After posting the video of Aaron Gouveia responding to abortion protesters outside a clinic, I received an email from “Cindy.” She used to be one of those protesters but is now an atheist who hopes to eventually earn a Ph.D.
Here’s her powerful story:
My family is your quintessential evangelical, “Jesus Camp” family, except on steroids. I have at least four pastors in my not-so-distant extended family that I can think of off the top of my head, probably more outside. My uncle works for the Christian Broadcasting Network (the crackpot media arm of Pat Robertson). Youth camps, children services, and church services intertwine absolute obedience to their interpretation of the Bible and submitting to god’s will through prayer and speaking in tongues.
Other than my mom, none of the women in my extended family have full-time jobs. They bear children and build a “godly household.” I am expected to graduate college (if I want to), get married, take my husband’s last name, and make a glorious family while he is the primary, if not sole, breadwinner for the household. Needless to say, this is not the course I want to take with my life.
The video of the abortion protesters really strikes home with me for a haunting reason: I used to be on the other side, holding the signs and yelling at people for “killing babies.” The real kicker? I was 11; my sister was 8.
My grandmother is a seriously devout born-again evangelical Christian. As an example to how hilariously crazy she is, I received a poster for my 18th birthday (obviously taken from some church closet) with, I quote, “20 Reasons to Not Have Sex” (1. sex is bad!) 10 reasons were medical and 10 were derived from the Bible. One of the sections of the poster gave tips on “how to stay vertical with my partner and not be tempted to go horizontal.”
Anyways, we were visiting my grandparents when I was 11 or 12. One afternoon, my sister, my grandma and I piled into her car. She stuffed some things in the trunk. We drove for a few minutes and parked on a side street off a major road in her suburban Virginian town. She walked to the back of the car, passed my sister and I poster board, and we scampered off behind her. Around the block was a brick building with a spacious parking lot. There were other people standing outside. Many were holding posters and yelling at anyone that entered the building. There was a playground nearby; I wanted to play but we had more important business to attend to.
For what seemed like an eternity, my sister and I sat on the grass, holding sky blue posters decorated with pictures of dying fetuses, bloody head incisions, and formless bodies to persuade the people walking inside that they were going into a place of sin and ill-repute. I asked my grandmother why we were out here. Her response was straightforward and, at the time, seemed legitimate: “We are helping to stop people from killing innocent babies.” No wonder so many people were honking their horns, screaming at us, and flipping us an unsavory middle finger. My only thought was that I didn’t understand why people would want to kill innocent little children whom I thought were already alive. Oh, how I wish I would have known better. I thought the people didn’t like my sister and I.
If there were some way to rationalize their actions, I would. I am embarrassed that I am related to someone that would abuse the innocence of children and subject them to something that is completely out of their range of comprehension. I am embarrassed that my parents didn’t do something in response to the mental hazing. I can’t though. I cannot firmly accept that I was placed in a position where I had no choice but to comply. I feel, even to this day, violated to my core.
I can only hope that more people would realize that these protesters are so self-righteous that they can see no error in their ways. Being related to them has only deepened my hatred of those so beligerent and misguided to think that screaming and scare tactics will persuade people to believe in their narrow-minded ideology. There is no alternative for them. There is either right or Hell. Their indoctrination, their proselytizing, and their ignorance is a fate I wish on no child. There is no escape from it and I can still feel the ramifications of the brainwashing even in my life now. I try to be a friendly atheist, but these people… They crawl under my skin and gnaw at my bones to the point where I can’t stand it. That man in the video has a significantly more level head than I could ever imagine to have with these people. I give him major props for keeping his cool.
At some point, I will come out to my extended family about my lack of belief. But, until I can somehow reconcile my mistreatment, I might as well keep it secret. No need to expose myself to their berating when they themselves are unaware of what pain they cause.
I think it all goes back to a key question: Is there any good way to have a dialogue with those protesters? Knowing that they’ll most likely not change their minds and that they consider anyone who has an abortion on par with murderers… is it possible to get through to them?