Failing as a Parent

I never really got “the talk” from my parents. But there was one particular conversation I had with my father from when I was about 15 that stands out in my mind. Dad talked abit about growing up in a different era and how sex and dating were different now. He talked, briefly, about homosexuality.

In hindsight, I realize that dad was dropping hints that if I wanted to come out of the closet, that he was fine with that. Which is, on one hand, wonderful. On the other hand it tells you what my social life was like. Regardless, it’s the kind of thing I expect from my parents, who are both very broad minded.

Growing up with that, it’s probably not surprising that I can’t wrap my brain around this:

This came from RegBarc on reddit and was picked up on by Gawker. The letter is from RegBarc‘s father shortly after Reg came out of the closet.

The text:

“James: This is a difficult but necessary letter to write. I hope your telephone call was not to receive my blessing for the degrading of your lifestyle. I have fond memories of our times together, but that is all in the past. Don’t expect any further conversations With me. No communications at all. I will not come to visit, nor do I want you in my house. You’ve made your choice though Wrong it may be. God did not intend for this unnatural lifestyle. If you choose not to attend my funeral, my friends and family will understand. Have a good birthday and good life. No present exchanges will be accepted. Goodbye, Dad.”

Why? There are 800 some odd commandments, rules and codes in the Old Testament, the vast majority of which we ignore. In the New Testament, all of the missional verses (“Let the dead bury their dead … take up your cross”), the poverty verses (“give everything you own to charity”), the celibacy (“it is good for a man not to touch a woman”) are all apparently optional. Yet a couple of verses in passing from Paul is enough to destroy a family. Why?

Natural law? Is some warmed-over Aristotelianism really cause to separate from your son? American Catholics are frequently willing to be flexible on issue like war, the death penalty and certain kinds of fertility treatments. The seamless garment has some loose threads. But not this one. Why?

The only answer I can come up with comes from RegBarc himself, “It’s important to know just what this zealotry from Bryan Fisher, Maggie Gallagher, Dan Cathy, et al., does to everyday people. ”

This has become such a culture war issue that it has now gone beyond all sanity. It’s not just family anymore. It’s a battle between Christianity and the forces of darkness, and some sacrifices have to be made. But how in the hell has it come to this?

Purity in Mississippi
All Cycles Come to an End
You Can’t Keep a Bad Man Down
Where the Fire Comes From
  • picklefactory

    It hasn’t come to this — it’s always been like this. It’s just that now we’ve decided we’re going to shove it out into the open and call a bigot a bigot, and authoritarians always get their jimmies rustled when you tell them their authority is a vicious nullity.

  • RJ

    Certainly I think there’s some truth to the theory of certain people opposing homosexuality outwardly to hide and/or fight their own inner same-sex desires.

    But I think the bulk of homophobia stems from fear of sex and one’s own sexuality in general. Over the centuries religion has managed to indoctrinate people into seeing any kind of sex outside of marriage—and even then for procreative purposes only—as dirty, shameful, sinful, and so on. And so if they see “normal” sex that way, “abnormal” sex (i.e. homosexuality) would come off even worse. Ever notice how hetero people who are comfortable with sex and their own sexuality tend to have more of a to-each-his-own attitude towards what others are into sexually? So I think it stands to reason that those who are uptight and repressed sexually will see any kind of sex as filthy and vile (including their own desires) and the more strange the sex, the filthier and more vile it is to them.

    But why does it matter to these uptight types so much what others do in private? Maybe it’s just plain, simple resentment. They can’t enjoy sex (or even thinking about it) without being overcome with shame and guilt and so they act out in frustration toward those who can freely and openly enjoy themselves without remorse. It’s the old “If I can’t enjoy something, I don’t want you to either” syndrome. Make sense?

  • Sunny Day

    You disgust me, you are unnatural, don’t talk to me, and I’m going to ignore you, but Have a Good Life and Happy Birthday? What the fuck is wrong with this person?!

    Oh yeah its religion.
    At least he didn’t end it with a “God Bless” or an “I’ll Pray For You”

    • The Other Weirdo

      It’s a person caught between two powerful emotions. Hatred of homosexual(s/ity) and love for one’s own son. It’s not as unique as we might like to think. I don’t date all that much(or, more precisely, at all) but even I have come across women who’ve told me that I would third in importance in their lives, after their children(which I accepted) who were likewise only second in importance to God(which I didn’t). It’s one thing to compete with a woman’s children for her attention, how do you compete with a God, even an imaginary one?

  • Elemenope

    Over on Friendly Atheist, I wrote this comment:

    “The true, miserable tragedy of being a social conservative is that the war you fight is inevitably a war fought against your own children. Who, almost always, win, simply by outliving you, and have then to shoulder the unfair burden of embarrassment of having had parents who were on the wrong side of moral history.”

    Of course, this is the flip side of that same coin. When you wage war against your own children, while they will eventually win, there will still be casualties amongst them. That is a simple testament to the cruelty of placing beliefs over people, of placing religion over love. It takes a really sick, morally-bankrupt person to do what this guy did to his child, and for what? He’s still going to lose in the end, now only he loses the battle and his child.

