Athe­ist par­ents grieve adult daugh­ter’s com­mit­ment to ‘ex­treme re­li­gious life’

The Washington Post Sunday - - DIVERSIONS - AMY DICK­IN­SON ©2017 by Amy Dick­in­son dis­trib­uted by Tri­bune Con­tent Agency

Dear Amy: My hus­band and I raised two great kids. Our son is now 30, and our daugh­ter is 28. Both of them fin­ished col­lege with high hon­ors and with busi­ness de­grees. They both got nice jobs in their pro­fes­sions.

We are athe­ists, but at 18 our daugh­ter started dat­ing a pas­tor’s son. His fam­ily and church started groom­ing her with their be­liefs, so she would fit nicely into their fam­ily be­lief sys­tem and even­tu­ally marry.

Af­ter go­ing off to col­lege, that re­la­tion­ship ended, and she got se­ri­ous with an­other pas­tor’s son. Again this fel­low and his fam­ily groomed her to be­lieve, get bap­tized and go on mis­sion trips to South Amer­i­can coun­tries with the in­tent of her mar­ry­ing into their fam­ily. Well, he dumped her. She quit her job, moved out west and joined an evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian group.

She pays them to live on their cam­pus while they teach her about the Bi­ble and Je­sus. She raises funds for them by ask­ing oth­ers for money to sup­port her.

She has been lead­ing this ex­treme re­li­gious life for three years now with no in­ten­tion to quit and get a pay­ing job. She has re­jected our tra­di­tional life and sel­dom vis­its.

Her pro­fes­sional clothes hang in our clos­ets, and her stuff is in the base­ment. Her med­i­cal care is paid for by the state since she lives un­der the poverty level.

We are very sad about her de­ci­sions. We worry for her safety and her fu­ture.

We grieve the loss of our beau­ti­ful daugh­ter. We miss the way our fam­ily used to be. Now we have noth­ing in com­mon with her. Any sug­ges­tions on how to cope?

Athe­ist Mom and Dad

Athe­ist Mom and Dad: Some re­li­gious groups op­er­ate as more or less closed sys­tems, and their ad­her­ents turn away from their pre­vi­ous lives to op­er­ate within the sys­tem. I can un­der­stand why this is such a loss for you.

You should keep the door open to a re­la­tion­ship with your daugh­ter, re­gard­less of where she is or what she be­lieves. You are go­ing to need to con­tinue to grieve this loss while ac­cept­ing her choice and her free­dom to make it. Con­tinue to emo­tion­ally sup­port her while not sup­port­ing the group or cause.

Visit her. Don’t pres­sure her or force an ul­ti­ma­tum. Don’t dwell on the life and be­lief sys­tem she has re­jected. Fo­cus on your own ac­cep­tance, and make sure she knows you are al­ways in her cor­ner, no mat­ter what.

Re­search the group she is in, and see if you can con­nect with ex-mem­bers or fam­ily mem­bers of cur­rent mem­bers. Com­mu­ni­cat­ing with other par­ents will help.

Dear Amy: “Sad Mom” re­ported snoop­ing in her son’s base­ment and dis­cov­er­ing that he was grow­ing weed. I can’t be­lieve that you ad­mon­ished her for snoop­ing! Of course she should con­front her son about this! You’re Wrong

You’re Wrong: Be­cause the mother didn’t in­clude de­tails about the scale of this op­er­a­tion, my re­sponse was nu­anced, try­ing to ac­count for a va­ri­ety of pos­si­bil­i­ties. But, yes, when some­one cops to “snoop­ing,” my first re­ac­tion is that she shouldn’t be snoop­ing. Amy’s col­umn ap­pears seven days a week at wash­ing­ton­post.com/ad­vice. Write to askamy@amy­dick­in­son.com or Amy Dick­in­son, Tri­bune Con­tent Agency, 16650 West­grove Dr., Suite 175, Ad­di­son, Tex. 75001. You can also fol­low her @ask­ingamy.

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