Please save me from being saved
June 14, 2011 5:32 AM   Subscribe

Halp. My sister is trying to save my soul. She is talking about some pretty heavy religious events that have happened to her recently. These include visions & "supernatural powers," and she believes they are direct signs from God that I am in danger of the Devil and that I need saving. I have a few questions...

My first question is: Do I support her and her new-found faith, or do I encourage her to talk to a therapist?

She hasn't been Christian long. Only since moving to the rural South less than a decade ago. We're both in the South now, I live about an hour from her. We weren't brought up in a religious household at all, but were "raised" Catholic... we were baptized & went to church on Easter and Christmas.

She has gotten involved in a Baptist group. She's a stay-at-home mom, all her daily interactions involve people in this group. She is having psychic visions about Satan trying to destroy our joy, the world, and everything in it. She said she's started speaking in Tongues. She says she has other supernatural powers God has given her, and now it's her mission to use these gifts on the people God has told her are in danger. She said that God speaks through her and turns off her mind, because the mind plays tricks on us all and we can't see the truth if we use our minds.
I don't want to discount her religious experience. I don't know what she's seen, I am not one to judge religions, and I certainly don't want to call her a liar, but... I don't think this is healthy behavior.

And, lucky me - I'm one of the people God has told her I'm in danger. So, because I "use my mind," I can never know Gods plan for me, and I will be the Devils puppet unless I turn off my mind and accept the Holy Spirit. No joke - she said all this to me over the phone just this morning.

I don't need or want to accept the Holy Spirit. I'm perfectly fine with life. I've actually never been better off. I believe in a lot of Buddhist teachings, I am deeply spiritual, but in my own way. I have been divorced years ago, and I am now living with my current boyfriend. Maybe she thinks those are the things she thinks I need to be saved for.
My second question is: How do I politely tell her that I don't want to be saved, when she believes deep down that what I say is the Devil speaking through me?

Like I said, I don't want to NOT support her beliefs, and I want her to live her life in whatever way makes her happiest. But... I'm starting to worry that she's having a mental breakdown. I haven't told my parents yet. I'm 39 & she's 45, I think "telling Mom and Dad" might destroy the trust she has in me. They'll think she's gone absolutely bat-shit whacko. Anyone have any advice here?
posted by anonymous to Religion & Philosophy (36 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
That is a little late for a first psychotic episode, so I would guess she just got caught up in the spirit (so to speak) of her new location and the people therein. Having grown up in the Bible Belt, it's a challenge not to just "go with it" and to remain rational. I would just nod and smile at her. Don't humor her; at the same time, I wouldn't tell her to shove it. That's only likely to make her more motivated to save you. She thinks she's doing you a favor, and as long as she's in your life and has these beliefs, she'll probably continue to do so.

Still. Any history of mental illness in the family?
posted by supercres at 5:37 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, some branches of the Baptist tree are pretty good at training people on how to interpret anything that happens in life as a visit from the Holy Spirit. (or "holy spirit", if you prefer)

In no particular order, but probably in the order of likelihood:

1- She is suffering some kind of dissatisfaction with her life, and over-embracing religion is a way to ignore that.

2- It is fun for her. It's like learning a new skill.

3- Her particular church has swayed toward some cultish leanings. (The us versus them kind of stuff, and she wants you to be with her.)

4- Early death fear.

5- Early dementia.
posted by gjc at 5:47 AM on June 14, 2011

You need to set boundaries, don't engage in religon talk with her and forcefully end the conversation if she insists. You are not OK with her prothletising, and her insisting on subjecting you to it is not reasonable. You need to be clear that she's damaging the relationship between you by trying to "save" you. If she continues to press it, you may have to reduce contact.
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:52 AM on June 14, 2011

I'm the black sheep of my family, and for a long time I believed in being diplomatic and accommodating about the many differences (of political and religious nature) between myself and most of my family. Eventually I realized that the peace that this bought came at the price of no one taking me seriously, and everyone believing that I could be freely harassed/ridiculed because somewhere, deep down, I knew myself to be in the wrong. Eventually I changed my behavior and demanded that others change theirs as well. I didn't ask anyone to change their beliefs, but delineated the things that were and were not acceptable in my presence. I made it clear that I will not be converted or ridiculed, and that certain opinions were offensive to me, and if uttered in my presence, would indeed offend me. This created a lot of tension between myself and some family members, and I suspect will eventually alienate me from some family members entirely, including my brother. Despite these losses, I feel better about the way things are now. I don't know if this path is right for you, just stating my experience.

