My mother-in-law is an awesome person. She’s done a lot of growing since I came into her son’s life. She’s accepted that he’s gay, that we’re married, and even that we’re Jews. It’s been a lot for a conservative, Catholic Republican to take in, and mostly, she’s managed to take it in.
But I still can’t take the hyper-religiosity. With her it’s mainly through Facebook. Around this time of year, I know I’m going to be using “Hide Post” quite a bit when it comes to her posts.
My husband’s mom and one of his older aunts LOVE Jesus, okay? They don’t just think Jesus was a good guy, or even just that he was the son of God. They LOOOOOOVE him the way teenage girls LOOOOOOVED Elvis back in the day, and they’re militant about it.
It’s disturbing to me.
So far this morning, I’ve had to hide three posts my mother-in-law made to Facebook which were so Jesus-y that even the other Merry Christmas posts from fairly religious friends were mild by comparison. The cross-shaped birthday cake, for example, was just… over the top for me. The memes that demand a “Merry Christmas” instead of a “Happy Holidays” were downright offensive. But that’s not something I can say to my mother-in-law without hurting her, because she wouldn’t understand. She’s hyper-religious.
Hyper-religiosity and fundamentalism aren’t the same thing, for me. Fundamentalism is Mike Huckabee, or the W*stb*r* Baptists, or Hamas/Daesh/Hezbollah, or the haredim who are zealously guarding the Western Wall from – gasp shock horror – women who want to pray with a Torah scroll. Fundamentalism is the attitude that “I have the ONE TRUE WAY and if you don’t agree with me I will, at minimum, make your life miserable.”
Hyper-religiosity may go along with fundamentalism, but it’s not the same. Hyper-religiosity is the sense that of COURSE you’ll agree with me! Why WOULDN’T you agree with me? It makes no SENSE that you wouldn’t agree with me, because this is just The Way Things Are, don’t you see? How can you have a problem with a Nativity scene on the front lawn of City Hall? Why can’t you understand that saying anything other than “Merry Christmas” is offensive? What’s wrong with you for not understanding that Jesus Is The Reason For The Season? Well, bless your heart, as they say in the South. You’ll understand eventually.
Unlike fundamentalism, which is generally in-your-face and usually aggressive about your refusal to accept their views as the One True Way, hyper-religiosity is passive-aggressive. It never comes right out and says “You must believe what I believe,” but it’s patronizing and condescending. A gigantic cross-shaped birthday cake? A meme saying “It’s MERRY CHRISTMAS, not HAPPY HOLIDAYS”?
Those are hyper-religiosity.
In a way, it’s like dealing with fans of a certain sports team, or even in the sci-fi/fantasy fandom world (fights about who was the better captain – Kirk or Picard?). You don’t want to get on the wrong side of someone’s fandom. And the hyper-religious Christians like my mother-in-law and my husband’s aunt are Jesus fangirls. It’s almost like they’ve turned Christianity into a cult of personality, where Jesus is the focus.
When I look at it like this, I can relax a little bit. It’s just the way they are, and they’re not going to change.
But it’s why I’m glad that Facebook comes with a “hide post” option.