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  • What if you were going along your merry business, and ran into a friend of a friend. Let's say that in conversation you told that friend of a friend that you were, for example, a vegetarian. Now, your friend's friend feels very strongly that vegetarianism is very unhealthy and the only way to be truly healthy is to eat meat of some kind. Then, that friend by proxy says "I'm so sorry for you! You clearly don't understand how unhealthy that is. Here, let me buy you a steak. And you are more than welcome to have dinner with us any night. I can teach you how to cook meat."

    Would you be offended?

    Please say yes. I would be. In fact, I would be so offended I would have some very, very serious words with this person.

    Then why is it not offensive for a Christian to tell a non-Christian, upon learning that they are not a Christian, that you will pray for their soul that they find Jesus?

    Oh wait, it is.

    I wasn't going to blog about this today. In fact, I was advised by a very wise and dear friend not to blog about it because it would prove to the offender that she had gotten to me. But, you know what? She did get to me.

    Earlier today I let it slip that I'm not a Christian within earshot (or eyeshot, rather, since this whole thing took place on Facebook) of a friend of a friend. Her response, paraphrased: "We all need to pray harder, especially for Valorie and her children."

    Now, of course I let her know how condescending that was, speaking to me in the third person and implying piteous intent. I mean, I'm sensitive, but I'm not a wimp. I'll stand up for myself every time, because no one else is going to. This isn't the first time this has happened to me, either. It seems to happen any time I profess my non-belief in public. As usual, my defense was met with the supposition that my hurt is coming from myself. She certainly didn't intend to hurt my feelings, so it couldn't possibly be her fault that I was offended.

    There were more words used that left me in tears with a racing heart. I was supposed to be grateful, not hurt, that someone such as her would deem me so worthy of her decision to pray for my and my children's souls. It was a gift, she said. A gift from her to me, and I was to be grateful.

    I'm not. I'll tell you why I'm not. I don't feel grateful when someone tries to push their personal belief system. I felt about two inches tall after that little exchange. I have respect for her and her Christian beliefs, but she doesn't have respect for mine, and I find that to be very hypocritical. I'm not grateful when someone completely disregards what I have to say, insults who I am and how I raise my children, and leaves me crying and regretful for ever buying the computer that granted access to Facebook.

    Here's the thing: I have a lot of peace, love, and joy in my life. I love my children and husband more than anyone could love anyone. We have good morals. We give to charities, we help others when they can't help themselves, we would never steal from or harm another person, we have great reverence and respect for all life, and we freaking recycle. Heck, I even wash my hands every time I use the bathroom! I'm such a goodie two-shoes, it's gross. I am raising my children to have these exact same values: respect for others, the world around us, and ourselves. We take care of each other.

    And we don't go to church. We don't even believe in God, or gods, or goddesses. It's not what we do.

    That last little line up there? In the past I had hidden that, and even lied, because of responses like that woman's. Yes, I know that most Christians are not like that. I know she doesn't represent the entire religion. But 90% of this country is Christian, so I am in the minority. It just blows some people away to learn that there are people out there who don't believe in God. But we don't, and that is that.

    Some people are vegetarian.

    I do meditate. There is something Buddhists do called "Tonglen meditation". The idea is to use the meditation to send out compassion and healing to those who need it. I wonder what she would have done if I found out she was Christian, then told her I felt bad for her and I would dedicate my Tonglen meditation to her? I'll bet she would be offended.

    Different families do different things. We live our lives differently because we are not all the same. I struggle with letting people know that I don't believe in God because of similar responses such as this. My children are also going to have to struggle with this, should they choose to follow my path. I don't want them to conform simply to avoid the struggle, but I also don't want them to have to constantly defend themselves. We can't hide who we are. That would also be wrong. So what are we left to do? Change the world?

    Somehow, that just doesn't seem feasible. I love differences, and I love people embracing who they are. It's when people love who they are so very much that they pity those of us who are not like them. I don't mean to lash out at this woman. I'm sure she believed she was acting in my best interest. The best thing for me to do is to let it go. But I'm still left with apprehension as to the next time this happens (and it will).

    I'm also left with the question of how to teach my children to deal with this. It is so easy to let pain become anger. I hope I can teach them how to let things go. Of course, as you can see, I'm still learning.

