A wonderful guest post at Pearl Osibu’s blog about no longer sharing your family’s religion and how painful it can be to try to negotiate that, by T I Ajibade.
Tears continued to stream down my mum’s face as she asked god why this had to happen to her.
I had to recant. My mum is hypertensive. I was afraid for her health. I had an ugly vision of waking up the next morning to find she’d died of a heart attack.
So I took my words back.
And burned with a thrumming sadness.
Burned that she thought I might be up to some suspicious activity simply because I wanted to leave religion; that she wouldn’t listen when I asked her to consider that there was just as much chance I’d have been born Moslem as I was born Christian; that she pegged my unbelief down to exposure to dangerous books; that she said she was glad I made known my stand now, so she would know how to give me some space henceforth; that whatever good name I had as a person faded for her and Aunt Jola simply because I did not have religion; that she wept as if I had done something that brought shame on her – Don’t let your father hear this.
And then another aunt…
In January this year, while I was dressing up for work, Aunt Lydia said there was something she’d been meaning to ask me about.
“I notice you don’t pray with us in the morning.” She was respectful, careful.
Tendrils of irritation curled up my stomach to my throat. Again? This prayer thing again? Is it so unimaginable to live under the same roof with an irreligious person, albeit a closeted one? Did it matter this much?
I gave her my usual excuse: Work preparations coinciding with morning prayers.
“What kind of preparations?” she scoffed. “Are you a woman?”
It was meant to be a mild rebuke, a reminder that what I thought was so important wasn’t quite so if I would open my eyes. Although I wasn’t going to lash out, I was officially angry. That she would dismiss my own priorities just to set her own religious agenda; that she would stereotype my gender on top of it all; that she would arbitrarily declare to me that “it is good to pray” without telling me why or how so. It seemed all that mattered was that I conform, regardless of my feelings and personal choices. What good am I at morning devotion if the entire exercise is lost on me? What use is it dragging myself to church on Sundays to avoid incident when all it does is bore me and make me feel imprisoned? In times like this, do Aunts Lydia and Jola and my mother remember that at the core of belief or unbelief is conviction? (Strangely, Aunt Jola uses that word a lot when talking faith.) If I am not convinced, how am I supposed to believe?
That’s a good question. I think the idea is that you’re supposed to obey first of all, and that conviction is a necessary result of obedience. It’s a very peculiar idea.