I am the only non-Christian in my family. If you didn't know that by now, I don't know where you've been. But you can kind of infer that from the fact that I'm apart of an African American family in the United States where 79% to 83% of AAs* claim Christianity as their religion. This number most likely increases when just looking at blacks specifically in the South. When I trace back my family history to as far back as I can (to my great great Grandparents), everyone has identified as a Christian. And the denominations my family has adhered to all fall under the Protestant umbrella. We've had Holiness, Methodists, Baptists, Black Baptists, Evangelicals, and maybe AME adherents in our family. And of course, there are those who claim to be non-denominational. The reason I'm telling ya'll all this is so that ya'll can kind of get a good feel of my religious background. But today's blog isn't really about me (at least the main part of it sort of isn't). I will be discussing religion in regards to my family members. But I should also note that I will only be talking about those who reside currently in my household. So unless they are relevant to the discussion, I will not be bringing up my cousins, grandparents, some of my older brothers, aunts, uncles, etc. We will just be focusing on three people (my dad, my mom, and my brother Cory). So let me just jump into it.
My father grew up in Bryan/College Station, home of the Texas A&M Aggies. And he is not afraid to tell you how "conservative" (aka prejudice) the town is. But we won't go into that. My father grew up in the black Baptist church. His family wasn't really religious but they attended church every Sunday. He was also baptized through that church. Growing up, he was like most AA boys from Bryan. Not a criminal, but not an angel either. They didn't really practice their religion and did what most teenage boys do. After he graduated from college, he went into the military. Apparently, he actually converted to another religion while in the military. I learned this after a random conversation he was having with a pastor one day. He didn't say what he converted to, but I honestly am curious about what it was. When I was born, he wasn't attending church. And to this day (except for a few brief periods), he doesn't attend church. He says pastors are crooked (which some are), and honestly, he doesn't want to. For years, my mom has prayed and prayed for him to come to the Lord, but from what I can see, that ain't happening. This is just who he is and being religious or spiritual is not on his agenda.
When I first told him I was a Sikh (this was over text btw), he said that he didn't care. He told me "Just keep your eyes and ears open". I understood exactly what he was trying to say and have remembered his advice. That was all he ever said about my religious conversion until this past June. When I started regularly wearing the turban around them, he said, "Don't you ever take that rag off your head?" Now, the old me would have lashed out at him for that comment. But after being away at college and becoming more mature, I just paused for a second, toke a breathe, and said, "Yes, I do." Then went on about my day. The only other time he talked about my conversion was when I had a big argument with my mother over it. He interrupted the heated conversation and said, "I really don't care for the religion. I'm not a religious person. Ya'll know that. I don't care for you wearing that rag every day. You know, usually if people grow up Catholic, they stay Catholic. If they grow up Baptist, they stay Baptist. But she's chosen what she wants to follow and she ain't gonna change. [Addressing my mother] So please can you chill and we just not talk about it? Can you please just chill about it for me? Let's not even talk about it. [Addressing me] Just know that we love you." And of course, my mother continued to on a tirade about and how she wasn't going to roll with all this. But I'll discuss that in the next paragraph.
My mother grew up in Fort Worth, TX. Her family did not start attending church until she was 13 years old. That is after my granny (RIP) watched an evangelical pastor on the TV and said the prayer of salvation. Both of my grandparents on my mom's side were raised in the church, but like my dad, they kind of did whatever they wanted. After starting to regularly attend church, they changed. And if I remember correctly, the church my mom attended was United Methodist. She told me she was a candle girl (people who handle the candles in church). But she still wasn't as religious as she is today. Through her 20s, she attended the black Baptist church. And when she had me, she was still in the black Baptist church. We started to transition out of it when I was in the 3rd grade. That is when we joined Southwood (now Crossway) Baptist Church. And I liked being apart of the mainstream Baptist denomination WAY more than being of the Black Baptist community. *You can read up more about to the left*. This was also when we started to become exposed to the evangelical movement. If you don't know what Evangelicism is, look it up. Often times, the Baptist denomination and Evangelicalism go hand in hand. This is when my mom became really religious.