As for your first question - I don't think the fever of ideology is susceptible to therapy. IMO, this is what your sister is experiencing. There are certain belief systems, whether religious, mystical, political, or philosophical, which will provide an organizing principle for every facet of a person's life, and will define a clear enemy to be fought. A person in the grip of one of these systems, especially a new convert, will not be open to reason. The best you can hope for is to convince her that you are beyond her ability to reach, and hope that after a while, she loses her fervor. I think people that are susceptible to these things are usually in some way fundamentally unhappy. Unfortunately, being in the grip of a system that provides all answers will probably make it impossible to do the work necessary to address this unhappiness.
posted by tempythethird at 6:00 AM on June 14, 2011 [16 favorites]

Is she married or in another relationship? It might help to have someone else who has regular contact with her to check to see if this is something that others in the group are also experiencing or if this is something different. It would also be good to have the help and support of someone else if it comes to setting boundaries or needing to take some other kind of action.
posted by goggie at 6:00 AM on June 14, 2011

Seconding T. D. Strange. You can either accept that this is how your sister will think of you and talk to you for pretty much the rest of your life or you will have to get her to stop. This may mean losing your relationship with her. There are some people who just cannot let go of the idea that someone they care about is going to spend the rest of time burning in hell and they will do everything they can to try and save them. Even if it means they might lose a close friendship, they still see saving your soul as the more important issue.

As an athiest, it's easy to say "that entire burning in hell thing is a bunch of nonsense, as is god, souls and jesus". But to say that to her won't help. She's your sister and is worried about you. You can follow T. D. Strange's advice, as the risk of losing your friendship or you could just humor her and do whatever it is she wants you to do to be saved, or just say you've done whatever it is she wants you to do. (This will backfire over the long run, I don't reccomend it.)
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:02 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

She has been brainwashed by a cult under the guise of religion. It isn't mental illness and there are ways to deprogram her. Exit counseling is the least controversial method of deprogramming. You haven't said that you want to go this route but it may help to find information about it so you can better deal with her from the standpoint of her being used by this religious cult.
posted by JJ86 at 6:07 AM on June 14, 2011

I'd be tempted to follow TD Strange's advice too, though it's worth noting that a good college friend who suddenly and intensely "got God" in his 30s turned out to be schizophrenic (visions of angels and lots of divine voices telling him what to do, and eventually telling him to tell others what to do). He was okay on medication but in the long run became suicidal when not on meds, sadly.

You say she's a stay at home mom -- what does her husband think about all this?
posted by aught at 6:14 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Talking to God" is a symptom of schizophrenia. Symptoms usually show up before 45, but maybe it's gone unnoticed or is getting worse. (I know if my sister said something like that to me, I'd probably kidnap her from The South in the trunk of my car and have her checked out by a psychiatrist.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:21 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't think she's crazy or having a breakdown. It is really common in Christian groups that emphasize "spiritual gifts" for people, usually people newish to the faith -- or at least new to being passionate about their faith -- to experience phenomena that they attribute to the supernatural. Whether it's coincidences of events that serve to confirm beliefs, or hearing the still, small voice of God, or actually seeing visions... It happens to people you would otherwise find totally rational and empirical.

I'm a Christian who is daily leaning toward agnosticism, but in my younger years I was involved with groups like this and experienced, to a degree, this kind of thing. My brother, also a Christian, experiences these things too, but to a greater degree than I ever did. He is educated, level-headed, and a critical thinker, and he also sometimes hears, sees, and emotionally feels things during prayer that he doesn't believe he can attribute to the workings of his own mind. And there's no way I can know whether he is actually feeling the presence of a divine force or whether his brain is manufacturing these experiences for him. Like you, I take him at his word, 'cause that's all I can do.

