I grew up very religious – baptist for starters… then more of a full-gospel/pentecostal… and then my current religion of choice – nothing.
When I was just a kid… I went to church 3-5 times a week with my mom and my brother. My other brother, and my dad stayed home.
You see, my father made no bones about the fact that he was an atheist. He then went on to tell us kids that it was our choice… we could go to church with our mother if we wanted to… or we could stay home with him and do chores.
My oldest brother went to church for a while. Then, he was the first one to take my dad up on this option. He opted to stay home. My mom was not happy, to say the least. But, my dad was a man of his word, and would not make my brother go if he didn’t want to. This led to the major divide in our family. My parents had always fought like crazy… but, this divided us 3 kids too. From them on out, it was my Dad and my oldest brother, against my mom, my other brother, and myself.
I watched my mother tell anyone that would listen all about how awful my father was. And, how he was going to hell… and now he was trying to drag her son with him. We prayed for them. A lot. My mother would cry and cry… and we would all pray… the three of us, and anyone else my mother could drag into it.
Then, I would go home.. and my dad would say – “you don’t have to go to church if you don’t want to”. What? And wind up like HIM, I thought? Going to hell in a hand basket? No thank you. Besides, if my mom tweaked out that much over my one brother not going, what in the world would happen to her if I didn’t go too? Did I want my mom telling everyone that would listen about how I was going to hell and praying for me? And, besides.. I believed her.
I believed it all. I was scared to death for my dad and my brother. I belived they were going to hell. I prayed my heart out along with them. I cried and cried too.
Yes, I was a good little christian girl. When I was about 5 or 6 I tried to “save” every kid on my block. Needless to say, I wasn’t very popular that summer. LOL But, I did whatever my Mom told me to do… and I did it because I thought she knew what she was talking about. Along with the pastor and all the other good people at church.
I played the organ and sang in church regularly. I was shy and scared to death… my knees would shake and I felt like I was going to throw up each time… but, I was convinced this was something I should do. You see, this was the only time my dad would go to church. To see me preform. Each time, my mother would gather the pastor and church leaders to pray before each “special” I preformed. We would pray that when my dad came to see me that THIS would be the time that God would speak to him… sort of bonk him on the head with christian fairy juice or something and he would suddenly become the perfect christian father that he should be.
It took me years to stop believing that would happen. And, as I became a pre-teen, my dad had it all figured out too. He stopped coming when I sang. My mom and pastor would tell me to ask him to come… put the pressure on him… make him feel guilty. So, I did. Only, I really felt bad that he wouldn’t come. I wasn’t pretending to want him there. My mom told me to tell him that if he loved me he’d come… and, so, when he wouldn’t come… I actually wondered if he really did love me or not.
It took me a while before I realized that of course he loved me… he was just sick of the plotting and scheming… and, after a few more failed attempts to make him come and see me… I realized I was tired of it all too. I was relieved… I didn’t really want to sign in front of the whole church. So, I stopped “preforming” like a trained seal. I still remember how guilty my mom made me feel for “giving up”. Mot only my mom, but also the pastor and other adults. Looking back, it makes me very angry. Angry with my mom, but also with the church leaders for putting that kind of pressure on me. A little naive girl. How dare they????
Singing wasn’t the only time or way I was “used” by my mom. My mom knew how close I was with my dad. How close all of us kids were with him. She was jealous. He was the one we turned to… and I was without a doubt – “Daddy’s little girl”. He may have been an atheist… and going to hell or not… he was never anything but wonderful to me and my brothers. If anyone taught us positive life lessons – it was him. And, yet, I’d hear my mother trash him every singe day. She acted like he was the devil himself. She and my Dad fought a lot… and, she would use me as a pawn against him.
After my mother’s prompting, I vividly remember apporaching my father… teary eyed and upset… asking him why he didn’t believe in God? why didn’t he believe in the bible? and sobbing that I didn’t want him to go to hell. His answer, I remember explicitly…
He sat me down on his knee.. wiped my tears… told me not to worry and that he wasn’t going to hell… I hopefully listened on. He explained that he didn’t think there was a hell… and he said, “You know your little Thumbelina book that you like so much? You know how it’s a great fairytale and story, but it’s not real? Well, that is how I think of the bible. I think it’s a great book… with lots of great stories… and some good messages… but, I don’t think it’s real”. This answer made me feel better, even though my mother promptly shot it down and told me he was going to hell again soon after. Still.. it planted a seed of a thought… maybe…just maaaaaaaaaaybe Mom was wrong???