Is it wrong to imagine life with a different family?
I know, it sounds horrible, but it's not an easy thought to let go of. Religious extremism, sometimes to the point of absurdity, can have a brutally negative impact on a child's development, and, speaking for myself, I wouldn't have minded spending my early years in a family that was a little less uptight about Almighty Jesus.
Or maybe the same family, just not religious, dogmatic…yeah, I think you get part of the picture.
The rest of that lovely photograph is me, sitting at the Thanksgiving dinner table, my parents and sisters- well, two of my sisters with me. That particular and particularly large train wreck of a situation was still hanging heavy over the otherwise moderately cheerful atmosphere, an anvil on a string, the people below it trying their very best to insist that it wasn't about to fall.
At least everyone else finally sees what she's really like, I mused in silence. Still kind of sucks, though.
Speaking of sucking, boy, was I about to take that anvil dangling over the family gathering situation and make it that much worse by stringing up an even bigger one right beside it. At least it would distract everybody from the current drama?
I look left, my two sisters, the oldest and middle, chat about the former's kids. The oldest had just made honors, all A's, something I was proud of, and I wasn't even the parent. My middle sister replies with something, but I'm not sure what, it’s a little tough to focus through my own worry gnawing and scraping at my gut. How would they respond? I know very well the general idea of the middle sister's reaction. Outrage, condemnation, calls to repent ye, and believe the gospel, etc. After her long-distance move to be with her husband, she had shoved her head so deep into religion's butt that even our parents had expressed concern. It would be an almost impressive feat, if it wasn't so disturbing.
The oldest…well, I felt closest to her, honestly, if only for the fact that she was the least psychotic about religion (and, by extension, politics, but don't get me started there, or I'll never stop…). Would she try to be supportive? I'd like to imagine it, but then again, I liked to imagine interdimensional gateways, and primordial deities, and fantastical worlds of strange creatures and arcane insight in my stories. The thought of my oldest sister trying to not preach to me about the evils of my newfound self-understanding was at least moderately more believable.
But my parents…I recall the tear-stained pleas after my declaration to stop attending church with greater detail than I care to think about. If deciding as an adult that I didn't want to spend hours and hours every week to witness a religious sermon that meant nothing to me was that devastating to them, what was going to be the reaction to the horrors of their only son being comfortable with something so unnatural?
Nevermind that animals often do the same, but I guess that's not something the zealots of Y'all-Qaeda ever bother to stop and consider, I thought bitterly.
Maybe I'm being too harsh? It's hard not to push back as roughly as I do, when the first 20 or so years of my life were spent memorizing Bible verses, and singing all of these songs about how the God who rains fire and brimstone on us foul sinners somehow loves us. There are entire books written about the devastating impact spiritual indoctrination can have on a young child's mind. A shame most of them didn't exist at the time a little boy was being told he was a rotten sinner who deserved to be cast into Hell.
The sermons on sin, that it's all our fault, that if we don't give our lives to the Judeo-Christianic God, He'll condemn our souls to eternal torment for temporary sins…From preteen suicidal thoughts, to borderline cults, to the torture in my own mind with being told that my intrusive thoughts were sins that I had to beg forgiveness for, and struggling in mental anguish with the “sin” of things that were nothing more than natural bodily reactions and functions, there is so much to the long, painful story of how I broke free from the chains of religion, but that will have to wait for another time.
Right now I'm in my seat, practically sweating, foot tapping a "Flight of the bumblebees" beat, wishing desperately for some kind of understanding at least, definitely not hoping for acceptance. But I'm sandwiched between the products of inflexible religion, and the still-believing continuation of that same unyielding, blind faith. What exactly could I expect from them? At this point, a clipped, sharp-tongued, “We'll pray for you,” would be so much better than the fiery chaos of a reaction that was twisting and roaring inside my brain, the latest doomsday scenario that only my wild, hyperactive imagination could concoct.
And yet, for all of the grim portents...a memory surfaces through the rough, choppy waters of my mind, a declaration of sorts, simple in its delivery, but potent in its meaning. "No matter what happens, no matter what you do, we'll always love you, son."
…Ah, to hell with it.
I notice everybody take a bite at once, so I decide to be sneaky and strike. At least they'd have to chew a little before the maelstrom of madness started churning across the dinner table. And of course my damn stutter couldn't let me get it out cleanly, but what else is new?
“Uh, guys, ah, I-I-I'm Bi.”
My statement cast a heavy silence on the dinner table, the inflection of the words froze the bodies of everyone else present, and the understanding of what my stumbled sentence meant gave my family the widest eyes I had ever witnessed. Four mouths open at the same time, the brief silence that happens before words begin to fly like bullets. Here we go…