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So...Coming out of the Buddhist Closet.

Aspiring_BuddhistAspiring_Buddhist Seeker of the Buddha WithinWA Veteran

Hey all,

So I am wondering how to tell my father that I have embraced Buddhism. He believes himself to be Christian (I use "Christian" in the loosest sense of the word) and I think he would have a problem with my acceptance of Buddhism.

Understand - I love my dad. I respect him a great deal and am grateful for the lessons he has tried to teach me over the years about....well anything he thought I should know/understand. While he wasn't always there (parents divorced when I was 13, he moved to California for a couple of years, then came back to WA) he'd always try to keep in touch via phone or internet.

As I mentioned my dad considers himself to be a Christian. I say that because he doesn't attend Church, didn't encourage me to go to Church or accept Jesus as my savior. My family only ever said Grace at a table three times a year - Thanksgiving Dinner, Christmas Dinner, and Easter Dinner.

A few years ago, when I asked him why my (then) non-belief bothered him, (after all - not like he went out of his way) he said he'd figured I would "make the right choices."

I was fairly tempted to make a comment along the lines of "You left that up to the Lord - look how that turned out" but resisted. I just don't know why he thought that would work - he was 30 when I was born (I'm 27) and I know that if you don't lay down a proper foundation for anything, odds are, it won't go the way you want it to.

So - he still doesn't go to Church, his preferred "messenger" of God happens to be Kenneth Copeland - dad had a bunch of the man's sermons,opinions, speeches, etc. on cassette tapes (remember those?) from maybe around the time I was born.

I guess Mr. Copeland encouraged people to read the Bible themselves, and that is, for the most part what my dad does - not religiously mind you, I guess whenever the mood strikes him.

He's remarried to a very sweet Mormon woman who I do consider to be a member of my family (I currently live with my mother and brother, and I met her (his current wife) when I was 15 so I don't think I consider her to be "another mom" - but definitely and warm, sweet, and loving human being) and she feels he should do more - whether that means attending Church services with her at the local Mormon temple (they live right down the street from one) or going to any Church service, I don't know. I hear most of this as a passing "Sigh" moment but I don't pursue it, less I get roped into the discussion.

Discussing Christianity is something of a rather "passionate" issue between he and I. While I do think Jesus, for the most part, has a good moral philosophy, I tend to weigh a religion's value based on two things: What I think of how their members are behaving, individually or collectively, in any given situation and how these members behave individually or collectively according to their own principals.

I feel Christianity is falling short of the bar, unfortunately.

Now my dad does many Non-Christian things. He does many Non-Buddhist things too - but then hes not claiming to be a Buddhist. He is claiming to be a Christian however.

I don't know what the extent of his faith is, but I know hes not exactly what you'd call "living a Christian lifestyle." But again, its his perception that he IS a Christian, and he has a very "Christian" attitude about other religions, mostly by virtue of not knowing much about them, and, of course the whole "Through me is the only way to know the Lord" spiel.

I've been an atheist until a few months ago when I stumbled into Buddhism (Thank you Alan Watts) so I am unsure of how he is to react; I don't think I've ever heard him say anything directly about Buddhism.

Dad's internet homepage is Foxnews.com, and its been "The Drudge Report" in the past. He STILL hates Jimmy Carter, (not kidding) and naturally, Democrats are out to destroy American, not the TEA Party people who show up at the nation's capital with signs that say "We came unarmed - this time!."

Sigh* I think I should tell him. After typing all this...I don't know. I think telling him is the right thing to do, but I don't feel that it is the right thing to do.

Does anyone have any advice?

Thanks for your time.

-AB

Comments

  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    I am assuming you are not living at home; if you are that complicates the problem or you have to change your environment.

    You're an adult and you should not live in the shadow of a parent. Tell him, outright, and if he doesn't like it, tough shit. It's his problem.

    And I'm not joking. I lived under the rule (as in raised by) of a grandparent that wanted to run my life, and I wasn't happy until that rule ended. So end it.

    Aspiring_Buddhist
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited April 2014

    Even if you have to be a Buddhist, do you have to tell anyone? I would suggest this is about identity and attachment to what you are trying to let go of ultimately anyways . . .