    I am sorry that some people have to be like that. My father is an agnostic and I am Catholic. Sometimes I pray for his health but not for him to find God. Who am I to tell him what to do? He is happy. I have never been one to try to sway others in directions of faith anyways and I have had quite a few run ins with others who have tried to tell me that Catholicism is wrong. I just try to remember that I am happy with who I am. I hope your message sticks.
    mygr8crew, i find that catholics are the least likely of the "christians" to try to foist their beliefs on anyone else, or condemn them for it. I was raised Catholic but then became agnostic. People spend way too much time worrying about what everyone else is doing instead of taking care of their own behaviors and being the person their god wants them to be. vengholm, i would suggest continuing to lead by example and trying to not let the "do gooders" get you down. They can't help themselves and probably should be praying for their own selves for tolerance. If you belief you are the best person you can be and you teach your children to be the same they will follow in kind. As I recall, that's all the bible really requires of us.
    Perhaps your friend thinks she'll get better favor from God if she berates you for not being Christian. Like "Hey God, just spreading your word around, praying for those who aren't Christian and shoving it down their throats! YOU'RE WELCOME!" is in her mind. Maybe. I don't know.
    Why do you even care? Hmmmm good question.
    I'm confused. Why would you be offended that someone offered to pray for you? If you offered to dedicate your meditation to me, I would not be offended by that, although I am a Christian. I have always believed that few people love you like someone who is willing to pray for you. And please remember that we Christians are commanded by Christ to share His Gospel and pray for our fellow man. Isn't the Christian who *doesn't* practice the teachings of Christ more offensive than the one who *does*? And an offer to pray for you is not "foisting" any particular belief on you. It is merely an example of someone who cares enough about you to talk about you with God.
    Moose, it's one thing to pray for someone because they are sick or hurt. It's another thing to tell a person their beliefs are wrong and you will pray for their salvation. It's arrogant and demeaning. I'm also entitled to my own emotions, so telling me that my feelings are wrong is also arrogant and demeaning. That's the last I'll comment.
    Wow. I did NOT say that your emotions were wrong. Your feelings are as valid as anyone's. I'm sorry you think I was being arrogant and demeaning. Frankly, Val, you seem to have some sort of personal problem with me, and I'm not quite sure what it is. You talk a lot about how we should be able to have friendly disagreements, but I'm not sure you actually believe that, because any time I've disagreed with you, you have something snarky to say about it. Whatever I did to offend you and make you dislike me so, I'm sorry. But I'm not going to get in a war of words with you, and I think I will just stay off of M2M in the future. This is the second time you've made me feel like my comments weren't welcome simply because they didn't agree with yours, and I've had enough.
    Moose, no. I mean that the person I blogged about made me feel like my emotions were wrong. Not you! I don't have a problem with you at all! Not in the least, and not ever. I'm sorry! I guess I should have been more clear.
    Well, you are right--telling you that your beliefs are wrong is just mean-spirited. But if you go back and read what you wrote, isn't that pretty much what you did regarding Christians? That offering to pray for you was wrong because it hurt your feelings? That's the part I don't understand. Granted, she didn't do it in the most diplomatic way possible, and it did sound kind of self-important on her part, but that doesn't make her BELIEFS wrong, any more than her offer of prayer makes YOUR beliefs wrong.
    Thanks for sharing this (you are brave!) I have very "non-traditional" beliefs myself and have confronted this issue many, many times. Fortunately I have also met a number of Christians that are capable of being respectful, and a I dare say a bit open minded! Most often I think that the others, as you described mean well. The rest are praying for you because they have the most to hide!! :)
    I am a Christian, Val knows this. Years ago, I made the comment that I was praying for her soul. She was very polite with her response, declining the need for me to do so. I haven't stopped, but neither do I see the need to shove it down her throat. It's between her and God. We still maintain our friendship. I also, would not be offended, as Moose said, if she offered to dedicate her meditation towards me. I don't believe in it, but I would receive it in the manner in which it was intended, and that is friendship and compassion. However, I wonder if belittling Christians under the vice of a good joke is a proper response. Val mentioned that this incident she is blogging about took place on Facebook, which is where I also saw the diagram she publicly posted. I struggle maintaining friendship and respect for someone who puts my Jesus in the same category as Dracula, Frankenstein, and other zombies while lumping Christians in with mindless followers.
    We also have non-traditional beliefs. I would take this woman's approach as a communication difference, not so much a religious difference. I was listening to a lecture yesterday that addresses this issue (though they were talking about gay/lesbian marriage) and the main point taken was that we all wish for freedom to believe our own ways. Diversity in beliefs celebrates that freedom. Thank goodness we have so many different beliefs, even under that Christian umbrella.
