Awkward Visits With Non-Fundy Family

Nothing can chill the blood in the veins of an ex-fundamentalist than the words “Hey, honey, your fundy relations are coming for dinner.”

The time spent with your fundamentalist relatives can be the some of the most painfully awkward hours of your life. The steps to the intricate dance of fundy social interaction are complex and fraught with peril. For example, whatever you do don’t mention dancing.

Hiding your ESV and books by Dan Brown are only the start. There’s also the way you’re dressed, where and what you eat, how long you should pray beforehand, and above all else, the topics of conversation.

That last item is by far the most dangerous one, for the fundy ear is tuned to pick up the slightest hint of liberalism and compromise. The simplest conversation can turn into a minefield of condemnation.

You: “So we were at the store last night…”

Fundy Relation:  “Last night was Sunday. Weren’t you in church?”

As quick as that a perfectly pleasant conversation can turn into an inquisition that will leave you screaming for the gentle mercies of the torture chamber. Tread lightly.

Among the topics to avoid are: books, movies, music, theology, work, family, friends, politics, current events, television, theater, or the internet. Even talking about childhood memories will only serve to highlight how far you’ve backslidden in the meantime.  In short, if you value your sanity, you’re pretty much stuck with the weather and four hours of making indeterminate noises of affirmation as you hear tales from the heart of fundyland.

Screw your courage to the sticking place and prepare to chit-chat pleasantly for all you’re worth.  Just remember, no matter how awkward it may be you can rejoice in the fact that when your relations leave they’re not taking you with them back to fundyland.

98 thoughts on “Awkward Visits With Non-Fundy Family”

  1. Ah but once it gets out you are no longer fundy then the visits will dry up (you will be marked as unclean and branded as a Code 1 John 2:19) except for the occasional stealth recon visit so they can report back about your liberal activities.

    “…and did you know he has an NASB bible?”

    “Well, I saw them out the other night, mind you we don’t normally go where they serve alcohol, but I saw they had wine for dinner… I was so dissapointed….”

  2. “Hiding your ESV and books by Dan Brown are only the start.”

    Epic LOL! My sister-in-law and her family are KJVO. I was informed by her one time that Satan wrote the NIV. Fun times.

  3. The more I read this site, the more thankful I am for my parents. They’re totally fundy, but they’re not wacko. They even visit my rock-n-roll / NASB / calvanistic church when they’re in town.

  4. Our good friends would always bring their box of booze over to our house when their parents came to town. They were deathly afraid their parents would find out they enjoyed satan’s sauce.

  5. You are spot on Darrell as usual.

    I went to visit the Fundy in-laws this weekend and made the mistake of talking theology and bringing my ESV to read….

    Lesson learned. I should’ve just talked about the weather or how awesome Jack Hyles was for saving my soul.

  6. This post put me into panic mode. I’ve been married almost four years but still feel the grips of wanting fundy family to think well of me. It only came out a couple months ago that I am not fundy and that I listen to CCM . . . Dear mom didn’t sleep for two nights and cried wondering where she went wrong.

    When she visits, I always hid anything that would have hurt her. Last time she was here, she went through the fridge and found an opened bottle of wine. That was the last straw. I’m not hiding anymore. She’ll find it, she’ll be upset, and she’ll have to get over it.

    Yet I’m still in panic mode . . . drat that fundy guilt!

  7. Darrell – how many of these do you actually have up your sleeve. Every one is a work of art (careful, this may turn into hero worship)

    Don – the word “disappointed” is so apropos and telling. That’s exactly what they would say

  8. I think the title is misleading with this one. What you described is when fundy family come to visit the non-fundy. When I read the title I was hoping for a good post that would remind me of my childhood. When we, the fundy family, would visit the non-fundy. That was interesting. Actually I think my parents did it well. Instead of making my family feel condemned or make them have to walk on egg shells they’d relax the rules a bit and allow the kids to do things we wouldn’t normally be able to do. The main point was unity of family. Oh to be sure they didn’t drink or anything like that, but a movie at the theater? That was fine. Roller skating at the rink? Yea we could do that as well. Still it was always an interesting time.