He's not afraid for my soul, and if he was he wouldn't be inclined to try to save me in the way that your sister wants to try to save you, so we're cool. But really, from my experience, the hyper-religious will try to save even those who are within their religious groups who they deem are not spiritual enough, or not spiritual in the right way, or going down some arbitrary wrong path... If you are unfortunate enough to be one of these people they think need saving, I think the first, best thing you can do is let them know that you appreciate their concern, and that if they really feel you are in spiritual danger, to please just pray that their God will speak to you. Because according to the Bible, only the Holy Spirit can bring about a "conviction" in someone such that they accept that belief system. Hopefully, she will back off a little bit and keep her concerns about you in her prayers. If she doesn't back off, you may need to use stronger language and say that the discussion is absolutely off the table when you are together, reiterate that it's fine if she wants to continue to pray for her, but you are not feeling the pull of her beliefs at this time.

Again, she's not crazy. This is just characteristic of the more conservative branches of Christianity. She may lighten up over time, she may not. With this "turning off the brain" thing, maybe you can try to reason with her that some folks in the Bible used their God-given minds to good effect: Abraham argued with God (Gen. 18), 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says to test prophesies and adhere to the ones judged good, Acts 7:11 says the Bereans received the gospel critically and only accepted after they thought it out completely. There are more, these are just off the top of my head.

Good luck!
posted by hegemone at 6:24 AM on June 14, 2011 [6 favorites]

From my point of view, I guess I'd remind you that your own mental health and well being should be your primary concern. By definition, your sister cannot be reasoned with and as adults, she is not your responsibility. Firmly establish boundaries and never waver from them - simply leave or hang up if and when they're crossed. Either she'll get the message, or she won't - but either way, you're doing what you need to for yourself.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 6:26 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I favorited tempythethird since their experience echoes my own.

It may not be mental illness; I grew up in a church (Foursquare) that believed in speaking tongues, "knowing" who was evil/influenced by the Devil or not, et cetera. The politest way I can think to put it is that it's a way for people who feel out of control, to have some semblance of "control" over life. She's 45, that's prime mid-life crisis age. It's the age when a lot of new converts joined our church, breathlessly confessing their sins on stage in front of us all and then ecstatically launching into tongues as "the Holy Spirit moved them". When I was a kid, I was sent to Bible camps where we were taught how to speak in tongues. People were into the speaking tongues and conversion things because it gave them a sense of reinforced community and specialness.

I got out of it, thanks to continued respect on the part of non-believer friends in my life. However, I was never the type to try to convert people or accuse them of satanic influences. Sometimes I'd talk about church; friends would listen politely, give their own view (respectfully), and we'd move on to Depeche Mode, Monty Python, the type of saxophone reed we were now trying...

Do set boundaries for proselytizing, as TD Strange suggests. My atheist paternal grandmother (she and her husband, my paternal grandfather, were the only members of my family not part of the church) did that with my parents and it was one major key in my own realization that, well, boundaries are healthy and constantly crossing them is not. So it could, feasibly, help her too.

Reading up on cults can be helpful as well, to have a cognitive framework in which to put the very wacky-seeming things that are happening/may happen with her.

Let her know you're there for her, while keeping your non-proselytizing boundary firm.
posted by fraula at 6:28 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

My mother was schizophrenic. The first time I heard her speak about really crazy shit she was 44. I hadn't had much contact with her and she may have talked about that kind of stuff earlier. So it can manifest in one's forties, but it's unusual. Is your sister going through menopause by any chance? That makes some women all kinds of wacky.

If your sis is at home with her kids I'd be concerned about them. Is she homeschooling them? If she is, in fact, mentally ill, they may be in some danger if she tries to drive the devil out of them. As it is, they're likely being brainwashed, in my opinion. When you visit does she let you spend time alone with the kids? Have they said anything that you find upsetting? Are they in regular contact with grandparents?
posted by mareli at 6:36 AM on June 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

So you know my background:
I'm one of those crazy Christians some of you like to bash... and I realise that you would probably discount my faith, too. However, I would say I am by no means very conservative, nor very charismatic/pentecostal, and have visited a bunch of different styles of churches, and I would be a little concerned. (Maybe it's a cultural thing though?) I go to a Baptist church, and whilst "baptist" means different things in different places, it doesn't sound like the standard Baptist church to me.