    To each their own.Freedom to worship, or not, is part of our Constitution.Wise founding Fathers.
    I think some of you are missing the point. Valorie isn’t upset that the other woman said she would pray for her and her children. But that she would pray for her and her children TO FIND JESUS. To pray from someone’s soul is pretty much the same thing. You are saying that the person is living an immoral and wrong life and that the only path to true happiness is to find jesus. I’m really tired of people making excuses for the religious when they prophesize and try to convert you to their way of thinking/life. It’s not a communication issue, it’s a respect issue. Woud you be offended if everytime we met I offerred to pray for your children that they start to worship the pagan gods and offer sacrifices daily? A bit extreme, but to some, god is a bit extreme. Not wrong, just different. RESPECT.
    Yeah, hotmomma, I heard about the "Zombie Jesus" thing. Turned my stomach. How is that NOT offensive? How does that NOT ridicule someone else's belief in something they consider sacred? The people who said stuff like that should be ashamed of themselves. If you don't want to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, fine, but "Zombie Jesus"? And now that I've been made aware of it, I really AM done with M2M.
    You ladies do realize that FB is for people to say what they themselves think, not to be censored by other people? If you don't agree with what she has to say, don't read it, plain and simple. Just because that is the way she feels and believes and you disagree, doesn't give you license to ridicule or anything. She didn't bitch at you about telling everyone Happy Easter, even though she doesn't celebrate it the same way as you. All I have to say is, get over it. Val- I have to say i completely agree and have been in the very same situation. People don't seem to accepting of your beliefs when they're different. All I can say to those people is "No, thank you." And all i can think is "Standing in a garage does not make you a car!" Great message!
    Yeah, sabella, I get what FB is for. But like I tell my kids all the time: Just because it jumps into your head doesn't mean it has to come out of your mouth," or through your fingertips onto FB. When you purposely post something that you KNOW is going to hurt and offend others, then you are doing wrong, "free speech" notwithstanding. The Westboro Baptist Church has the right to stand around with hateful signs and protest the funerals of soldiers and inflict unnecssary pain on the families, but that doesn't mean they SHOULD.
    I think that J3nn has the right idea. Praying for some one is like when you make a donation. You just do it. You don't announce it. When you announce then your not praying for them but more for your self and whatever favor you think that brings you. It also makes you look and sound self-righteous. I'm not sure that puts in good "Christian," light. On the other hand, Val it seems this whole thing about folks praying for you is really upsetting to you and I'm not sure why. They are praying not you. Do YOU think your feelings about Christianity are wrong? I doubt it. You seem to be well grounded in what you believe. I have a friend who is agnostic and I've said to her several times I'll pray for you. And she says, if you feel you must. I laugh she does too. She never knows whether I really do or not, and I never feel the need to announce it to anyone. My prayers are between me and God. I hope you don't let this person's announcements bother you too much further. Really it's more a problem with her and her salvation (for those who believe it that sort of thing) than anything else.
    Wow, what a topic and a lot of different views. I have to add my own and back up Val. After being raised a Catholic I don't practice anything and don't really believe either. Although I have to admit I don't talk about it with others. My religous beliefs aren't for anyone else to know. I also hope my son will find his own way as he gets older. I would rather he learn many other things that how to go to church every week, and pray for his soul, or whatever. I do think it if funny how we are hear how tolerate we need to be of others, be it religous or sexual orientation, but quite ofter find that we really aren't. We just want other people to believe we are.
    Val - I think you are a great person and I really like you but I really don't think you are equipped to be on a public message board, either a blogger/poster on m2m or on FB. You get hurt too easily and posting at either place isn't for you or the faint of heart. You probably should prune your FB friends' list and/or hide your posts from those who don't believe the same as you do. I have thought this forever, you get too upset when you are challenged or disagreed with. Believe me, I think you are a great person but just too darned tender - there is nothing wrong with your feelings but you let yourself get hurt over and over again by the things other people say. I really do like you a lot and I know it doesn't sound that way but it is true.
    So this is where everyone is hiding lately -- in the comments section of Val's blogs! I can vouch for frizzed, she really does like you a lot.
    Well, thank you frizzed, but like I said, this was a friend of a friend. I cannot "prune" those. I also can't just hide out in a hole so that people don't hurt me. Most of the time, I just ignore offensive content. But when someone is out-and-out rude, mentioning me by name, it really is personal. I don't think there's anything wrong with me being personally hurt. The problem isn't even really about how to keep from getting hurt in the future as much as it is how to deal with those feelings in the future. Even more, it's how to teach my children how to deal with those feelings, because they are going to deal with this sort of thing also. And by the way, I took the offensive graphic off my facebook. I did not realize that people would be so upset, I apologize, and it is gone. Anyway, thanks for caring frizzed! I think I've got this one though.
