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Cult Etiquette

About 40 years ago, my husband and I were excommunicated from a cult because we had joined a singing group.  They said we were heretics, though we are still believing and practicing Christians, and broke up our family.

We have since moved to another province and contacted a childhood friend of mine who is still in the cult.  We are friendly with her and her husband and when we have to visit their city will attend the service, though we have to sit at the back, and then we go to lunch.

A mutual friend who is in the cult, came to our province to visit.  We were visiting their city for a doctor’s appointment and invited my friend and husband, the mutual friend and her friend whom we had never met, to come and have dinner at our hotel.  We provided the dinner.  Immediately after the church service, we went and had coffee.  During coffee, the mutual friend said, and I quote, “Why are you not in fellowship?”  I replied, “I had enough trouble getting out of it, why would I want to get back into it?”  She said, “Oh, well, they had a lot of silly rules then, they have changed.”  They have NOT changed, they have got some different silly rules now.  They went to their Bible Study and we went back to the hotel.

We served homemade spaghetti and meat balls, home made penne pasta with chicken and Alfredo Sauce, Salad, French Bread, Red and White Wine.  Dessert was Jeanette’s left-over birthday cake with strawberries.

We reminisced a great deal and then the mutual friend started to attack us again, even worse.  She told us we were wrong for going to the Baptist Church because they don’t have communion every Sunday and that is the one thing Jesus has asked us to do.  I riposted by saying that Jesus also asked us to wash the disciples feet and your church doesn’t do that.  I must go back by saying she started the conversation again by the, “Why are you not in the fellowship, you should be in the fellowship.”  Finally, my husband said, “Just don’t go there!”  She kept it up and finally he said, “This is my house and I will not continue this conversation.”  She then said, “It is a hotel and NOT your house.”  Then my husband said, “I have paid for this room and it is my house until tomorrow morning.”  She finally stopped.

Can you believe this?  I knew I had to be blunt over the exchange in the coffee shop because these people do NOT take NO for answer.  My answer to normal people would probably have been, “Well, we have now joined the Baptist Church,” and a normal person would have left it at that.

Your thoughts would be appreciated.   0406-11

First, there will be people commenting on this post advising you to cut off all ties to anyone associated with this “cult”.   It doesn’t appear you are in any danger of being kidnapped or damaged in any way by continuing a civil relationship with your friend and her husband.   (Note to readers:  Comments will not be approved if they focus on religious differences, rants, insults, instead of the etiquette of the situation.)

If your religious convictions are strong, you could view your continued association with friends still in the the church as a way to help them see the errors in their church’s doctrine.    People firm in their religious beliefs are rarely rattled by someone else having a different religion or theology.   It does not threaten their faith to hear something that differs from their beliefs.  You, your husband, your friend and her husband can have a pleasant friendship because both couples are comfortable in their beliefs and being near someone different doesn’t shake that whereas the mutual friend is behaving as if she was threatened and must reconcile the conflict she feels.  I would view her aggressive questions and hostility as a chink in the armor that I might exploit for her edification.   Continued demands for answers is clearly an invitation to address the topic with her but perhaps with calm answers she may not expect to hear.

If the topic of why you left that church is not open for discussion with anyone, I would have bean dipped like a fiend every time she asked impertinent questions about it.  Yes, there will be an awkwardness to the conversation when she asks and get utterly ignored with a conversational redirection but she’s creating it.  You are merely being the good host and conversational gatekeeper by keeping the conversation on its original track.   This is one of those times when a stunned, icy stare comes in handy when someone has the audacity to be nosy about matters that are none of their business.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kathryn November 28, 2011, 5:46 am

    I’m a Christian and I love talking about these kinda things, so my response would have been to talk about it till the wee hours of morning. “Why is it so important that I be in the fellowship?” etc.

    But at the same time, I know when to stop. I tend to ask questions to get people talking and if they shut down those questions or seem hesitant to answer, I’m happy to talk about non-hot-topics too. Maybe she just thinks you’re not going to heaven, which is sad for her. I think that if you’re not willing to engage with her on these topics, then shut it down early. Don’t even throw her a bone. If you start by answering, it may give her courage to keep at it (it would me!).

  • Rhonda November 28, 2011, 6:29 am

    Just change the subject.

