Family scholars have documented how powerful institutions intrude upon marginalized parents. Yet, few have examined the effect that intrusion on parenting takes on a more intimate level. Guided by insights from theories of emotion management and family inequality, I compare how two religiously marginalized groups in the Bible Belt cope with a ubiquitous experience they face as parents—unwelcomed proselytizing by Christian family members. Based on participant-observation and forty in-depth interviews, I document nonbeliever and Pagan parents’ experiences with proselytizing by Christian family members to be common, intrusive, and often perceived as potentially harmful to children. Failing to enforce desired boundaries between children and proselytizers, many parents resort to constructing narratives of equality to describe a condition of inequality. They do so by claiming a “we just don’t talk about religion” arrangement. This narrative, though seemingly equitable, serves as a family myth, obscuring painful truths about power and inequality. Nonbeliever and Pagan parents differ in their reliance on this rhetoric. While nonbeliever parents cling to the family myth as an emotion management device, Pagans more readily acknowledge the “we just don’t talk about religion” strategy as more fiction than fact. I analyze how differences in social class explain nonbelievers’ and Pagans’ differing levels of commitment to this family myth. I place this phenomenon within the culture of Christian hegemony in the Bible Belt, where proselytizing is normative and prevailing norms of privatization within parenting are overridden by a culture of evangelism.
McClure, A.I., 2019. Social Class and the Stubbornness of Family Myths: How Nonbeliever and Pagan Parents Cope with Intrusions on Parenting by Proselytizing Christian Family Members in the U.S. Bible Belt. Secularism and Nonreligion, 8, p.5. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/snr.92
Social Class and the Stubbornness of Family Myths: How Nonbeliever and Pagan Parents Cope with Intrusions on Parenting by Proselytizing Christian Family Members in the U.S. Bible Belt