    Meh, we ALL stand for something, and we ALL want others to believe in what we stand for...just know that those of you that don't stand for true Christianity...well, you are standing for the wrong thing ;-)
    Excellent blog, Valorie. I'm with you 100 percent. I'm not a believer, either, and I'm constantly puzzled by the behavior of many believers in religions the world over. I have no desire to foist my beliefs on others -- it wouldn't bother me a bit if I were the only atheist on the planet -- so I really don't understand why other people do have such needs. It is, indeed, arrogant.
    Cnn, you're a funny gal. I can tell by the winky! By the way, thanks to everyone for making this the post of mine with the most comments, even without my own! Maybe next week I'll post about politics? Hmm...
    Val, I just love the heck out of you! I think you are a wonderful writer, mother, wife, human being. I aspire to be as cool as you are, and so confident. Don't let anyone get you down for any reason. You are not in the wrong here. I hate when people tell me they are praying to save my soul from eternal damnation. It is arrogance that their belief is the only right belief and that their God is the only God. I got your back, girl.
    Val, I just love the heck out of you! I think you are a wonderful writer, mother, wife, human being. I aspire to be as cool as you are, and so confident. Don't let anyone get you down for any reason. You are not in the wrong here. I hate when people tell me they are praying to save my soul from eternal damnation. It is arrogance that their belief is the only right belief and that their God is the only God. I got your back, girl.
    I think your FB friend may have a holier than thou attitude, but that's her problem, not yours. How you react is up to you. I've been teased because of my religion, but I don't think it's right to make fun of people's beliefs. I once made a mistake with a florist (ordered a corsage from them, then accidentally went to a nearby florist with a similiar name to pick it up). I went back to the original florist to explain my mistake, he was mad, I apologized and still had to pay for the corsage he'd made. He was still yelling and I realized there was no appeasing him, so I told him I'd pray for him. That was gasoline on the fire - then he really acted like a d*ck. I wanted to tell him where he could stick his corsage, but I didn't. My point is, how the phrase, "I'll pray for you" is taken depends on the situation. You didn't like it in this situation, you told her so, and that should be that.
    Right on, Val. As a vegetarian, I have that conversation with people all the time. And, yes, it's a drag. Keep on meditating!! And meditate for me, too, while you're at it. Thanks!
    Wow, Valorie I'm sorry that woman hurt your feelings. Many who know my faith know that I am a believer in Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, believers are asked to spread the Good News--not make people feel two inches tall. I know I will never stop sharing where my joy comes from but God has given us free will for a reason. Our life on earth and after is a result of this choice. I wish you and yours the best. I also hope that your children will be encouraged to research and make decisions for themselves regarding the faith they choose.
    Most Christian traditions have some form of practice that involves spreading the faith to others, often called "witnessing." Now, there's standing on a street corner yelling about Jesus with a bull horn -- and then there's witnessing by "preaching the Gospel without using words." That last one doesn't come easy to a lot of Christians. You don't have to be very creative to quote Bible verses, tell people they're going to hell without Jesus, and drop holy-sounding words into the conversation. What's much harder is to actually BE a Christian, to walk that Christ-like path, and do it in a quiet, prayerful, humble way such that no one realizes you're sharing the Word because you're LIVING it (and no one is offended). It's like that Tonglen meditation: you send out that healing energy and people are helped by it, lifted up, and they don't even have to know where it came from. I go to a Christian (United Methodist) church but I might be considered an agnostic because God is not a personage to me -- He is more of a mysterious Force that connects us to each other and to all life. Jesus is a historical teacher and healer to me; the Bible is a collection of ancient texts which offer insight to history, literature, poetry, anthropology, and theology of a time long ago -- guidelines which, while helpful in many ways, cannot be taken literally in today's society. I have no quarrels with atheists, agnostics and other non-Christians. Some of the most important spiritual truths I have learned from indigenous peoples' belief systems in North America, Haiti, Mexico, Australia and elsewhere. So, Valorie, please ignore your FB zealot. Let her pray all she wants. She cannot take away from the values you have created for your family. Her attempt to belittle you can be a teaching moment for your kids, even -- that some people are small-minded enough to think that theirs is the only way to view the world. How boring a place it would be if that were true.
    My advice: Just keep smiling. I've actually had an atheist tell me that "I believe in an 'invisible friend.' " Just. Keep. Smiling.
    I think you're getting spun up over really nothing. She is wishing good things for you. She isn't threatening you or preaching to you. Not saying you'll be damned. Just a positive "she is praying for you".

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