  • Ken

    I guess we can just drive a stake through all the “God id love” horseshit now. Obviously God balances our entire life history against the few moments we engage in consenting sexual pleasure. Bad news for all those fundies that think they can EVER grovel low enough to get into heaven, unless, of course, they never ENJOY it when having sex. Remember, God loves you, EXCEPT …

  • Ken

    “God is love.” Sorry

  • Schaden Freud

    I come from Danish stock, and in many ways that was an advantage for me growing up. Dad has a very pragmatic Scandinavian approach to sexuality. We never talked about what I got up to – it was my business and he didn’t want to know, and he knew I was bright enough to avoid any problematic consequences. So this is very hard for me to understand too. The concept of putting your god before your son is one that just does not compute for me. I can imagine situations where disowning your child might happen, but I can’t imagine disowning your child because they’re gay.

  • kessy_athena

    Picklefactory is right, christinaity has always been this way. You hear stories about crowds of ordinary people attacking Christians back in the Roman Empire. They didn’t do that because the Christians were communing with nature and chatting with birds and wild animals. Christians have *always* been horrible neighbors.

  • James F. McGrath

    I would say that there are a lot of Christians who are gung-ho about fighting the forces of darkness, but never stop to reflect about the possibility that they themselves have become the forces of darkness.

  • Kodie

    My mother threatened to disown me when I got pregnant.

    • JK

      OMFSM Kodie. Just one sentence from you? Are you alright? ^^

      Why did she threaten to do that? It’s none of my business of course but usually you do go in further detail with your posts.

      • Kodie

        Like, 16 years ago. Because no daughter of hers was going to have a bastard. So I didn’t.

        • JK

          Thank you Kodie for your openness.

          I guess it must have been a hard time for you – feeling the pressure your mom put on you and being in that situation at all (assuming you were quite young then).

          All the best

  • Artor

    When my sister was raped by a fellow cadet at the Air Force Academy, the base security interrogated her about her sexual history, and it came out that she was bisexual. They threatened to tell her parents if she didn’t drop the charges against “the promising young cadet,” (what, my sister didn’t have a promising career, so it’s okay to rape her?) so my sister called home & spilled the beans so they didn’t have any leverage over her. In the midst of this crisis, my dad disowned her, and refused to talk to her through the ordeal, and a while afterwards. He eventually got over it and has accepted her back, but I was never so ashamed of my dad as at that moment.

    • JohnMWhite

      Yikes, no wonder you were ashamed. That is horrendous. If there ever were a moment to be there for your child, it would have to be when they are being betrayed on all sides, and their own trauma is being used as a weapon against them. To pile it on by disowning them over something as simple as their sexual orientation sounds monstrous.

  • JK

    Lots of religious ppl use their respective “god” as an excuse for their own feelings – “it’s not me that hates you, but the bible (or whatever religious book appeals to you most) says you must not do that/be like that therefore I now must despise and hate you”.
    Really embarrassing that they don’t see it’s just the way they feel.
    Oh and what about “love your enemies”? But you can’t life with your offspring being the way they are?

  • Mark

    I heard a story about a “God fearing” guy once who put his God before his son. Name of Abe or Abrahmin or … something like that… oh yeah ABRAHAM! And he’s viewed as a terrifically righteous man. Assuming the letter is not some kind of hoax (because for crying out loud can the Dad really be that much of as ass?) there’s lots and lots of folks out there who would say he’s not only right but suffering righteously (by giving up his son at least emotionally) for all the(ir) right reasons. What the son might experience is really not anything that registers on their radar.

  • JohnMWhite

    Not quite at the same level of this letter, but my mother once threatened to disown me over marijuana. I’ve never smoked the stuff, and probably couldn’t because I have the lung capacity of a three year old, and I’ve never really been interested in recreational drugs even if I think law enforcement is wasting enormous amounts of money and ruining lives in their over-zealous war against it. That’s a whole other issue though – I was told by my doctor that I should consider getting marijuana for medical purposes. Specifically for managing pain, with the bonus being that the usual side effect of the munchies would be good for somebody like me who was severely underweight. I told my parents, who had never batted an eye at the multiple narcotic pain-killers I was on and enjoyed a glass of wine with dinner on a frequent basis, and while my father was concerned over the rumoured mental health consequences associated with pot, my mum simply freaked out and told me if I ever brought a shred of marijuana into her house she would throw me out on the street and never see me again.

    In my condition, I probably would have died overnight, so I simply walked away and didn’t bring it up again. During the course of her diatribe she sort of explained her reasons – the Catholic Church saw drug use as a cardinal sin, at least according to her, and the fact that I reiterated I was not a Catholic anymore didn’t seem to help. Neither did pointing out the severe pain she had watched me go through for ten years. Oh well. The odd thing is, my parents thought I was gay for a time in my adolescence, I guess because I did not demonstrate the same sort of interest in women that my brothers had from an earlier age. Watching too much pro-wrestling may not have helped. They tried to nudge me toward showing some kind of sexual desire, by offering to buy magazines or calendars full of scantily clad women, but I wasn’t interested. Star Wars was still cool. They also hinted that they would accept the way they thought I was, if push came to shove, and I think they would, even as they voted for political candidates who specifically would have tried to stop me from living my life like anybody else if I were actually gay. It’s a strange dance between love of family and fear of god that goes on in the head of the religious parent.

    The bitter irony of it all, though, is that I wouldn’t have been in so much pain and needed the pot if they had been willing to teach me at home or send me to a non-Catholic school, because the reason for the pain was a series of injuries picked up in that vile place run by apathetic zombies who saw violence among the students as a correctional tool. But not sending me to a Catholic school would not have been in keeping with their faith…

  • Gringa

    I just saw this – someone wrote a version of this letter, but revised it for what it should have set. It’s beautiful: