Too close to home

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Not all natural habitats are equal.
My current “pocket book” is a memoir by a gay man who, like me, was raised in a very evangelical fundamentalist family. I’d read reviews of the book when it first came out, and they all emphasized his humorous recollection of often painful situations. Then just before Christmas, the author was a guest on a podcast I listen to, and the host mentioned the book again, repeating the hilarity of his approach to the topic.

And I was just wrapping up another book and thinking I would need to download a new e-book to my phone to be the next “pocket” book. So guess what book I bought?

I didn’t start reading it right way. Once I finished my previous book, I started listening to audiobooks of various holiday favorites during my usual read on the bus time. So I just started reading it this week.

So far, it’s been too painful to be funny.

Admittedly I’m only a few chapters into it, but I can’t agree with the reviewers who describe this as funny. It’s good, it’s very good. And I suppose to reviewers who were not raised in such a family, the parents’ extremely earnest condemnations of a neighbor boy’s He-man toys as “every Satanic toy ever made!” and so forth might seem funny.

But for me, it just brings back extremely painful memories. And just as the painful incident where the author, at about age 12, tries to explain to his father why he doesn’t want to wear socks with boat shoes, which becomes an argument in which the father goes, in a few short breaths, from, “put some socks on” to “you’re being disobedient” to “you are in open rebellion against God, exactly like Lucifer!” could be played for laughs, for me it foreshadows what I’m quite sure are going to be even more agonizing and upsetting confrontations later in the book when the gay author finally comes out to these parents.

I don’t know, because I haven’t gotten there, but I have a very good guess.

When I finish the book I will probably write a full review, which is why I’m not mentioning the title and author in this post. I want to repeat that it is very well written. That’s part of why it is so agonizing, for me. Each incident he has described has put me realistically in the situation, and leaves me feeling as twisted up and confused inside as the character felt at each step where his extremely enthusiastic faith which had him, at a younger age, praying for Jesus to return soon, destroy the world, and take the faithful home, is slowly replaced with doubt and dread.

Religious person beats atheist with cross, is angry when atheist breaks cross.
They never think it’s fair when you stand up for yourself.
The other thing I feel is more than a bit of anger at the parents (and other evangelicals) with their smug sanctimony. Especially since a local mega church pastor has been in the news saying similar things about how the only reason he says hateful things about people is he’s trying to save them from hell (never mind that his theology is very Calvinist, so he has frequently preached that God already knows who is and isn’t going to believe, which would make a logical person realize that preaching isn’t going to change anything…).

Again, I’m sure that for people whose childhoods were not in such an environment, the incidents the author has related so far are quite laugh worthy. I feel a mostly pain and anger while reading, so far.

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