Toxic People

My ‘theology’ shelf

My dad left home at 17 to join the Air Force. To the best my knowledge, he never set foot in church again, save for rare ceremonial events. He’s not said much about his religion in his home, other than he was never allowed to go to movies on Sundays. His mother was a blue-haired Southern Baptist lady, the kind who talked about Jesus and used the N-word, often in the same conversation.

I don’t remember much about my grandmother: she made banana pudding for me, didn’t trim the fat off her pot roast before she ate it (which completely grossed out my brother and me), was equally passionate about her church and her soap operas, and never invited her daughter-in-law, my mother, to address her as anything other than “Mrs. B—.” One of the few things I remember her saying to me was “I guess you probably like your other grandmother better.” I’m not sure how an 8-year-old is supposed to respond to that.

Looking back, I think I can best describe her as sour. Mentally, I put her face on the persona of my ex-husband’s grandmother, Nana, who I actually knew for a much longer time than I knew my dad’s mother. Nana was about the same age and background, albeit with slightly less blue in her hair. Nana was a sour, bitter old woman who was extremely proud of believing in the One Truth Religion, and who used the N-word a lot. John the Baptist founded Christianity, don’t you know, and God handed down the King James Bible.

Nana, the fine lady that she was, could hold grudges for decades. One story is that she had been mad at her sister for so long that she couldn’t remember the reason, and the sister died without ever being reconciled. She later got mad at her son, my ex’s uncle, because she wanted to visit for several weeks and he couldn’t take that much time off work to entertain his mother. Nana pouted, and didn’t speak for her son for several weeks, who in the meantime had a heart attack and died. At Christmas times, she would sit in the corner, refusing to participate in the festivities, thereby causing everyone to pet her, offer her special goodies, ply her with gifts, and try to make her the center of attention, so that she could sniff and proclaim that Christmas wasn’t any good anymore, since everyone had died. Thankfully, her only grandson (my ex) and her only great-grandchildren, my sons, didn’t take as much offense to that as I did. I was as polite to her as I could be, out of respect for my husband, as well as to keep the peace. Also, I had a secret power over her in that I didn’t really give a shit if she was mad at me: she would start longing to talk to my children, and eventually have to break down and be the first to call.

She liked to drop loving comments to me such as “my grandson was really close to us until you came along. If it weren’t for you, he would visit us more often.” She didn’t know that my ex told me that, upon walking out for the last time to head for college, he would never EVER set foot in the house again. Being close to my parents and having wonderful grandparents, I was aghast, and spent years of our marriage accepting dinner invitations to his family’s home and then dragging him over to spend time with them. He would fall asleep or read the paper, leaving me with the duties of conversation. Growing up with Nana a constant presence in his life, he refused to set foot in a Baptist church. Nana was the type that, when she inherited a tidy sum of money from her brother (someone she still spoke to, apparently), she wrote her daughter Betty a $10,000 check and her son-in-law, $20. Point made. She was viciously cruel to Betty. If my MIL could be believed, Nana told her that if Betty’s brother died while serving as a Marine in WWII, it would be Betty’s fault since she sometimes went dancing. Which God hates. There wasn’t a wet eye at her funeral.

What does this have to do with

Nana II

Nana II -picture I found on web. A much nicer Nana

toxic people? These two women are typical of the type. Smug in the superiority of their belief, while taking delight in speculating on the eternal hellfire that their enemies will suffer. Not all believers are like this – I know that. My maternal grandmother was the sweetest, kindest, most gentle woman that I have ever known, her grandchildren worshiped her, and I still wish I could crawl into her lap. I really miss her. I have very dear friends who are religious. But the dogma and documents and institutions that nurture someone like my beloved grandmother, also turn out Nanas. For those who want to excuse the excesses of foaming fundamentalists, saying ‘they aren’t real Christians’, I say: They get their hate from the same book you say preaches love. There are ten thousand different sects, and they can’t all be right. My loving believer friends would be equally loving and good without their religion.

From the introduction to Letter to A Christian Nation by Sam Harris:

Thousands of people have written to tell me that I am wrong not to believe in God. The most hostile of these communications have come from Christians. This is ironic, as Christians generaly imagine that no faith imparts the virtues of love and forgiveness more effectively than their own. The truth is that many who claim to be transformed by Christ’s love are deeply, even murderously, intolerant of criticism. While we may want to ascribe this to human nature, it is clear that such hatred draws considerable support from the Bible. How do I know this? The most disturbed of my correspondents always cite chapter and verse.

I just noticed, as I dug through my copy to write out the quote above, that someone had stuck a tract into the middle of the book, titled “Why You Can Trust the Bible.” I don’t know if it was stuck in there by someone trolling the bookstore (I’ve owned and given away several copies of this book), or if it was inserted by someone I had loaned this copy to. The amusing bit is that the tract is from The Watchtower, by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who believe that the King James Bible was translated incorrectly. The irony is not lost on me.

Categories: Family, Skeptic

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14 replies

  1. Well written. I steer clear of these people .. too negative.

  2. Most Jehovah’s Witnesses are decent folk who are trapped in an oppressive cult like organization the Watchtower society.
    The Watchtower core dogma is Jesus ‘invisible’ return or second coming October 1914,this is a false doctrine.
    Matthew 7:15-16 “Be on the watch for the false prophets,who come to you in sheep’s clothing…..”
    Cheers-Danny Haszard FMI-dannyhaszard(dot)com

  3. Thanks for linking to my blog in your Related Articles section. Toxic people are best avoided, for sure. You are also a Sam Harris fan? 🙂

  4. Excellent text! Goodness, how sad is this: “There wasn’t a wet eye at her funeral”…

  5. Thanks for linking to my article. I’m curious, though, as to why you did—do you find me toxic?

  6. Many thanks for the link 🙂

  7. It never fails to amaze me how people can read the Bible cover to cover, memorize it thoroughly, and not a word of it sinks in. Instead, they take arrogant pride in their knowledge and spit upon everyone who isn’t as “special” as they are, and the worst part is they have to let everyone know it.

    • People that read the Bible cover to cover without it sinking in were like me – they like to read. They read the Bible for entertainment purposes like a novel and after a few read-throughs they could quote a verse to fit any subject, hence their arrogance. It wasn’t until i started reading the Bible like an instruction manual for my life, instead of a novel, that I realized I wasn’t a Christian at all by my actions, which humbled away my arrogance. It truly is easier to say (or read) something than to do it, which is what i am working on each day. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few Luke 10:2

  8. I’m not familiar with the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ claim about the KJV being mistranslated. However, that makes it even more ironic that the very name “Jehovah” is itself a mistranslation, even a mistransliteration, one that could have been avoided if Christian scholars had been willing to talk to Jewish scholars.

  9. gotta say, SUCH A CUTE DOGGIE!

  10. i think one of the main reasons people don’t believe in God is because God doesn’t truly live in most of the people claiming to represent Him, giving Him and everyone else a bad name. it’s a shame that you received such hostile responses from “Christians” but believable. While they were so busy quoting Scripture to you, using the Bible as a weapon, it would have been nice if they would have stumbled upon the verse to explain their faith “in meekness and fear.” It would have also been helpful if those hostile “Christians” would have remembered that God Commands us to love others as we love ourselves which would provide no room for intolerant disrespectful bashing regardless of what others believe.

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