his friend even told his parents to please stop but they keep on (the boys are teenagers). I’m not an overly religious person myself, but I am a Christian and consider myself to be a spiritual person, I just feel that I don’t need to broadcast my relationship with God to everyone I meet. I attended private school through elementary and middle school and all of our boys were baptized as babies. While we don’t attend church on a regular basis, the boys have been to Sunday school and even Bible school in the summer until they told me they no longer wanted to attend. At home we discuss the different types of religions and how different religions interpret the scriptures. I don’t pretend to know everything about religion but we discuss anything the kids want to know whenever they ask.

Should I step in and talk to these parents? I don’t know that I feel comfortable enough doing so and I know my husband is not comfortable with them. We do love our son’s friend and consider him one of our own so we don’t want to do anything that would hurt their friendship.

I feel so stuck.

Praying and looking for guidance,

Patricia S.

Well, I don’t know how much help I can be Patricia but I’ll try.

I am somewhat like you in that I don’t  really think that a person’s religious beliefs are anyone else’s business. I think that a spiritual relationship  between God and you; whatever God you believe in and when Judgement Day does arrive, God already knows where you are on the path to going to Heaven and his is the only opinion a person needs to be concerned with. Off my soapbox now.

With that in mind, I think that if I were your son I would be uncomfortable with someone telling me I needed to be saved as well. I think whenever someone tries to push a viewpoint it’s natural for the other person to feel uncomfortable. Has your son explained that he was baptized or that he has a home church? Sometimes just telling someone those things can bring it to an end.

As for you talking to the parents, I think it may be necessary at some point because if their own son has asked them to stop and they’re not respecting that then you may need to step in. I’d be as nice as possible and simply explain that while you appreciate that they are concerned for your son’s eternal soul (anyone have a better term??) that your family has a religious preference (What even if you’re not practicing) and you’d appreciate it if they could respect that.

Beyond that I don’t know what other advice I could offer.

What advice do you have for this family? Have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you handle it?

image via Billy Alexander

About Nichole Smith

Nichole Smith has written 758 post in this blog.

Founder of Chaos in the Country and (original) The Guilty Parent blog, Nichole is a professional writer, blogger, social media strategist, and collector of yarn, books, and pretty paper.

Comments

  1. Char says:

    I agree that a person’s spiritual beliefs are a private matter. I am a deeply spiritual person, yet only those that know me very well are even aware of this. I prefer it that way. But at the same time, I understand others wish to be more vocal. The way I see it, those parents have their own opinions and cannot see that it is just that, an opinion. Yet, you and your family do understand that. It would be the same if those parents were narrow-minded about other topics, such as race or income level. If they made racist or classist remarks around your child, you would tell your son that those parents were close-minded, and not to emulate their behaviors. You have raised your family to be open minded and comfortable with their religious views. Good enough. Let the other parents say what they will. If your son feels insulted, keep his exposure to the other parents to a minimum. If you confront them, they will not be able to hear you or your viewpoint. They are stuck on one track with blinders on – Either you agree with them or you need to be talked at until you are convinced to agree with them… That is the only two things they will hear, no matter what you say. Giving them any attention will only fuel their zealotry. While it may seem too passive or very difficult, my best advice is to do nothing. Know that you raised your family well, they will make the right decisions due to your parenting, and eventually these parents will be out of the picture.

  2. When I first read this, I thought Patricia’s sons friends were the ones responsible. But since it was the parents, I’d take action. I’d call them up and let them know you really don’t appreciate having your son put into that kind of situation. Be firm but polite about it. Explain that you have your own religious beliefs and, while you appreciate their concern, you would prefer it if they didn’t do this again. If they refuse to back down or if they repeat this behavior, don’t allow your child to go places with them unsupervised.

    As far as explaining that you were baptized/have a home church, I wouldn’t rely on that. In fact, I couldn’t rely on that as I’m Jewish. And, yes, I’ve had a few “encounters” over the years.

    While shopping with my family in a Walmart, on the elevator between floors, an elderly couple began telling us about Jesus. When we explained that we were Jewish, it just fueled them more. Like I would really be swayed away from my religion in a Walmart elevator! We made haste away from them and explained to my oldest son about how it was wrong to impose your religious beliefs on others. (Our youngest was too young to know the difference.)

    He’s inquired about why we celebrate certain holidays (Passover, Chanukah) while others don’t and why others celebrate holidays (Christmas, Easter) that we don’t. I’ve told them that different people have different religious beliefs and that he should 1) never make someone else feel bad for not following our religion and 2) never feel bad because he doesn’t follow another person’s religion. Follow your own path and stay true to it.
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  3. I was raised Unitarian in the Bible Belt, so I frequently had this experience. It is difficult to be polite when people insist that you’re going to hell! The easiest thing to do is dodge–change the subject, avoid those people–but it’s hard when it restricts your social life.

    In line with your custom of explaining and discussing religions with your kids, I think you should tell them that these people feel a genuine concern that people who are not saved will suffer a terrible fate, so they are truly showing that they like him and want to help him. It’s important to be nice about that. However, if he feels uncomfortably pressured to go to their church or repeat “magic words” to be saved, he needs strategies for saying no.

    It might also help to realize that some people fall into a way of thinking that it isn’t enough to be saved themselves; they’re earning some kind of points with God by saving others. Also, they may feel that getting people to agree to their beliefs means they are right–maybe they are a little insecure. But Jesus said, tell people the Good News, but if they won’t listen, shake the dust from your sandals and move on; Jesus never said to harangue anybody! Thinking about it this way could help your son avoid feeling guilty for “not being saved enough” or something like that.
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