    You may have to be assertive with it after a few attempts.

    “I am now changing the subject. The prior subject is no longer open for discussion.”

  • jen a. November 28, 2011, 6:45 am

    First of all Admin, thanks for the ground rules. I was reading this entry with an impending sense of doom because I was expecting a pretty off-topic debate about religion. As for the etiquette violation, for me this comes down to pushing our beliefs on the unwilling, be they religious, political, or lifestyle choices. I find that people sometimes feel the importance of making sure other people come around to their point of view trumps what is polite.

  • josie November 28, 2011, 7:32 am

    Okay, maybe just me, but if I considered a group to be a cult, I don think I’d really feel the need to attend their worship services, even just to be on good terms with your friends. Just visit with them and leave the cult/church/beliefs out of the conversation. Maybe talk politics 🙂

  • coralreef November 28, 2011, 8:55 am

    Reason # 5641823 why religion should remain a personnal and private subject. Unfortunaley, some people seem impervious to bean dip, even if it’s coated in chocolate.

  • Twik November 28, 2011, 10:31 am

    I think the rules of polite conversation change when one participant is trying to sell something (from religion to politics to time-shares). I don’t think the OP or her husband were rude in the least in refusing to discuss their religious beliefs with someone whose goal was to make them do something they did not want to do.

    I agree with posters above. Start by saying that you will no longer discuss the topic, and then refuse to discuss it. Questions like “Why are you not in fellowship?” should be answered with, “Hey, did you see that Bills game yesterday?” The other person *knows* that you do not want to discuss it. If they get upset that you will not engage, the rudeness is on them, not you.

  • Hemi Halliwell November 28, 2011, 10:31 am

    I think it’s pretty sad that the mutual friend only wanted to discuss why you were “not in the fellowship”. They are so many more pleasent topics that could be discussed.
    Everyone has the right to choose if they want to follow a certain religion or not. If you open that particular topic of conversation and the hosts state firmly ( as OP & husband did) that they do not want to discuss that, it should be dropped. If not, the offending guest should be invited to leave.

  • Wink-n-Smile November 28, 2011, 11:00 am

    Mmmmm, chocolate covered bean dip.

    You could always discuss your favorite recipes, I suppose.

  • Cat November 28, 2011, 11:26 am

    I think the best ending is from “Young Victoria”. The Queen says, ” We have exhausted that topic.”

    I hit the same thing when I became a Roman Catholic in a family of Protestants that had had no Catholics in living memory. I didn’t bother explaining that I majored in history, that it is a historical fact that there was only one Church for over a thousand years when it split along the lines of the Roman Empire’s split (Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox), that Protestant comes from the fact that the term comes from those who “protested” against the Catholic Church which was then the only Christian church in western Europe, etc.

    Dad told me I was a disgrace to the family! I asked him how he’d like a grandchild out of wedlock (big disgrace in my generation; small potatoes now). If I wanted to disgrace the family, I knew how to to do it in spades.

    Bottom line is that, if you are an adult and in your right mind, you do you what you choose to do and you accept the consequences.

  • Lola November 28, 2011, 11:27 am

    I’m with @coralreef — we don’t let strangers question us about our sex lives, personal finances, or medical history. Why allow them to talk about our religious and/or spiritual lives? Such closeness has to be earned over many years of unequivocally sound judgment, kindness, and loyalty.

  • Phoebe161 November 28, 2011, 11:31 am

    One thing I have noticed about some cults & some on-the-fringe religious beliefs (or any viewpoint, be it politics, lifestyle, whatever) is that they have little sense of boundaries, & an unhealthy dose of superiority (“mine is better than yours”). There is nothing wrong with asserting good, healthy boundaries. There is nothing wrong with refusal to discuss certain subjects. However, those with poor boundaries often cannot recognize a boundary if you used red flashing lights. Therefore, I see nothing wrong with stating that the subject is not open for discussion (in plain language), & repeating it often (known as the “broken record”) . ***You owe them no explanation for why you are no longer in the cult nor why you do not want to discuss it.*** Losing your temper or arguing only reinforces that their view is the right one. Those in cults cannot/refuse to understand that a person can be happy & contented WITHOUT the cult, so let your contentment & happiness (& yes, you’re manners also) be self-evident.

  • Elle November 28, 2011, 11:39 am

    Seriously, I actually set ground rules before I discuss religious beliefs with someone I know. (No personal attacks, we both come at this from a place of friendship and mutual respect, and we both acknowledge we are unlikely to change anyone’s mind here. If we’re talking about the beliefs we share then let’s note that the important stuff is X, Y, and Z. Everything else is just theological icing and ultimately unimportant). And yup, I will(and have) say “Okay, let’s talk about that last Steelers game then.” If somone won’t agree to that.

    “I riposted by saying ….”
    Yeah, don’t do that. Don’t riposte unless you’re actually having a debate you want to continue. You’re better off going with the nuclear option of “No. We’re not talking about this. No. This is is not open to debate. No.”

  • spartiechic November 28, 2011, 11:43 am

    I teach my clients who have issues like these to use the “broken record” approach. When you have a person who is like a dog with a bone and won’t let up on a particular topic, I work with them to come up with a neutral, yet polite, phrase for them to memorize. Then, when they meet up with the person, they just continually use the phrase until the person ends up getting tired of trying and gives up. For example, in this situation:

    Friend: Why aren’t you coming to fellowship?
    OP: We enjoy attending the Baptist Church now, [change of subject].
    Friend: But, you’re supposed to go to fellowship.
    OP: We enjoy attending the Baptist Church now, [change of subject].

    As you can see, the person will be shut down and hopefully the change of subject will help. Other than silence, it’s sometimes the only thing that will work for some people.

  • Jay November 28, 2011, 11:44 am

    Replace “cult” with “a different religion than mine”. If someone was evangelizing me like that, I’d either play devil’s advocate and have fun with it, or I’d bean dip. The correct response is clearly the latter. 🙂

  • alli_wan November 28, 2011, 12:04 pm

    If you were ex-communicated, it doesn’t sound like it was your choice (even if you prefer it that way now). I suppose you could always throw her own religion under the bus to close the topic (ie. ‘the cult leaders made that decision. It is closed and that is all we have to say about it.’) Of course you might be the topic of gossip amongst the younger members who don’t remember the circumstances, but it might shut her up in the meantime if you threw the ball back in the cult’s court. Who is she to argue with the decision made by her own religious leaders? (On the other hand, she could start lobbying to let you back in, so it may well backfire.)

    That being said, I think you stepped in it with “I had enough trouble getting out of it, why would I want to get back into it?” You put her on the defensive and she rose to the challenge. She was determined to make you see the wonderfulness you were missing. (It may very well be true you were grateful to escape, but it doesn’t serve your purpose to engage her.)

    I would also be cautious in socializing with the friends and the friend of friend again, not because you are in danger, but because the hostilities rose so quickly. With this shared history, I doubt you will ever be able to have normal social relations with these people, because a) you engage them every time to attend service which only encourages the conversion attempts and b) the friend of friend does not seem socially saavy enough to accept that other people have the right to say ‘no’ and close topics to conversation. The relationship honestly seems like more grief than it’s worth.

  • The Elf November 28, 2011, 12:17 pm

    Totally agree, Coralreef. Bean dipping only goes so far with some people, and when the subject is religion, I refuse to associate with those that don’t take a clue-by-four to the head as a hint. To me, there is nothing more personal than one’s faith and the reason why one has chosen that faith. The way people like mutual friend go on, they act like they know what is better for you. It is very patronizing. It is the most aggressive kind of proseltyzing and in my mind the height of rudeness. I do not normally suggest cutting people off. But this warrants it. Mutual friend is likely to never stop harping on the subject no matter how many hints or icy stares you drop.

  • Library Diva November 28, 2011, 12:55 pm

    I believe that there are few matters more personal than one’s spiritual beliefs or lack thereof. I’ve often been tempted (though never succumbed to it) to respond to invasive, aggressive religious questioning coming from someone I either barely know or don’t know at all, with other questions that are just as personal, inquiring about the details of the person’s last gynecological visit, perhaps, or even their sex lives, and feigning surprise when they take offense, saying “I thought we were discussing personal matters.”

    I agree with Jen A. that people who engage like this know full well that they’re being what is considered rude, and don’t care, and feel that the topic is so pressing that etiquette isn’t a concern, much like etiquette would forgive you for entering someone’s home uninvited if the house were on fire and you were trying to pull the inhabitants out.