She made us go to church every Sunday (and punished us somehow if we didn't) and tried to conduct Bible studies on Saturdays. She enrolled us in Vacation Bible School every year and eventually became the Sunday School teacher of the Ladies class there. Sometimes, we would listen to or watch evangelical pastors on the radio/tv. Pastors such as Pastor Robert Jeffress, Pastor John Hagee, Pastor Joyce Meyer, Bishop TD Jakes, Pastor Joseph Prince, Dr. Charles Stanley, Pastor Tony Evans, Pat Robertson, and on, and on, and on. She heavily encouraged us to just listen to Christian music (vs. secular) and banned us from watching things such as Harry Potter, Twilight, and Spongebob.....yes, Spongebob. It was through her, my religious community, and my church that I became influenced to become a religious evangelical Christian. But again, this isn't about me. We left Southwood my Junior year of high school (for reasons unspoken), and went to a black Baptist church for a little while. By that point, I was an Agnostic and just done with religion in general. But of course, I'm not stupid enough to tell her that. Then my senior of high school, we started attending Southcliff Baptist Church (where she still attends to this day). In fact, one of my old teachers that I've known since the 4th grade is in the exact same Sunday School class as her. She was like a second mother to me.....that is, until I finally admitted to her over email that I converted. And I told her like I told everyone else. "If you're chill about it, we can still be friends. If not, then I wish you well." She then basically replied that she wasn't going to chill, that she was going to do everything that she can to convert me back, and started harassing me. On top of that, it was during midterms time this past Spring. Finally, I had enough of it and called my mom about it. "Mom, if you don't stop her, I'm calling the police putting a restraining order on her! I'm already stressed because it's midterms time and this is causing me to have a mini breakdown!" That brought a stop to the harassment. I know they talk about me, but as long as she stays away from me, I'm good. And it's also the reason why I'm apprehensive about associating with people from my past. But back to my mother. As you can guess, she did not have a good reaction when I told her that I converted. It was winter break this past January. The good thing though is that I got to go straight back to Austin after winter break was over. She seemed to be getting along fine...that is, until I came back home for the summer.
For the first half of the summer, she was passive aggressive not necessarily toward me, but my religion and my religious community. For example, I have a drawing of the Gurus up on my wall. While I was waking up, she walked into my room, went over to the picture, and sort of mean mugged it. She thought I was sleeping but was shocked when I looked straight up at her and said "Hello!" Yeah, she never did that again (lol). Also, like I stated earlier, she listens to Christian radio 24/7 in her car. And doesn't care who is in the car with her. But out of respect, I would turn kirtan off when she got in the car with me. One day I said "F that!" and decided to keep playing it anyway (regardless if she was in the car or not). When I started doing this, the expression on her face while riding in the car with me was not good. And finally one day, she told me "Can you turn that down?!". Keep in mind that the kirtan was basically background noise and you couldn't fully hear it. I didn't respond to her and she didn't say anything else. Then there was that time where she tried to basically imply that my religion might be a cult and there's also that time where she asked me if "my religion encourages splitting up families?". It pisses me off just thinking about some of the things she has said. So finally, I decided to set down and call her out on her bs.
That didn't go so well. I tried to get her to watch a documentary about Sikhism, or at least let me explain what Sikhism is, but she wasn't having it. She still won't let me her down and formally teach her about the faith. I've even invited her to go to a Gurdwara (since she's somewhat suspicious of Sikhs) but she says "I...I...I don't feel comfortable going." So basically, I've done all I can do and now the ball is in her court. I will say that after that conversation the passive aggressiveness has for the most part stopped. We can even somewhat enjoy each others company. But I will never forget what she said. "I ain't gonna roll with it! If it doesn't acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I ain't accepting it or rolling with it".
Cory is one of my three brothers. He was born a year and a half before me as a preemie. He was diagnosed with Mental Retardation (now properly known as IDD). And later on in high school, he was diagnosed with Autism (as well as a few other mental disorders). But if you just looked at him, you wouldn't be able to tell he's a person with special needs. But once you start talking to him, you'll figure it out. Cory had the exact same religious upbringing as me. But like most people with disabilities, they truly comprehend things (especially religion). He just goes along with what is taught to him. He loves listening to Gospel music (because of the beat/rhythm/etc), goes to church with my mom every Sunday (doesn't really have a choice), and constantly says "Granny is in heaven". She passed away 3 years ago (???) and I think he has a hard time processing exactly what death is. But other than that, he isn't really religious. None of my siblings are. Just spiritual people. I haven't told him that I converted because Cory wouldn't even understand what conversion is. He sees that my outside appearance has changed but pays it no mind. One day, I was wearing my turban, and he said, "You look really nice" and kept walking. That has been his only remark.
So there you go. If you made it this far, you honestly deserve some type of reward. But I'm broke lol. So instead, I decided to include some pictures here at the end. Enjoy!
I probably drew this picture when I was 14 years old or 15 years old. When I found it today, the first thing I thought was, "WTF?!". But then I figured out exactly what younger me was trying to say with this picture. I'll let ya'll figure it out the message by yourselves.
Anyways, forgive me for my mistakes, errors, etc. Hope you somewhat enjoyed this post. Until next time, Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh!