Friday, December 18, 2009

Ending my estrangement with one of my brothers and grappling with the next major conundrum

I have 4 brothers and my relationships with 3 out of those 4 brothers range from "pretty good" to "fantastic". Now at one time a few years ago I also had a fairly decent relationship with this 4th brother, but that came to an abrupt and very ugly halt when he became enraged with me and cut me completely out of his life (although I continued to maintain my relationships with his wife and 2 beautiful little girls).

As is usually the case with complex sibling relationships, the reasons for our years-long estrangement cannot be explained in a mere sentence or two and airing them on this venue would not be appropriate or something I would feel good about doing. And it would certainly end any progress my brother and I have just begun to make on our very fragile relationship should he ever read this blog (which is highly doubtful).

Just recently, under very sad circumstances -- the funeral of a mutual life-long friend -- my estranged brother and I were presented an opportunity to talk. And it was at this time that I decided to try and forge ahead with the beginnings of some kind of reconciliation, even though, for reasons I shall explain in a minute, I was not sure I really wanted to.

During the years that my brother and I did not see or speak to each other, a lot of things changed in both our lives. To say our journeys took different paths would be an understatement. My brother and his wife turned to their evangelical mega-church for answers to the problems they were having and became extremely religious, born-again Christians. And during those very same years, my husband and I found ourselves taking the exact opposite journey, putting as much distance as we could between ourselves and the Catholic Church -- for it was during those years that we found out one of our beloved sons was gay. And it was also during those years that we realized that the Church was not the answer to the most agonizing worries we had, but the cause. It was also at this point in time that we had to come to grips with the cold hard reality that so many organized religions, including the evangelical church to which my brother and his wife belong and the Catholic Church to which we used to belong, were directly responsible for the hatred, homophobia, and the increased dangers our son would face for the rest of his life simply for being gay. And realizing that it was there in the pews of these churches that those who look for cover to hate, dehumanize, and discriminate against gays get not only biblical cover to do so, but blessed by the bullies in the pulpit for doing so.

I knew my brother had become a hard-core, in-your-face evangelical, which made my journey in the opposite direction all the more pronounced and ironic. It also made any thoughts I may have had about reconciliation all the more unfathonable and undesirable. Many a night I'd lay awake playing different scenes out in my head and I could never quite imagine an outcome in which we would heal our wounds and I'd tell him that one of his nephews was gay and we would then go on to live a happily-ever-after ending -- which is why as more and more time passed I found estrangement from him a bigger and bigger relief. And it was also why I was in no hurry to bridge the ever growing gulf between us.

Since stepping out of the closet ourselves, my husband and I have enjoyed years of openess and honesty with most of our friends and family. We kissed goodbye the worry of "someone finding out" long ago and have no intentions of ever entertaining such silly worries again. Our attitude today is if someone has a problem with our son being gay, it is their problem, not ours -- no relationship has the power to trump our love for our son. And up until now, we have experienced nothing but complete acceptance and love from the family and friends we have told about our son. Our lives are no longer burdened with secrets and guarded conversations. Talk of our son and his boyfriend is every bit as normal as talk about our other son and his girlfriend. Our life is not burdened with religious guilt, fear, or sadness. We are completely at peace with who our son is and we absolutely believe that to deny or try and change his God-given sexual orientation is to accuse God of giving us a broken gift. And now more than ever we bask in the joy of three absolutely fantastic kids and their amazing accomplishments. Going backwards to appease the religious bigotry of anyone or any institution is simply not an option. It has been a long and hard-fought journey to get to where we are today.

So why do I agonize over the conundrum this reconciliation has created? My kids all believe this brother will have no problems with the fact that our son is gay. They love their uncle very much and would like to see this rift repaired. They believe his love will be stronger than his religious certainties. I am not so sure. My mother has out and out asked me not to say anything. She is not so sure either. I have seen his transformation up close and personal. The estrangement didn't allow me the luxury of watching it happen gradually. And getting back together and talking with him just recently has been a shocking experience. He is not the person I knew years ago. All humility is gone. He does not exude God's love, in fact just the opposite. I now see a judgmental arrogant man so filled with absolute certainty about his beliefs that his world is a stark contrast of black and white. Can he accept our gay son without judgment or condemnation? I truly do not know. I'd love to believe he can, but telling him and finding out my worst fears were correct would mean walking away and never looking back. But I cannot go back to guarded conversations and worries about exposing secrets either.

Last evening my husband, my daughter, and I had dinner with my mother, my used-to-be estranged brother, his wife, and their two beautiful daughters. When we sat down to dinner my brother immediately announced that we would hold hands and say prayers, then scolded us (but he was looking at me) for not having said prayers before the Thanksgiving meal a few weeks earlier when we had an even huger group of family members and friends gathered and a whole lot more chaos. Then he led the prayer. Later that evening my daughter asked me if I had caught the little zinger he slipped into the prayer that evening asking God to help certain members of the family (again looking at me) to find God the way he and his family had. I told my daughter I had indeed caught that, but I refrained from telling her how close I came to telling him that I didn't need to find God, I already knew where he was. And holding hands and making a very public show of saying prayers around the dinner table isn't necessary to get in touch with him. All I need to do when I want to confirm God's presence is look into the
eyes and hearts of my three amazing children and I can see God's grace and beauty just fine.

Update: I finally told my brother. It did not go well. He loves the sinner, but hates the sin. Share

1 comment:

Jarred said...

That's a very difficult situation. I've seen cases where hard-core evangelicals have come around. I've also seen cases where they've circled the wagons and walked away. To be honest, given the snide comments at the dinner table, I'd be inclined to expect the latter from your brother. And that's unfortunate.

Whatever you do, I'm sure you'll try your best to do it with love and compassion for everyone. Insofar as that may be possible.