    _Mr Cushion has just informed me he has converted to 'Consumer Christianity'. The power of Buddha un-compels you! _

    Aspiring_Buddhistkarasti
  • ToraldrisToraldris   -`-,-{@     Zen Nud... Buddhist     @}-,-`-   East Coast, USA Veteran

    If he wants you to make the right choices, but hasn't pushed you to choose Christianity, then maybe explaining to him why you chose Buddhism and how you find it a helpful path will be acceptable to him. He's your father, he's going to love you whether you believe Jesus was divine or not. Right now all he knows is that you're lacking a religion, right? So adding a religion that's about wisdom and compassion, and isn't known for being "bad" in any sense, should be a positive note.

    Aspiring_Buddhist
  • jaynejayne Explorer

    I am a buddhist and an atheist. I grew up in a very fundamentalist christian family. I have never told them outright what I do or don't believe as all it would do is result in a whole lot of preaching and lecturing. I am respectful when I am there, which is not often these days. I guess I would think over why you feel the need to tell him and what the consequences of that might be. There is no need for you to explain your beliefs to him, for me I think living what I believe is more valuable than talking about what I believe - it's a nice change from the 'Christian testimony' I was bought up to believe should be shared at every opportunity. I guess I'm saying you have options, trust your gut.

    Aspiring_BuddhistlobsterKundo
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Words of explanation mean little, unless you accompany them with a life lived that way.
    Don't TELL him - SHOW him.
    Honour your chosen calling by being 100% true to it, 100% of the time.

    "Coming out of the closet" is a phrase indelibly and irreversibly associated with someone homosexual admitting to the general world at large that they are of a same-sex persuasion.
    It can under certain circumstances, take courage, and in some countries, can be a death sentence.
    Two things:
    1: A homosexual isn't 'sometimes a homosexual' when they think about it. They're 100% homosexual, 100% of the time.

    2: Hopefully, you coming out of this closet won't mean you're looking at a terminal result or one that will entail persecution and suffering.

    Consider the term you have used.
    And don't take it lightly. Accord it the respect it deserves.

    Aspiring_BuddhistlobsterkarastiKundo
  • Aspiring_BuddhistAspiring_Buddhist Seeker of the Buddha Within WA Veteran

    @federica said:

    Consider the term you have used.
    And don't take it lightly. Accord it the respect it deserves.

    My apologies if I offended anyone, I didn't intend to.

  • My apologies if I offended anyone, I didn't intend to.

    Indeed.
    @federica‌ rightly drew your attention to the power of words. If it is any interest to you I was recently asked outright if I was a Buddhist. As I am not a Buddhist in the sense of their understanding it WAS right speech to say,
    'Noo o o !' as if this was a terrible accusation . . .

    Skilful kindness can mean also being is far more important than 'name calling'

    _Let's start at the very beginning
    A very good place to start
    When you read you begin with A-B-C
    When you Chant you begin with do-re-mi

    Do-re-mi, do-re-mi
    The first three notes just happen to be
    Do-re-mi, do-re-mi

    Do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti
    Let's see if I can make it easy

    Duh!, a deer, a female deer

    Ray, a drop of golden sun

    Me, a name I call myself

    Far, a long, long way to walk

    So? a needle pulling thread

    La, a node that follows Ma

    Tea, a drink with zen and peace

    That will bring us back to Duh! (oh-oh-oh)_

    . . . with apologies to Maria

    Aspiring_BuddhistKundo
  • This is an issue of boundaries.
    Spirituality should be a private thing, not a stick to beat people with. Like personal hygiene. You wouldn't fight with your parent about which shampoo you use, would you? So don't look for confrontation. It's only a big deal if you choose to make it into one.

    Aspiring_BuddhistlobsterBeej
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Aspiring_Buddhist said:
    My apologies if I offended anyone, I didn't intend to.

    I'm not suggesting you were being offensive.
    I was suggesting if you feel so strongly that announcing your leaning towards Buddhism is that important, that you accord it the dedication and commitment it deserves.

    Put your money where your mouth is.

    Aspiring_BuddhistkarastiZero
  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran
    edited April 2014

    Why should you care so much how your father reacts? You don't need to publish you have decided to become a Buddhist but you don't need to hide it either. If the subject comes up, you simply say up front what you feel like.
    My mother is a staunch Catholic (my Dad was too) and though I studied in a Catholic School, I felt the Buddhist stirring since early age. Nobody ever put me under the pressure to "drag me back to the right path."
    And I seldom engage in religious discussions with anyone because it's a blind alley. They are entitled to believe what the want and so do I.
    You don't have to prove yourself to anyone.

    Aspiring_BuddhistKundo
  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran

    I agree with all of the above. Just be yourself.

    My outlaws saw my singing bowl and meditation mat the other day tucked away quietly in a corner, and had a quiet word in my wife's ear after seeing the great big purple OM embroidered on it Hmmm it made them mutter under their breath, so it obviously sank deep into their psyche. They think I have anger issues (well in their case I have had in the past), and reluctantly admitted to my wife that 'it was probably a good way of me dealing with it, but have a long way to go!' lol. Mum outlaw is Scottish presbeteryian by upbringing, and her brother was one of the most highly respected lay preachers on his island, and there was always a lot of hell and brimstone coming from the pulpit, when I was forced to go on my highland visitations. My wife and I still get the odd ear-bashing from them, about the way we live and bring up our children, but thats what happens when your view hardens in old age.

    At least your dad is probably not going to set out to have you crucified, or is he? lol

    Aspiring_BuddhistBuddhadragon
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I'm always curious on the desire to "come out of" many different closets. Why do you feel the need to sit down and actually tell him? What will he get out of it? What will you? It's ok to keep some things in your life more private, especially if you are unsure of the understanding of your loved ones. I read somewhere that wisdom teachings are not the type of thing you just go out there and share willy-nilly. If you go to someone who doesn't know anything about Buddhism or isn't open minded to other faiths, and you say "I am a Buddhist" they may use their misunderstanding of the teachings to wrongly teach others (intentionally teaching, or not). I sometimes share things I've read on FB or with people I think might get use out of it, but it's not something I feel the need to school everyone on.

    My immediate family (my mom, dad, sister) know I read a lot of Buddhist stuff and they know I go on retreats and that I meditate, but I've never actually told them I'm a Buddhist. I haven't told them I took refuge vows. Because I know going into that kind of detail is going to lead to questions that at this time, I cannot do justice to in answering. It just leads to misunderstanding on their part because of my failure to properly explain things in a way they can understand from where they are on their own path.

    Before you decide to sit down with him, and anyone else, think about why you feel the need to do it, and how you are going to answer the inevitable comparison questions that will arise.

    But I've always been a very private person. Not out of fear or hiding, but just out of my sense that some things (for me) are sacred and they are not meant to just throw out there to people who might misconstrue them and spread misunderstanding out of their own fear. If the person is not open-minded, they are likely not to see it as a wonderful thing you found your path, but rather see it as you rejecting their path, which opens up a lot of negative feelings in a lot of people.

    Aspiring_BuddhistKundo
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    To me the key to what @Aspiring_Buddhist should do rests on something I may have misinterpreted in the original post. It seemed to me that he was saying that topics related to religion come up in conversation with his father with some frequency. If they do, to hide his Buddhism and pretend to be something he is not would be, IMHO, tantamount to lying. Major Precept.

    If religion is not a topic of discussion between father and son, then, that's fine. No need to bring it up, although I still don't see the value of hiding such a major aspect of yourself from your immediate family.

    If the f/s relationship is as it appears to be to me, then it's going to come up sooner or later, better to get it out of the way and get on with living and adjusting.

    BuddhadragonAspiring_BuddhistKundo
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I agree that lying or withholding information when things come up isn't the way to go. But when someone asks "What do you think of this?" I can answer from my point of view without launching into a broad "I am a Buddhist,and Buddhists believe X" We don't necessarily have to apply a label or a name to our beliefs. If someone outright asks what belief you practice, then I see no reason to lie. But there are certain people with whom I will tell them I am not comfortable talking to them about it, which is the truth. Not hiding from who I am, but protecting what I believe from misinterpretation from people who have no desire to understand but instead desire to just cut things down. Of course, that requires you have a good idea of how such people will react and so on.

    Sometimes the line between hiding who you really are, and flaunting who you really are isn't so clear.

    If you feel the need to talk to your father (or whoever else) only you know if it is truly necessary. How I deal with my friends and family depends on them and me, obviously everyone else is different :D But regardless of the situation, I have found personally that it works best to let things unfold. Not to force them. Not to make a broad proclamation just for the sake of making it or getting it out of the way. When we do that, most of us tend to go into with a "I have to talk to you. I am a Buddhist, and I know that might make you uncomfortable..." and so on. We seem to have a need to qualify our beliefs or our thoughts to try to ease any discomfort and that seems to only increase it. We make a lot of assumptions (right or wrong) about how the other person will respond and we try to head it off in a practiced speech in our minds. For me, I have found that it works better to let things unfold, because then it is not a practiced, forced speech, but just a mutual sharing.