    But that’s really how uncomfortable I feel when someone starts in on me like that, like they might as well be asking about things that should be between me and my gynecologist, or me and my husband. Especially when it’s a stranger or a virtual stranger. Like sex and health, a good conversation about it among close friends in a private setting is fine, but I’ve always felt that religion was inappropriate small talk.

  • Goldie November 28, 2011, 12:59 pm

    Back in 1997, I joined a nearby (ethnic) church and for years, attended regularly with my two sons. My oldest son left church in 2005 due to becoming atheist, my youngest son left church in 2008 for same reason, I left church in 2009 for the same reason, and got divorced in 2010 (which only a handful of people in the church know about). I still visit the church or church-sponsored events a few times a year, for ethnic events like festivals, and to catch up with a few friends I have left there. People come up to me there all the time asking “why don’t we see you and the kids in church anymore”, and “how’s your husband?” You should see me bean-dip. I’m an expert now. Sometimes I say “aww I miss you guys too”. Sometimes I tell them how the kids are doing in school and college. Sometimes I tell them that I moved (I actually did, a few blocks down from my old house, but I spare them the details. Hearing that I don’t come back anymore because I moved, seems to calm people down.) As for the (x)-husband (who hardly ever attended this church), I usually say “(name) is doing well”, which is 100% true. I just figure that an accurate, detailed answer from me would confuse and upset people. They’re nice people and I don’t want them confused and upset! At the end of the say, our religious beliefs or lack thereof are our personal decision that we cannot force on anyone, or allow anyone to force theirs upon us. I would absolutely not have allowed the religious discussion to continue over dinner, if I were the OP. It was pretty clear from the start that nothing good would have come out of it. Don’t care who started it, I’ll end it, for the sake of everyone present at the table.

    I do not, in fact, agree with Admin that “People firm in their religious beliefs are rarely rattled by someone else having a different religion or theology.” A lot of people will be very much rattled if they believe that their opponent is a)putting their soul in danger by believing what he/she does, or b)gives the rest of their religion’s followers a bad name. BTDT. All the more reason to nip this discussion in the bud, as neither side will convince the other to change.

  • Ashley November 28, 2011, 1:06 pm

    Things like this are why I think religion should remain personal and private. People are entitled to believe whatever they like, that’s just fine. I respect religion. I just wish that everyone would respect that other people aren’t always going to believe the same thing as you. I really hope my comment gets approved, I realize religion is a touchy subject. I enjoy reading about religions and discussing them, so long as everyone involved realizes that at the end of the day it’s quite likely we are all going to go on with our lives the same as they were before.

  • Harley Granny November 28, 2011, 1:37 pm

    I know people like this..sadly one used to be my sister.
    After many friends stopped speaking to her she was dumbfounded as to why.

    I was the one who had to pull her aside and explain that while we’re all happy she’s found the religion she feels is right there is a way to “discuss” the differences without “preaching” the differences.
    She then realized that she was doing exactly what the OP’s guests were doing and changed her approach.
    She says she now recognizes the bean dip lol

  • Jo November 28, 2011, 1:51 pm

    This story just confuses me. People don’t usually use the word “cult” unless they have VERY negative views of a religious group, yet OP is still willing to attend services as a guest. Opening remarks mention it “broke up our family”. Yikes! That’s pretty severe, but not explained futher. OP was was staying in hotel on medical trip, but served a homemade dinner of “…spaghetti and meat balls, home made penne pasta with chicken and Alfredo Sauce, Salad, French Bread, Red and White Wine.” That’s an odd amount of detailed information and a lot to pull off in a hotel room – even one with an in-suite kitchen. And you also had leftover birthday cake? All that aside, discussing religion is usually a no win situation. I am sorry the OP was made to feel uncomfortable.

  • Hellbound Alleee November 28, 2011, 2:08 pm

    I think I understand what’s going on. Maybe she wants to know why you left the cult, because she’s going through doubts, and she’s reaching out. She sounds like she’s still trying to convince herself that her doubts are unfounded, but by asking you about it, she’s tempting herself. She’s asking questions.

    Maybe if you see it like that, it won’t seem so much like an attack on you. People don’t really think all day about what other people are doing or feeling–all they’re really interested in is how they look to others.

