• Trusting the Devil

    It’s a pretty typical night in my home. My kids are having a play date with a couple of their friends. Happy shrieks are erupting from their room. Their dad is perched on a bar stool at the kitchen counter, chatting with my husband and I while dinner bakes in the oven.

    I hear the baby crying and step out only for a moment to nurse him, but when I come back, I quickly surmise I missed something. The kids are wandering back into their room to play, but are having a heated discussion, words ricocheting back and forth. The look on my husband’s face is something like shock and amusement while my friend sits stunned and perturbed.

    Steve is shaking his head. He takes a deep breath, trying to compose himself.

    “My 5-year-old just told your kids that I trust the devil. She said mom told her that.”

    The truth is, we know exactly why Steve’s daughter would be told this. She is continually being conditioned to believe that her father is evil, confused, misguided. That he rests in the very clutches of Satan himself.

    Why? Because Steve is gay.

    From the moment my husband and I met Steve, approximately 12 years ago, he was an open book. We all became fast friends as active members in the same youth group and it wasn’t long before Steve opened up about his struggle with attraction to men. At the time, we all believed that homosexuality was a very serious sin. In our minds, you weren’t born that way. It was merely a temptation some struggled with more than others, the same way some people were prone to alcoholism. It could be overcome, we thought.

    Several years later we would stand witness to Steve’s marriage ceremony to his wife, happy that he triumphed over his most consuming temptation. We visited in the hospital when they had their two beautiful little girls, attended birthday parties, and generally stood by as observers of their life together. 

    However, we also observed Steve wrestle with the unrelenting depression that came from repressing his true self. Religion held him captive. His church taught that people like him were inherently sinful and should be shamed until they repented and changed their ways. They taught that even thinking about same-sex relations was as reprehensible as the act itself. It was an endless cycle of guilt, contrition and repression.

    Finally, after seven years of marriage, Steve was honest with himself and admitted out loud that he is in fact, a gay man and that is perfectly okay. While none of us expected this would be glad news to his wife (who was aware of his attraction to men before their wedding day), what we did not expect was the way their children would come under such strict reconditioning.

    After his 3-year-old daughter brought home a drawing from school one day, he and his wife asked who the man was in the top corner.

    “Dad,” Steve heard her say.

    “Awww,” both parents gushed before his wife remarked, “God!”

    “What? She clearly said Dad,” Steve stated.

    They quizzed the girl again, asking, “Did you say Dad or God?”

    “Dad or God,” the girl smiled up at them.

    “Who is that?” Steve pointed to the figure again.

    “Dad!” The girl beamed at him.

    “Way to pervert her mind,” his wife scoffed.

    Given the aforementioned stories, I was not surprised to learn that his wife does not want their children around mine. Through the grapevine, she heard that my children, “don’t believe in God.” This was concluded to be “sad.”

    Here is the real difference, though: I don’t hide different belief systems from my children. In fact, I encourage them to explore their spirituality, to pursue truth and happiness, wherever they may find it. My children attend Lutheran church with my mother and step dad, Catholic mass and Quaker meetings with me, they’ve attended the Hindu festival of Ganesh, they often meditate before bed and give thanks before eating meals.

    I don’t hide religion from my children. I also don’t hide my own atheism from them. When they ask what I believe, I tell them honestly. I also tell them that they are the only ones who get to decide what they believe, and that it may change as they get older. I don’t consider my kids atheists any more than I consider them Muslim or Buddhist or Mormon. In the words of Richard Dawkins, “Would you ever speak of a 4-year-old’s political beliefs? Hannah is a socialist four-year-old, Mark a conservative. Who would ever dream of saying such a thing?”

    The cult-like indoctrination among fundamentalists extends especially to their most innocent, unsuspecting children. I suppose it could be forgivable under the pretense that they are only teaching what they honestly believe is right and true. Except how do you turn a child against a loving, doting, active father figure? Where is the morality in that?

    As parents, we can choose to indoctrinate, mold and convince our children to believe just like we do, or we can live our beliefs honestly and openly, and allow our children freedom of thought. Maybe that’s just “trusting the devil.” Ask yourself, what’s more dangerous?

      • Kathleen

      • February 26, 2016 at 5:26 am
      • Reply

      BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO! I avoided religion like the plague with my children. The strict judgmental christian faith in which I was raised completely turned me off Christianity. I baptized my son and daughter catholic to honor my Great Grandmother who gave me a true sense of quiet reflection with something greater than myself. I gave no consideration to teaching my children about religion until my fourteen year old son announced he was *agnostic* and the 5 year old was having a fit that “He needed to be baptized and make his first communion.” I explained to the 14 year old that he did not have enough information to make that decision and the five year old I set on his chosen path to his spirituality. That being said like you Theresa we are going to explore ALL religions…all faiths. There is no toleration in my home for exclusion or judgement of others based on difference. I have handled explaining *gay* to my younger child that the parts of us that LOVE do not have gender. Our hearts our souls are neither male or female…they are human. It is okay to love who we chose to love. Something I have learned along the way is that we cannot sway irrational, unreasonable people. Therefore rest assured in the way you are raising your children and offer up good intent and hopefulness that this vile women will have an epiphany and change her ways. GREAT COLUMN!!

      • Lilly Lidine

      • February 26, 2016 at 6:55 am
      • Reply

      I enjoyed your column too. I have to be honest, it’s times like this I think, “I’m glad I have never had children”. I know that’s sad.
      People teach their children judgmental garbage. Those children later become judgmental adults.
      Same people wonder why their adult children have problems in the world with life in general.

      Then there’s another shooting yesterday of a ‘ nice young man, he was so quiet’ that gunned down coworkers & a bunch of other innocent people. But it’s the guns fault.

      I know that was a big jump in subjects.

      • Lilly Lidine

      • February 26, 2016 at 6:58 am
      • Reply

      For some reason the word sarc meaning sarcastic is not appearing after the comment ‘But it’s the guns fault. ‘


      • Maya Spier Stiles North

      • February 28, 2016 at 10:10 pm
      • Reply

      I have no problem with faith but I have come to despise religion. It’s been a tool of anything from hurting us individually to ravaging nations. I respected my children’s right to their own decisions. I told them what I believed, encouraged them to explore for themselves and that included atheism if that was their bent. You’re doing a fine job and Steve’s ex will discover to her sadness that her children will outgrow this bigotry and realize their dad is a fine man and SHE will lose them.

      • Steve

      • February 29, 2016 at 5:53 pm
      • Reply

      Steve here! Thank everyone for the comments! This is a crappy situation but I look forward to the day when my kids see me for who I am and realize love is love and all people deserve it and there shouldn’t be limitations from a religion!

        • Lilly Lidine

        • March 1, 2016 at 9:56 am
        • Reply

        Your kids will see your example of unconditional love & learn from it. Eventually the tables will turn. They will not want to be near their controlling Mom.

    Leave a Comment