    Aspiring_BuddhistanatamanjayneKundo
  • Aspiring_BuddhistAspiring_Buddhist Seeker of the Buddha Within WA Veteran

    @vinlyn said:
    To me the key to what Aspiring_Buddhist should do rests on something I may have misinterpreted in the original post. It seemed to me that he was saying that topics related to religion come up in conversation with his father with some frequency. If they do, to hide his Buddhism and pretend to be something he is not would be, IMHO, tantamount to lying. Major Precept.

    If religion is not a topic of discussion between father and son, then, that's fine. No need to bring it up, although I still don't see the value of hiding such a major aspect of yourself from your immediate family.

    If the f/s relationship is as it appears to be to me, then it's going to come up sooner or later, better to get it out of the way and get on with living and adjusting.

    Hes never asked me flat-out what I believe - he knows I have liberal sensibilities, and assumes I will "become more conservative the older I get" so I guess he believes that I will not only vote Republican, but be a Christian as well.

    As far as I know, he believes me to be an atheist. He usually likes to send Right-Wing(ish) emails to not only me, but everyone on his contact list - I have told him several times not to, as it only frustrates me. I wouldn't bother at all except he likes to ask "So, read that email I sent?"

    He's lightened up on actually talking about the emails but I still get them. No, I don't read them but still - I can't but feel as if its an attempt by him to "Republicanize" me or something. I've snapped a few times out of frustration and responded in a...."non-Buddhist" way.

    By a "few times" I mean that literally. 95% of the time it doesn't really bother me, but a "few times" it has.

    I am worried about him trying to convert me to Christianity if I actually tell him I'm a Buddhist, as that would get in the way of his "Everything will turn out all right in the end" attitude about it.

    My dad was never "politically active" when I was younger - but then, there wasn't FoxNews.com either. I don't bring up politics, he does. We talk about other things, but whenever he reads something he doesn't like (which FoxNews goes out of its way to constantly do) I get to hear about it.

    I'm concerned that instead of our current religious/political situation going from "annoying" to "becoming a wedge that divides us."

    Thank you everyone for taking the time to comment. All of your input has been very valuable to me.

  • Be mindful rather than Buddhist and everything will be fine. Ah the simplicity of theory and the reality of practice . . . ;)

    Aspiring_BuddhistKundo
  • The right wing wacko e-mails are so easy to retort with obnoxious quips that my contacts quickly learned the embarrassment that would ensue if they kept sending them to me. Haven't gotten one in years.

    But if I got one now, I'm not sure how snarky I'd be about it. After all, the people who write that stuff do appear to have passion and sincerity.

    Aspiring_BuddhistKundo
  • It's always difficult to make judgments about people in the long distance context of an internet forum, but how do you get on with your father generally? I'm wondering why he is so desperate to impress his opinions on others like this. Is it the only way he feels able to connect with you?

  • Aspiring_BuddhistAspiring_Buddhist Seeker of the Buddha Within WA Veteran

    @Steve_B said:
    The right wing wacko e-mails are so easy to retort with obnoxious quips that my contacts quickly learned the embarrassment that would ensue if they kept sending them to me. Haven't gotten one in years.

    But if I got one now, I'm not sure how snarky I'd be about it. After all, the people who write that stuff do appear to have passion and sincerity.

    Honestly, they really bother me, sometimes they scare me. To be honest, most of the Right-Wing platform has me worried these days. Just one example:

    http://politix.topix.com/story/8057-gop-rep-if-anyone-is-not-willing-to-work-let-him-not-eat

    Pretty sure Jesus was about feeding the hungry - 'Blessed or the hungry, for they shall be fed. Woe to the fed for they shall be made to hunger'

    Just...wow. I'm not sure what exactly they're being sincere or passionate about. They claim to be Christian and yet - let the poor starve if they don't have a job. Never-mind the fact that a lot of people WITH jobs don't make enough to feed their families.

    If its the ahem "Real American" position to let people starve, then they're making being American and Christian incompatible.

    I find their behavior/attitude/viewpoint...very worrisome.

    Kundo
  • Aspiring_BuddhistAspiring_Buddhist Seeker of the Buddha Within WA Veteran

    @poptart said:
    It's always difficult to make judgments about people in the long distance context of an internet forum, but how do you get on with your father generally? I'm wondering why he is so desperate to impress his opinions on others like this. Is it the only way he feels able to connect with you?