    Anyway, I don’t dread seeing fundy family only because the only fundy family I have is immediate parents on both sides…even my siblings have strayed a bit away from true fundy land. So it isn’t so bad. We used to hide the beer and wine, but now we don’t even do that. We figured they should accept us for who we are. Now politics and theology….I tend to avoid those two. The former is easy I just nod and smile the latter is difficult because if get asked, “Why do you drink?” or another goldy “I thought Christians don’t drink?” Well now we have to dig into deeper theology to explain why we do or why that isn’t true.

  9. I am 46 years old. It took me until my early 40’s before I was able to have the “I don’t care any more, I am not hiding my ‘real’ life any more” attitude when my mom and step-dad came for a visit. It is quite liberating to not have to hurriedly change the car radio station before they get in the car.

  10. It’s amazing how many bottles of booze you can have. Just when you think you’ve got them all, there’s another one on the bookshelf laughing at you.

  11. This post definitely brings back memories of childhood. My dad came from a big family and I had lots of cousins growing up. We would leave church about once a month after Sunday School to go meet out at my grandparents farm for a family get-together. The whispers in the church about how ungodly we were to skip church to go meet with family continued to the next week. Sometimes we would *gasp* miss Sunday night church too. That’s when they knew we were really ungodly.

  12. “The simplest conversation can turn into a minefield of condemnation.” It’s just my parents in my family, and I try to be respectful (I don’t play CCM, discuss other Bible versions, or talk about the movies). But I never know what will set them off – especially my dad. I mentioned “The Five Love Languages” one visit and that set off a ten-minute diatribe on the evils of psychology.

    Sometimes I try to stir up thought – recently I told my mom that “avoid all appearance of evil” didn’t mean “avoid ever doing anything that someone else could construe as evil” because Jesus ate and drank with sinners and to the Pharisees that “appeared evil”. Her answer was, “Jesus would never do anything wrong.” I said, “I KNOW!!! But it LOOKED WRONG to the Pharisees!” but she totally didn’t understand. Sigh.

    1. “Her answer was, “Jesus would never do anything wrong.” I said, “I KNOW!!! But it LOOKED WRONG to the Pharisees!” but she totally didn’t understand. Sigh.”

      I think that speaks volumes…

  13. Good grief this is spot on! I just had a visit with my fundy family. I avoided politics for the most part during the week but I could not keep religion from coming up.
    When I first made my break with fundyism I received countless berating emails admonishing me to get saved. These people claimed to care for me but then refused to take my calls for about a year.
    They still do not know that I drink occasionally. They would be Disappointed if they knew, though I think they are who drove me to it. 😉

    SFL-Soulwinning among the backslidden.

    Anyhow, I like this site but it sometimes induces panic attacks.

  14. Darrell,
    The more I follow this site the more I am reminded of how deeply my IFB background permeates every corner of my life. It seems as I read your posts I must peel back layer and layer of crazy thinking. I am wondering seriously if the healing process if similiar to those who heal from physical or sexual abuse. The shame, triggers, fear of man. You post was spot on. I only wish this all was just a overblown parody but it is real.

  15. I agree I Am His Beloved. I wish this were a joke that I did not understand. I laugh but this movement has caused me extreme pain for decades.

  16. “I was hoping for a good post that would remind me of my childhood. When we, the fundy family, would visit the non-fundy. That was interesting”

    I thought the same thing when I read the topic headline. Still, both circumstances could prove interesting. I remember visiting non-fundy family lots while growing up. The funny thing is that my immediate family was the only fundy group in the entire extended family…well, that is until my mom sucked her mom in as well. Anyway, most of the family was Catholic, and lapsed at that. There was lots of drinking, smoking, filthy jokes, etc. It was very eye-opening for me to say the least. Of course we never partook in any of that, and we always had to find an appropriate church to attend on Sundays (morning and evening, of course).

    The other side of that, and what Darrel was referring to in the actual post was also weird for me once I got out of IFB circles. I remember once visiting my parents & sister (who had just come back from HAC indocrination). I mentioned that I had seen a movie in an actual movie theater, and my sister cried.

    Fast forward to a few years later, and my parents actually gave up IFB standards as well. Now, they still espouse the views, but they are total heathens now! They drink wine, watch movies, curse, my mom wears pants, etc. My sister was beside herself when she found out how far they had backslidden. meanwhile, I’m happy they wandered out of it somewhat, but sure wish it had happened while I still lived at home…

  17. LOL. . .that post was so true! When my fundy family is coming to visit I go through the house a couple of times on a mission of making sure I hide all: modern Bible versions, Cd’s, movies, beer (my husband only has an occasional beer, but that would obviously be too much for them to handle), and on the list goes. In the summer I also have to make sure my shorts are not what would be deemed “too short”. It’s aggravating. Last visit I realized afterwards that I had left a couple movies sitting out.