What other supernatural powers? There are some 'gifts' which I would go "yeah ok, it's Biblical..." and others which I would regard as signs of a cult. The other thing that screams CULT to me is the "switch of our minds because otherwise we can't see the truth" thing. CULT CULT CULT.
Dangerous! It might be worth looking up the name of her church to see if others have had some kind of cultish experience with them.

(I am sceptical of the "everyone speak in tongues!" thing, yet don't discount tongues totally)
Also the "use those gifts on other people" mission- in Matthew 28:18–20 is the "Great Commission" which is go into the world and make disciples- I would interpret this to be very pro mentoring and building people up, not taking them and making cookie cutter cultists, and not using 'powers' on others.

posted by titanium_geek at 6:39 AM on June 14, 2011 [9 favorites]

I really do think that she needs a mental health screening to rule out schizophrenia.
posted by hermitosis at 6:43 AM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

This happened to my mother when I was about 14 and our family was going through a rough time. She came home one day and chased me throught the house trying to tell me about how she had met an angel in a bookstore. It was a rather disconcerting experience to say the least. Scared the shit out of me, to be honest, because my mom had always been a little flaky, but seeing her have a complete breakdown right in front of me was bad.

The good news is that, although she's still very religious, she calmed down after a while and we can now have normal interactions, and since I'm an adult now, if she starts talking about crazy shit I can tell her to shut the fuck up, and I do. She doesn't like it, but she understands, any bullshit and I'm gone. Draw some boundaries and hope your sister mellows out.
posted by dortmunder at 6:56 AM on June 14, 2011

You say that she moved to the south a "decade" ago -- but that this trend happened "recently." How "recently?"

because if this is just a month or so ago that she found this group, you may want to just sit on your hands a tiny bit to let the flush of "this is all shiny and new" zeal settle. People who discover something new faith-wise tend to be very infatuated and zealous for a month or so; kind of like the whole twitterpated gushy phase you get into in a new relationship, where you think everything about it is the coolest thing ever and it can do no wrong and you want to tell EVERYONE. Some college friends and I joked that anyone who was converting to a new religon should probably put themselves into a voluntary three-month quarantine so they don't drive people crazy.

If she's only just started with this group this month, this may settle down on its own. But if things are escalating or she's still harping on it after a few weeks, then I'd go with a polite-but-firm dissent. And as for that dissent -- try telling her that you will think about what she said, but that her zeal is not giving you the space TO do that, and you appreciate she wants to save you, but it may be best if she leaves things in God's hands and doesn't try to force it herself. She can pray for you, but harping on this constantly is starting to drive you away, and she may need to "check her walk." (Basically, you're telling her to "back off," but you're putting things in her language.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:08 AM on June 14, 2011

I'm also not inclined to think this is a psychotic break. I think she's just surrounded by religious influences 24/7 so it's occupying all of her thoughts. A major attraction of being super religious is that it allows you to let go of a lot of responsibility...if bad stuff happens or you make a mistake, it's "Satan's work," not your fault, and you're encouraged to "offer your troubles up to God" so he can relieve your burdens. That's appealing at any age, but perhaps especially when you're a stressed out stay-at-home mom looking for something to do with your time now that the kids are older and in school (I assume, since she's 45).

What you're describing actually sounds more Pentecostal than Baptist (but I'm not an expert on either so I could be way off). Like hegemone said, the "supernatural powers" thing is better known as spiritual gifts, which is a big thing with Pentecostal groups (and others). They actually do believe the Holy Spirit grants them special abilities to spread the word of God. The gifts include seeing spirits, making prophecies, speaking in tongues, faith healing, etc.

I would consider something like mental illness if you notice symptoms like disorganized thinking and speech, or a sudden decline in personal grooming.
posted by castlebravo at 7:10 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Another frightening possibility: brain tumor. I knew someone for whom these kinds of religious experiences were the forerunners of several radical changes in outlook. It all started at about age 45 but it took a few years for the diagnosis to emerge.
posted by carmicha at 7:23 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also a possibility is Bipolar Disorder. I wonder if she is sleeping, does she have "pressured" speech, flight of ideas?

