My name’s Chris. I’m here to tell a story about a man named Bill, my stepfather. Hopefully, when I’m done, someone can post a little advice or insight?
Before I start with that, I want to give a little information about the situation I’m in, posting all this here on the internet. I don’t know where else to turn. Isn’t that usually the way people find their way onto the internet? I hopped on Google to find a good Christian forum, but most of them are littered with advertisements. What’s with that? How come people can get advice about medicine, video games, or taxes, and that’s all free, but Christian fellowship involves spam and spyware and big, messy advertisements? Anyway, I’m specifically looking for points of view that are communicated from within a Christian standard. Most people I know simply write Bill off, and I’d be surprised if many of you didn’t take the same approach, but I genuinely believe that only an argument (or set of explanations) that exist WITHIN the Christain teachings will ever reach Bill.
And I say that because the man is – outwardly – the “biggest” Christain around. Here’s his story:
Bill was very much a lost soul – alcohol, debauchery, violence. He’s a grown man. He was about 50 when he met my mother (divorced). Honestly though, he shaped up very quickly. He was a very good man. I was in my mid-teens when they met and married, and I liked him a lot.
But this story takes an odd turn. Bill got hurt on his job about 3 years ago. He’s been on disability since then (pain when walking / standing, nothing serious, but he’s going on 60 so he’s just in early retirement). He’s been sitting around the house for the better part of those 3 years. And in that time, he found religion.
He started reading the Bible and taking the initiative to go to church (we’re Lutheran – very laid back, very much into exciting praise and worship). And that was good. Our family was pretty casual (mother, brother, myself) and we’d go most sundays – though we moved shortly after the re-marraiage and our interest in our new church only lasted about a year. Each one of us had our own issues with the different churches we tried afterward. Long story short, we stopped going to church a little after Bill started getting very much into it. Before you say anything – even when we tried to attend church with Bill, that didn’t help. But continuing on …
Maybe two years ago, Bill finished the Bible and started looking for supplemental books to read while starting the Bible again. It seemed good. He was noticably different. He used the word “love” about ten times a day. “Don’t you know I love you guys?” I’d hear him say. It was a little strange since he was my stepfather and we’d only known each other for maybe 4 years. But … ok.
I think my story is getting a bit long. I wanted to paint the situation as one having risen from good intentions. Bill’s behavior changed very rapidly after he started reading supplemental materials. He prayed a lot, and he started watching a lot of Christian television – daytime prayer/gospel and evening …baaaaaaaaaaaaah I forgot the name of the guy, but everything he said was very Republican, very pro-war-in-Iraq, and very “end is nigh” – and this pushed Bill down a very dark road.
One quick side note – I’ve found that people of any religion that believe the world is ending within their lifetimes all have the same exact flaw – an incredibly, unbelievably, GIANT lack of tolerance for everyone else. They believe that only they know the world is ending and that everyone is a fool for not heeding their advice. Resuming…
He was unable to tolerate anything. He had a scripture picked out and he’d misquote it but he’d be making the point that situation_01 was “not right with God.” He judged everyone. He cut out all television, movies, music, and communication with other people unless he knew for sure they were “Christian.” His alcoholic consumption started spiking around dinner time, and he would pick fights about how he was the only person who was right, how everyone else was going to Hell, and how the end of the world was so certainly coming soon. It’s a scary place, my parent’s house. All of this and more has been going on for the last two years, and all of it done with his disclaimer, “I do what I do out of love and through God.”
I once stopped him from hitting my mother. I many times corrected his point of view. I proved certain elements of his rants incorrect or unreliable. I made the plain and simple point that he could not, as he claims, have the love of God in himself if every evening was spent screaming at his wife and step-children, nit-picking the lives of everyone around him, and feeling perfectly fine in judging everyone and everything.
The most angry I’ve made him was when he made up some irrational rule for the “household” and wouldn’t give any reasoning behind it – it was something like “don’t let your friends call your cell phone after 9pm.” All cell phones in our house are on vibrate all the time. I asked why that rule was. I was calm until I couldn’t be calm anymore, and when he looked like he was about to hit me (I’m 6′, I was 22 at the time, and he would have probably broken his hand on me), I said, “A kind word turns away wrath – proverbs 16:9 – what about that?” And he stormed off. I probably have the number wrong. But I was raised a Christain, and no matter what I am now, I definitely know this man is not acting in a way that Jesus would enjoy. That’s basically how I sum up “proper” and “improper” behavior in terms of Christianity. It’s a popular idea.
So … any attempts to reason with Bill are always met with “stop spinning the devil’s lies at me” and any chance at normal, polite conversation about the weather or about what’s for dinner will end up with Bill putting everyone down based on his newfound “closeness” with God.
My mother is a tired, beaten (not literally) woman, and will generally side with Bill because she just wants a peaceful household. My brother moved out recently and I’ve been in college for the last 7 years (I’m not a flunk-out, I’m going to be a lawyer). It was when I spent some time at home that I realized how bad Bill became.
So whatever advice there is to give for our house must come with a Christian-based diplomacy. We are pretty desperate. I, for one, met a girl that I’ve loved very much these last few years and plan to marry in another few – yet I have not told my parents because I know their input will be horrible. I don’t want the embarrasment. Any choice made by anyone is something that Bill has to deride, and so it’s only by cutting him out of our lives that my extended family (including my brother, though) have been able to get through holidays and whatnot.
But obviously this can’t go on. If I’m getting married in 3 years and want a nice wedding, I think I’ll start now on making the peace. Besides, what if the world really is ending?! Joking, joking …
Oh, one last thing. Bill quit going to church because he says the Devil has taken over the churches. He refuses to talk to any clergy of any denomination or any other religion.