Thursday, February 09, 2006

The religion problem, part deux

A while back, I wrote a bit about the conflict between my parents and me about religion and spirituality. And then I hinted at it again in the comments to a post below. But the conflict... it's heating up, albeit in a very typical understated (and/or passive-aggressive) way.

My mom tends to sign her e-mails "I love you. Jesus loves you more!" She's been doing it for years, and I just ignore it. She always buys us each a religious book for Christmas; mine typically get tossed on a shelf, never to be touched again. She doesn't ask, I don't bring it up. And that's pretty typical of how we deal with our varying religious beliefs.

Lately, though, it seems she's ratcheting it up a bit. There was the email earlier this week that I mentioned below, in which she talked about how my birth (and that of my sister) brought her back to God, and she hoped the same would happen to me. And then today there was a card (with the receipt for the stupid pants she sent me over the weekend) with a pre-printed message about how one minute she's thinking of me "and the next minute I'm thanking God for you!"

But that's not all. Her brief note ends, "I'm praying (and Dad is too) all throughout the days for your health and that of your (& God's) daughter."

I showed the card to Darren and, before I said anything, he said, "She's taking it to another level lately, isn't she?"

Yes, she is. And I don't think my usual tactic of ignoring the God-talk is going to work any more. This means there is a painful conversation ahead, and I'm not sure where to begin it. I guess the problem here is that I don't think she's respecting my (lack of) belief in the same kind of God she believes in. I'm not sure what, exactly, I do believe, but I am starting to feel like she's trying to push her beliefs on me in a way that makes me very uncomfortable.

But I also know she is expressing her care and concern via prayer, and I am grateful for the underlying motivation -- so how can I ask her to stop? I don't want her to walk on eggshells around me, afraid of mentioning something that is important to her -- but neither do I want to feel as though she is continually pressuring me to believe as she does. It's getting a bit relentless, and I guess that's what I need to express to her somehow, as respectfully as I can.

I've been dwelling on this for days now -- and, like Anita said at one point, the way I tend to process things is to talk about them over and over until I've made sense of them in my head. I haven't gotten to that end point yet -- and I suspect I won't until I get on the phone with her -- but the frequency with which I've been telling these stories to friends points to the fact that I need to have the conversation with her.