Certainly, religiosity alone, even in extreme and charismatic forms, is not considered a mental illness. But. There is something in the flavor, if you will, of what you are describing that, to me feels more like a mental issue than run-of-the-mill "getting the spirit."

So that's my diagnosing, over the internet and from third-person reportage of behaviors. Take it as you will.
posted by thebrokedown at 7:34 AM on June 14, 2011

I've been in and around churches for most of my life, and this behaviour is one I've witnessed many times. For better or worse, this is what she honestly believes. And she believes that 'saving' you would be best thing that could ever happen to you.

Her church will have prepared her for the possible rejection of her 'message', and will encourage her to keep going, even in the face of hostility.

I would suggest giving her one great opportunity to explain her message to you - either face-to-face or by email/letter. Assure her that you will listen, give her your full attention and consider all she says. But make it clear that once she has made her case, then that's the end of it. At that point, she has performed her duty to God. What you choose to do with the message is between you and God.
posted by sleepy boy at 8:26 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Meh. This kind of thing is a lot more common in the rural South than people seem to give it credit for, and it usually isn't a sign of anything more serious than absolutely godawful theology combined with a charismatic leader and what amounts to a social pressure cooker. There's a reason circuit-riding revival preachers did a brisk business all across the American countryside even up until the 1950s: this sort of stuff can be pretty heady, and getting caught up in the fervor of a crowd doesn't take any special kind of mental condition or personal inclination. It just takes a little boredom combined with social reinforcement.

So I don't think she needs mental help, and an attempt to explain this to her on a clinical basis isn't likely to get you much of anywhere. Rather, and this could be tricky given where you're coming from, it sounds to me like what she really needs is for someone who knows the Bible backwards and forwards and actually has some connection with mainstream Christianity--of which her particular variant is not a part--to sit down with her and talk about this stuff.

Seriously, the whole speaking in tongues thing has always been viewed by the church as more than a little embarrassing, and even the really big-name mystics were kind of ambivalent about it. Even the modern Pentecostal/charismatic churches, i.e. the places you're most likely to find this stuff, tend to de-emphasize it once they start to become more mainstream. I'm guessing the church she's part of is a couple dozen members, maybe a hundred at the absolute biggest. The church is a lot bigger than that, and the vast majority of American Christians don't engage in this kind of silliness.

I'm not sure how you might go about something like this though, particularly as she seems hell-bent on converting you, which sort of gives your credibility a hit as far as she's going to be concerned. Do you have any mutual friends who happen to be Christians? Because that might seem to be a good place to start.
posted by valkyryn at 8:32 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

None of us can guess for sure whether this is a mental health crisis or just some scary religious fervor, but I'd keep an eye out for disorganized speech as a symptom of the former. Is it possible to have a conversation with her that flows predictably from A to B to C? If you ask her a question, does she answer the question you asked? If yes, you probably don't need to worry about schizophrenia or bipolar as the cause of this.

To your first question, I don't think you have any obligation to support her new faith if you don't like the way she's treating you as a result of it. It's fine to tell her you don't believe as she does, and that while you're happy she's enjoying her church, you're not interested in hearing about how it applies to you. If she keeps bringing it up, change the subject, say "I don't want to talk about that," "I'm fine, thanks," or whatever, and if she still persists, end the conversation.
posted by milk white peacock at 8:59 AM on June 14, 2011

I think you're stuck. She may or may not be sick, but she had a large support group of like-minded people who will not only reject, but (literally) demonize opposing viewpoints. I would politely tell her that you understand what she's saying, that this isn't part of your beliefs, that you are worried about her and will be there for her no matter what.

Are you sure the parents aren't already aware of this? Casual Catholics and Yankees at that? I suspect she's equally as worried about them.
posted by moammargaret at 9:03 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

"So I don't think she needs mental help, and an attempt to explain this to her on a clinical basis isn't likely to get you much of anywhere. Rather, and this could be tricky given where you're coming from, it sounds to me like what she really needs is for someone who knows the Bible backwards and forwards and actually has some connection with mainstream Christianity--of which her particular variant is not a part--to sit down with her and talk about this stuff."