    Conversation is extremely awkward. Basically you can’t talk about your life at all. . . it’s fairly limited to weather or the kids or maybe food. Or, you can just let them talk . . .safer that way.

  18. I too can feel your pain. It has taken years of arguments, family rifts, and outright crazy/hurtful comments before we just recently decided that nothing of substance could ever be discussed. Yes it is weird and uncomfortable much of the time but it does seem to be getting better. Regrettably, there is still a rift with some of the family and I am still a evangelistic target for their church, but my parents have backed off due to the problems that it has caused (and probably for fear of not seeing their grandchildren). So, while I know they still feel the same, at least they’re quiet now. Thank God for therapists and meds!

  19. Darrell, that was spot on. In my case, my wife didn’t grow up in the Fundamentalist environment, so visits with my family are really traumatic. My wife violates some rule or another, and my mom says something, and then I get to hear about the conflict for several years thereafter. It’s not too difficult to tread among the mine field as an adult when you have experience with Fundy thinking and Fundy ways, but impossible when you don’t.

  20. Aww, I’m sad now because I’m the non-fundy that my parents and siblings have to have awkward visits with. Most conversations aside from weather lead to disagreement. =(

  21. If I had fundy friends or relatives coming over, “Honey, it’s time to put up the artificial tree & holiday decorations.” I know, such a pagan.

  22. I think the title is misleading with this one. What you described is when fundy family come to visit the non-fundy. When I read the title I was hoping for a good post that would remind me of my childhood. When we, the fundy family, would visit the non-fundy.

    That’s exactly what I thought when I saw the title, too. Only the members of my immediate family are fundy; everyone in the extended family is Catholic, agnostic, or misc. (non-Baptist) Protestant (depending on which side of the family it is). Needless to say that has made for some interesting family get-togethers.

    Forget hiding the books – I have WAY too many of them (and way too many Bible translations) to do that! Besides, my magnetic attraction to books and bookshelves didn’t come from my parents, so I don’t have to worry about them looking at the contents of my shelves. They’ve yet to say anything about my Harry Potter collection or the PG-13 and R-rated movies on my shelves, and I know them well enough to know that they would if they’d seen anything. However, I do hide the Smirnoff and whatever other “undesirables” happen to be in the fridge whenever I know my parents are coming over.

    And then of course there are my visits to my fundy parents’ house. While I do love my family and especially like hanging out with my non-fundy brother, those visits are always a mixed bag for me. Before I go I make sure to pack a non-KJV Bible and various non-fundy approved books, and load up my mp3 player with secular rock, all in an effort to maintain my sanity for the week that I’m there. Those visits have gotten much better now that my brother (who still lives at home) isn’t a fundy anymore. 🙂

  23. This one is too upsetting to enjoy :/

    We need a post on possible ways to respond to the craziness with a wink and a smile.
    Mom: We’re just so upset you don’t wear a tie to church anymore.
    Son: Didn’t you know? John Piper doesn’t believe in ties and we do whatever he tells us to do.

    More ideas, please. Thanks.

  24. I work with FundyDude, and it’s like having Fundy Family come visit five days a week. The worst thing is when he needs to get his car fixed and I have to give him a ride to the mechanic. Thankfully it’s only five minutes at most from our office to the shop, but how I ever manage to fill that time with conversation (he doesn’t help, of course) and not hit any mines. . .well, I don’t know how I do it, honestly.

  25. weather? ack. that will start them on the liberalism of environmentalists and the myth of climate change.

    this is such an accurate article. my husband and I laughed and laughed.

    every year my father-in-law predicts the coming Rapture (he’s got the time and days all figured out). One year, we won a car from them… I said, “well if the rapture is coming, can we have your car?” … what else could he do?

    We have strayed far, far away. I tend to like tattoos. I finally got one that shows when I swim, and they still haven’t stopped being Disappointed.

    I feel sorry for them, though. Even though they are so non-accepting and stuck. Perhaps because of.

