August, 21 2015
How Do I Tell My Conservative Parents I Hate Praying?

How do you stand up to your conservative parents when it comes to religion?

by Magdalene
Lifestyle
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Dear Madge,

I am a confused teenager with a chaotic mess of a mind. But I think I can spill this one question to you; How do I tell my conservative Catholic parents that I despise praying, let alone going to church, and that I'm... probably not as straight as they think I am?

It's killing me to hear them talk about how shameful (and sinful) LGBT people are, and how they are nothing more than a disease that either needs to be cured, or to be eliminated.

Thanks,

M
 
Dear M,


 
I know you must be going through a hard time with so much inner conflict in your life, but please know that it will get better. I have addressed the problem of presenting yourself as a nonbeliever in Indonesia in this edition of Ask Madge, but I think your case might be a bit trickier. It can be done, however.
 
So the question: how do you tell your conservative Catholic parents that you despise praying and going to church? It will depend on two things: firstly, the nature of your relationship with your parents and how you value the relationship; and, secondly, whether you are willing to face the consequences of revealing your non-religious self to them. The latter involves how much confrontation you are willing to have at this moment.
 
Now, I’m a bit older (than you at least), so my instinct is always to pick one’s battle wisely and to avoid unnecessary conflict. But I understand that it doesn’t give the best of feelings. Asking yourself those two questions, however, is an important step in determining what you want to do.
 
If your relationship with your parents is not so hot anyway, and if you think they’re mean to you (i.e. bullying you for who you are), then you may have no problems with opening up. You may be able to tell them that your faith is not as strong as theirs and that you would like to explore your own spiritual (or secular) path. Of course you don’t have to be a jerk when doing this. Best to tell them when you’re not fighting.
 
But be warned, if this will lead to some severe punishment with serious financial or social or physical or mental implications, then perhaps the best thing is not to start an open confrontation. You are still a teenager after all, and I’m quite sure you’re still dependent on your parents. Find excuses to get you relieved from church duty, even fake pray if you have to.
 
On the other hand, if you believe that your parents can be reasoned with, perhaps find a good time to speak to them frankly. Say, that you are questioning some things about religions and you want to learn a little bit more about life. You want to appreciate your religion and not taking it for granted, so you’re thinking of taking a distance from it. Quote this former pastor, who went for a year without God.
 
Depending on how conservative or easily rattled your parents are, they may accept it with some conditions, they may yell at you, or they may say you’re grounded for a year.
 
Again, what I want to stress here is that even though you’re a teenager, you should do things with the knowledge of the consequences of your action.  
 
Now, if I were you. I would bite the bullets until I’m old enough and financially independent. By then, not only that I will be more entitled to make my own choice in life, I will also have lived a few more years of life to really learn about myself and about life, and to know what is important to me.
 
Now about coming out to your parents, please read this, and, again, keep in mind that you are still a teenager and consider the consequences of coming out at this point.
 
A word of advice, however, if your parents start talking bad about LGBT, you can counter them by citing scientific researches on LGBT, and showing them the many faces of gay people around us, who have made great contributions in the world (Alan Turing for one).
 
If they talk about elimination of gay people, confront them with this: Didn’t Jesus teach us to love our neighbors? Would Jesus be spreading a theology of love while getting persecuted by the Roman authorities, if he were a homophobic, violence-loving dude?
 
Yes, you may be a teenager, but it doesn’t mean you can’t teach a thing or two about love and compassion to your parents. Best of luck!
 
~M
 
Got a burning question about something? Send it to [email protected] -- in English or Indonesian -- with the subject "Ask Madge" or tweet your question to @the_magdalene.