    We connect with many other things - music, movies, our interest in coin collecting, Comics, etc. I mean ya know...he's my dad, I'm his son.

    There's some things of course he and I don't view with the same enthusiasm - he likes models, I like LEGO, he plays guitar, I play Video Games, I use "home-row" typing and he "hunts and pecks."

    He never allows me to doubt that he is proud of me and loves me. Yet, religion and politics are, of course, different. I mentioned in an earlier post on this thread (I'm using that word correctly right? thread?) that he didn't really have a (noticeable) religious leaning when I was growing up - nor did he have (seemingly) a political one.

    But ever since...I guess like... 2003? Suddenly he comes out with this political religious stuff - even once suggested to me, at a Christmas dinner event at his house that maybe I shouldn't get Christmas presents because I wasn't Christian. (I was atheist at the time)

    Now - if your my dad and want to take that position - why oh WHY did you give me Christmas Presents for ALL THE PREVIOUS YEARS OF MY LIFE?

    I just...I love my dad very much, but when he gets a religious/political thought in his head, most of the time, when he opens his mouth, its either something offensive or ignorant. I just...its weird, confusing and...sad.

    poptart
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    edited April 2014

    Dads can't win.

    My daughter now an adult, told me a while ago that I was much too liberal with her when she was a teen. She felt that I should have given her more structure...

    At the time she said I was a fascist...

    Aspiring_BuddhistBeej
  • Aspiring_BuddhistAspiring_Buddhist Seeker of the Buddha Within WA Veteran

    @Citta said:
    Dads can't win.

    My daughter now an adult, told me a while ago that I was much too liberal with her when she was a teen. She felt that I should have given her more structure...

    At the time she said I was a fascist...

    Perception, like beauty....or anything else for that matter...is in the eye of the beholder.

    My dad says I need more structure. I don't mind structure, long as its flexible.. ;)

  • NeleNele Veteran

    Hey @Aspiring_Buddhist‌, check out "Ambivalent Zen" by Lawrence Shainberg, for a memoir of a father and son tussling over Buddhism (and life in general). The more you write about your Dad the more I'm reminded of this book, which I loved.

    Aspiring_Buddhistpoptart
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    edited April 2014

    @aspiring_buddhist -- I could be wrong, but I think a part of the 'conflict' you feel is the conflict between wishing to love and wishing to be loved.

    Gut level love has no boundaries ... that's why it feels so good.

    But the bruises experienced in leading your life may suggest (as it might to anyone) that the desire to be loved (by your dad?) will not meet your hopes and expectations ... that your gut level love will be asked to restrain its enthusiasms, that it will be limited in ways you would prefer not to limit it.

    However badly described, still I think this arena is just called "growing up."

    A "private life" may be socially useful, but it is also a burden that individuals long to unload ... or anyway that's my guess. I tell my friends intimate details I might not tell to acquaintances, but even with my friends, there are vulnerable places I prefer to keep "private" ... until they become too damned burdensome. I want to feel safe, but sometimes safety is too burdensome.

    Not sure if any of this is relevant, let alone coherent, but I hope you will just take your time and perhaps ask yourself now and then, "In a hundred years, who'll know... or, for that matter, care?"

    vinlynAspiring_Buddhist
  • BeejBeej Human Being Veteran

    My experience with people who want to assert their unwarrented beliefs/opinions on others (and also having formerly been one, myself :hair: ) is that its coming from a level of insecurity, fear, and lonliness. People want to feel more comfortable with the choices that they make, so they search for others to share this with them.

    I've been dealing quite a lot lately with a close friend who's Internetistic New Age Techno Babelism is just starting to wear on our friendship because it feels as if he can't just believe something on his own and he wont rest until the world shares his mind. His rhetoric couldnt be further than where my priorities are in my personal development. For me, its best to have compassion for people suffering this fear, and also for me to realize any fear that i have in regards to my attempts to insulate myself from it. It can be exhausting, even though our goals are generally the same because the methods are sooooooo different. The fight for your mind is ongoing, but if you listen closely to him you will probably see his fears, more than seeing what he is saying about Christianity, and you will also see your own fears.

    Dont lie, but dont push it. Find the middle way to exist with your father, because you share something more than blood with him... you share seperate, but equal fears. As i also do with my father.

    Aspiring_Buddhist
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