  26. When fundy family members have nothing to talk about with non-fundy believers, that’s a SAD, SAD state of affairs. Jesus prayed in John 17 that we would be one, but they can’t focus on that. They don’t see that I love Jesus, trust Him as my Saviour, seek to please Him, enjoy worshipping Him, pray for others, read the Bible, etc. They just see that I go to movies, read the ESV, and like CCM. They are so focused on the minors that they completely ignore the actual FUNDAMENTALS!!! How ironic.

  27. Lucky for me, I was not the first in my family to leave fundyland. Most of the time, the visits are peaceful and pleasant. An unspoken cease-fire is in effect. No one really wants to break it, but sometimes brief incidences occur. Visits are limited per Ben Franklin’s guidance. “Visitors, like fish, smell after three days.”

  28. My wife and I were both raised fundy and were the first in either of our families to leave the fundy movement for another church. It has taken about 13 years, but both sets of our parents have now left fundamentalism as well. We still have a few minefields that we have to avoid with them such as alcohol and dispensationlism, but overall we manage to have a great relationship with both of them. It took many years of them seeing that we could actually still love God without the rules of legalism for them to accept us. My in-laws finally saw the light when their teenage granddaughter was sexually abused by her pastor. The local E-Free church extended grace and counseling while the local IFB churches (yes, there were several) basically called their granddaughter a hussy and claimed she had enticed the pastor. Unfortunate situation, but God moves in mysterious ways and has moved them out of fundydom into real truth.

  29. This post is so true. When I talk with/visit my parents we keep the conversation along straight and narrow lanes so as not veer of into treacherous paths leading to the fact that I do many things they call sinning ie: listen to and attend a church that has rock n’ roll, read the ESV, go to movies, attend only a sunday AM or saturday service, and wear jeans to the above-mentioned church.

    I have learned not to post differing stuff like that somewhere they can see it and when we talk I use their terminology and ask them about things in their life and remain more ambiguous about mine. Always emphasizing any similarities and not-mentioning the glaring differences.

    Once or twice they find out about stuff and express their grievance to me. My reply usually is I am an adult and I make my own decisions before God. If they want that to spoil our relationship over secondary issues, then it is up to them. I will not break the relationship with them over their fundamentalism but please don’t break from me for my lack of it.

    Most of my siblings and their spouses are either out of fundy-ism or on their way out so it makes our sibling relationships smoother than those with our parents-however our parents are learning to accept us as we are… and they were the ones who trained us to follow the Bible, our conscience and not be mindless robots.

  30. @ Ex-Fundie – “Always emphasizing any similarities and not-mentioning the glaring differences.” Yes! I try to do this too.

    “If they want that to spoil our relationship over secondary issues, then it is up to them. I will not break the relationship with them over their fundamentalism but please don’t break from me for my lack of it.” Yes!!

    “They were the ones who trained us to follow the Bible.” Exactly!!! The changes I’ve made in my life have come from reading God’s Word which they taught me. They always said not to follow any man, only God. Well, we are doing just that, although they don’t quite see it yet.

  31. We, too, were the extreme fundy side of the family. My mother and uncle used to spar over eternal security. When we went to their Nazarene church, my mother complained about the ladies holding microphones (it was too phallic, although she said “sexual” because she didn’t want to have to explain what phallic meant). However, about 10 years ago, I had the whole family over for lasagne and served red wine to anybody who wanted it. To my surprise, there was no judgment.

  32. Hide the alcohol, the wine glasses, the ESV, the CCM, the DVDs (even the kids movies that have upbeat songs), the liberal books, etc.

    Remove the nose ring and my husband’s earring.

    Hope none of our friends (saved or unsaved) stop by, because they might have a beer with them or rock music playing in their car or start a forbidden topic of conversation.

    And when we visit them — look for skirts at resale shops to wear to church.

    Oh, the joys!

  33. mark this one for best of 2010!

    my strategy is always to make it more uncomfortable for others than it is for me. ikons work well for this: no matter where you sit in my house, there’s a good chance that a saint is staring at you. Any ikon will work, but nobody makes fundies more uncomfortable than the Mother of God.