Although at this point in her ferver ... and the way her church is likely surrounding her and consuming her ... she is not likely to listen.
posted by batikrose at 10:15 AM on June 14, 2011

I grew up Baptist, and nothing she's saying falls in line with anything I ever heard in any church, but it depends on the type of Baptist we're talking about: Southern? Free will? Charismatic? Do you know? Without further info, it really sounds like mental illness to me. Or unhealthy fantasizing at any rate.

Here's a question: have you attended church with her to see where she's getting this stuff? Yeah, it's possible she's into some kind of crazy cult-like community, but it's just as likely that she's taken the basic religion and run with it some place that was never intended. It's understandable if you'd rather not, but I wonder if it might also be a good idea to visit the church and speak with her ministers about what's going on if, in fact, she's snatching this wackiness out of her own head and not from them. A good minister will not run and tell her what you said, thus making you her enemy. They may even be willing to help counsel her into seeking professional help. You don't have to bring your own religion or lack thereof into it at all. But, again, you should investigate the church before you involve them further. There are some bad people out there with powerful skills of persuasion who start up "churches" just to take advantage of suggestible people.

Other than that, your best way of dealing with this will have to be to just put your foot down and tell your sister kindly but firmly to leave you alone about this subject. If she wants to talk about it, you simply don't respond. Even as a Christian, I've been targeted by the more fundamentalist variety, so I know how frustrating it can be.
posted by katillathehun at 10:20 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speaking in tongues is a normal part of Pentecostal and Charismatic (but not usually Southern Baptist) religious practice. If she's gotten involved with a Southern Baptist Charismatic group this is to be expected, and I wouldn't be too worried about it. The part about visions does worry me, though.

Charismatics believe there are other gifts of the Holy Spirit, but their practice, in my experience, mostly consists of praying in tongues regularly and attempt to heal people by a combination of laying on of hands and praying in tongues. I'd be a bit concerned about people who claim to have received the other gifts and experience them more than occasionally.

So, a few questions: Is she involved with a Charismatic group? Has she received the 'baptism of the Holy Spirit'? Do other people in her group have visions like she does? Does she have them when praying in tongues, or do they just happen? If the answer to these questions is 'no,' and 'they just happen,' her Southern Baptist friends might be a bit worried about her too, and this might open up a door to trying to get her to get help if she needs it. If the answer's 'yes,' she's probably OK (totally aside from any theological beliefs she might be absorbing along with Charismaticism), though this doesn't make her efforts to 'save' you less annoying.
posted by nangar at 10:29 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I suggest speaking to her husband to see what he thinks about her overall mental health.

I think that she really does need a psychiatric screening.

You can't make her get one, though, and if the people around her see this kind of behavior as normal, then sadly she might not be encouraged to get treatment even if she needs it.

I would not try to talk her out of her new-found faith. If she is newly paranoid or delusional, it won't work. Stay neutral and try to talk about other things, if possible.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:39 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I just want say that I agree with what katillathehun said above.
posted by nangar at 11:38 AM on June 14, 2011

MeMail me if you like, you're describing my father.

You absolutely can not talk her out of it. It's one of the awesome things about this brand of religious belief - anything contradicting their beliefs is a "test" of their faith. You can't even argue from a logical reasoning point of view as "God's ways are not our ways" and whatnot.

The speaking in tongues is pretty wacky - I've seen it in action and it's honestly... weird but harmless. The more dangerous aspects come in when adherents to the belief of spontaneous healing do shit like "refuse to take the baby to the doctor because Jesus will heal her." (Yeah, hi, THNX DAD.)

Honestly, the suggestions for psychiatric testing are probably going to get you nowhere. I totally believe that my dad is full on batshit, but... he married a psychiatric nurse who is even CRAZIER for Jesus than he is. She (my stepmother) tells me about her "visions" all the time and how her son has the gift of prophecy and on and on and on and on.