    Of course, this isn’t why we have ikons, but it’s a positive side-effect.

    so much i could say about this… must… use… restraint… as much as i can’t stand fundyism (and fundies), i’m quite fond of my family, and wouldn’t want to bring them into this. let’s just say- deciding who will say grace is a special little treat…

  34. My mother won’t let us visit her unless we are wearing skirts and coulottes. My sisters do it, I won’t. Haven’t been to their house in years. She as a list of rules pages long that we must adhere to. If our kids come for a visit (mine NEVER do!) my parents use the opportunity to retrain the kids. In the true Gothard following, I have 8 siblings. Those of us that have managed to get out and get married are escapees. My mother is so terribly dissapointed in us (even though 2 of us are in full time ministry) she has a list in the order that she will predict that we will get divorced. That’s so nice. We have no dreamy large family that makes up our own baseball team, there is discord and strife throughout our family and we have never ever gotten together with all of us as a family for a visit. I blame it all on fundamentalism.

  35. I’ve got fundy parents too, but I’m thankful they don’t make rules about us visiting them or vice-versa. They let us be adults and we don’t have very many arguments.

    That being said, my dad and I recently had a heated discussion about college accreditation. Apparently, it is wrong to go to a secular college, and it is also wrong to go to a Christian college that is accredited. So what is a person supposed to do that wants to be an accountant or nurse? Just tell your potential employer to give you a chance to prove your work ethic. Yep. That’ll work just fine!

  36. Last time I was visiting my dad’s side of the family, I made a harmless comment about Paula Deen. He quickly informed me they don’t watch the Food Network because they cook with alcohol on some of their shows.

  37. @Jordan ROTFL! That is so funny! Don’t they have cookbooks? I’m sure some of those use alcohol in the recipes for those too. JUST DON”T USE THOSE RECIPES! That is too funny.

  38. @Escapee…My Mother in law has unwritten rules for us to follow at ALL family gatherings. I come as I am and that ruffles her feathers as well every other fundy family member (which is most the rest of them.) Once we return home, we usually have an email from her listing our dressing offenses. Last email she shared that my knee length shorts and v neck tee shirt made her and all males in the family uncomfortable.
    It has gotten so bad, that when we go to family gatherings we hear the customary greetings, then the fundy’s gather in a circle and talk amongst themselves leaving pretty much my little family left to ourselves. When they do speak to us it is about the KJV, the sin of attending non fundy churches, etc. It is their round about way of chastizing us for leaving the “family faith”.
    We recently moved across the country, so no more unpleasant family gatherings for us. =) They have also stopped all communication with us. Not by our doing but thiers.

  39. ” no matter how awkward it may be you can rejoice in the fact that when your relations leave they’re not taking you with them back to fundyland.”

    no, but you can be sure they will take back with them terrible horror stories of how the heathens live, and you can be even more sure that you will be the topic of prayer request time for the next 3 sundays in a row.

  40. Yes, tigersharksteph. If you don’t show up on your parent’s church’s Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting printed prayer list under the heading BACKSLIDDEN, you really haven’t left Fundyism.

  41. A new way to deal with visits from the family: FAMILY BINGO!

    How to play:
    1) Come up with a list of things/triggers that will occur or things that will be uttered by the visiting still-fundy family.
    2) Each time they utter this phrase or do this thing yell, “Bingo!” As an alternative, you may also simply yell “Bingo” inside your head.
    3) If you complete the list or fill up your card completely you win one of these fabulous prizes: a trip to the cinema, a beer from your favorite watering hole, a skirt cut just above the knee (for females) or a goatee (for males), or a set of sermon tapes from John Piper.

  42. @Sandra you must be one of my sisters, there’s so many of us, I forget sometimes… Our families sound very similar except there is so much discord in my family there are no family gatherings.
    I visited some old high school friends recently that were in fundy youth group with me. After the visit I got a correspondence from one of the GUYS telling me he did not approve of the way I was dressed (shorts and a thsirt)!! My friends had asked me and my kids to go swimming. I was surprised knowing they were fundy but I accepted. I stressed about what to wear, my husband said, “your going to a pool wear your bathing suit!” I did and sure enough my friends showed up to the public pool in their swimming attire, fully clothed. I felt set up.

  43. I recently got a visit from the fundy in-laws. The MIL was scandalized when I told her we went to church on Saturday evening (our non-denom church offers 5 Sunday morning services and a Saturday night service). That , combined with all the other judging remarks made me tell my husband (who is comfortably aboard an aircraft carrier in Asia) that they’re not allowed back unless he’s home. They’re the teetotalers that make you drink.

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