Eventually, I chose to go to church with them and accept being prayed over and "convert." Since then, they choose to believe that I'm a Christian and I don't have to put up with having my soul saved. They're still pretty wackadoo and I still disagree with them on just about everything, but they don't bug me about accepting Jesus anymore. I'm absolutely NOT suggesting that you do this, merely pointing out that this is what it took to get them to stop.

You need to set boundaries, don't engage in religon talk with her and forcefully end the conversation if she insists. You are not OK with her prothletising, and her insisting on subjecting you to it is not reasonable. You need to be clear that she's damaging the relationship between you by trying to "save" you. If she continues to press it, you may have to reduce contact.

This will not help. I've done this. I've been there. The only thing that it got me was being prayed for in absentia and a lot of guilt trips. This was not seen as a rational thing that adults do, it was seen as me being in the grips of Satan. Not exaggerating. This was portrayed as Satan acting through me to keep me from the true love of Jesus. No amount of time helped either - cutting off contact with my father for months at a time did nothing to show him that I wasn't interested in talking about Jesus. Each time he was convinced that this time I would come around.

You can't reason with someone who is staunchly refusing to be rational. This sounds like mental illness to me in so far as I believe my own father has untreated issues that he's covered up with religious belief, but I can tell you that he's been like this for 30 years and never received a day of treatment and the worst that's happened is that he's annoyed and at times offended everyone around him. He still lives a pretty normal life, albeit one wherein "Jesus" is in charge.
posted by sonika at 11:42 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think I agree with sonika on this one. There's no way to talk crazy out of crazy, it's probably not technically a CLINICAL crazy, and your sister is surrounded by folks who think the same as she does. In my experience, the only way to deal with crazy people is to live in their reality rather than trying to talk her into joining everyone else's. I don't think being rational and reasonable and setting boundaries will work.

So...hell, maybe faking being "saved" is the best/only solution to make them stop.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:00 PM on June 14, 2011

Look, I am a charismatic, I believe in the gifts of the Spirit, etc etc. and frankly this sounds to me like she is either misunderstanding what she is being taught OR she is having mental problems. Many times what I would call "religiosity" is a sign of such.

One suggestion I would have is to call and speak with her pastor. It would be interesting to know how he sees her behavior thru the lens of the church's particular beliefs. (BTW a lot of Baptist churches are cessationist-in that they don't believe in speaking in tongues. Her individual church could be different, I don't know.)

To sum up my own view, it makes sense for a Christian to be concerned with a loved one's spiritual state, and I certainly have plenty of spiritual experiences of my own, but what you describe seems not quite right to me.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:00 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

PS in the meantime, tell her this (and this is Biblical, fwiw): tell her it is the Holy Spirit that regenerates and calls someone to repentance, and that it's up to Him now and that she needs to quit bugging you about it.

If I was her fellow church member I'd tell her to quit talking to you and start talking to God. In fact, here's a blog post she needs to read.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:04 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

2nding either going to church with her some time, or speaking with her pastor. It's quite possible that she is attending a very run-of-the-mill church and has simply taken these notions on herself, or she may be a member of a Pentecostal group who only calls themselves Baptist (I've never known Baptists to speak in tongues). Addressing her minister directly, or listening to him preach, should give you a better idea of what you're dealing with.
posted by Gilbert at 10:06 PM on June 14, 2011

Mod note: few comments removed - knock it off, answer the question and be constructive.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:35 AM on June 15, 2011

Mod note: This is a reply from an anonymous commenter.
I'm a member of an Independent Fundamental Baptist church in the deep south, and I know for a fact that my pastor would try to get your sister to seek professional psychiatric help. He would also pray for her and encourage all of us to pray for her too, but what you've described is WAY outside what even fundamental Baptists generally go in for. (Baptists also don't usually believe that the gift of Tongues exists in the current age.) If I were you I'd contact the pastor of the church she's involved with, and ask about all these visions, premonitions, and powers. If her pastor's aware of this stuff, hopefully he'll want to help her and may be able to approach her from a position of greater authority than you (though you may have to listen to some more evangelizing, but I assure you that your sister's idea of evangelizing is not normal, even for so-called "fundies").
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:58 PM on June 15, 2011

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