  • Dorothy Bruce November 28, 2011, 2:13 pm

    For me, it’s a matter of respect. I have friends that cover most of the major religions and some of them practice none at all. In my own mind, I agreed that there is no one way to the path but if you have a belief system that works for you, just because someone else believes in another way doesn’t make it wrong.

    And anyone who has tried to preach the “it’s my way or you’re wrong” to me finds out how out of line THEY are. And engaging in a debate with them doesn’t get you anywhere but frustrated.

  • --Lia November 28, 2011, 2:25 pm

    I extend the social taboo against discussing religion or politics to any question beginning with “why don’t you …” or “why do (group of people) do (anything from practice a particular ritual to buy a particular product) …” The underlying assumption is “you have to explain your reasoning to my satisfaction, or I get to accuse you of being irrational, so you have to do believe what I believe and do what I say.” I chastise myself if I even begin to answer that sort of “why” question. As soon as I do, I realize that I’ve bought into that underlying assumption. Big mistake.

    If I’m in a frisky mood, I might state that. I might say “wait, let me get this straight, if I explain myself, will you be satisfied, or is this one of those deals where I have to change my mind if you don’t like my answer?” Usually my questioner will insist that they’re just curious and want to learn more. I then suggest a great book that can explain it so much better than I and refuse to talk more on the subject until they’ve read it. (If they read it and have more questions, I’d tell them to address them to the author at the publisher’s address, but it’s never gotten that far.) In other words, it’s a very sophisticated bean dip.

    But back to the particular etiquette situation. I believe the LW’s husband was right but could have said the same thing a little more smoothly. Instead of getting into another yes-it-is / no-it-isn’t argument about who owns the hotel room, he might have said “if you can’t talk about something else, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” That’s still pretty sharp and to the point, but it comes from a place of calm power.

    And I’m in complete agreement with Twik when she points out that selling is selling whether it’s a religious idea or magazine subscriptions. With that too, never answer “but why don’t you want this great offer?” I wouldn’t go further than “I just don’t.”

  • Kitty Lizard November 28, 2011, 2:44 pm

    Ooh, I love Cat’s quote from Young Victoria: “We have exhausted that topic.”

    I hereby claim it for mine. I can see it will be endlessly useful.


  • lkb November 28, 2011, 3:22 pm

    I rather wince at the OPs use of the word “cult”. According to Wikipedia (I know, not always the most accurate, but…) “The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre.”

    While I realize that (again Wikipedia) “The word originally denoted a system of ritual practices.” (Or, from http://www.mazeministry.com/topics/whatisacult.htm, a subgroup within a larger group (as in Catholicism, when it speaks (with no negative connotation intended) of the Cult of Mary)), IMHO the term is too loaded today, calling to mind Jim Jones and his tragic organization; brainwashing and the like.

    I respectfully ask, in order to keep the discussion as civil as possible that we use Jay’s term above: “A different religion than mine.”

  • WrenskiBaby November 28, 2011, 3:34 pm

    It was wrong of her to keep harping on the subject. Not only is it highly personal to begin with, but I think it was previously implied that you were done talking about it and there was little else to be said.

  • acr November 28, 2011, 3:44 pm

    “During coffee, the mutual friend said, and I quote, “Why are you not in fellowship?” I replied, “I had enough trouble getting out of it, why would I want to get back into it?””

    Focusing on the etiquette of the situation, I think maybe this response was a little flippant. The Fellowship is obviously very important to this friend, and your response could be interpreted as disrespectful and dismissive. Maybe you inadvertently started the “us vs them” dynamic of the conversation.

    I think a response of, “Fellowship wasn’t right for us. We’re very happy at our Baptist Church.”

    That being said, I can’t believe you attend services in a church that excommunicated you and requires you to sit in the back. That seems to be to be sending a very mixed message to friends still in the Fellowship. Even if you’re doing it to be friendly, it still looks like you’re on the outside, desperately trying to get back in. No wonder your friend thought you’d be open to conversion.

  • catwhisperer November 28, 2011, 4:05 pm

    A whole lot of getting along with difficult people in difficult situations involves foreseeing potential problems in advance, and heading those problems off ahead of time.

    Letter writer decided to have a social event at which she and her husband, who are not members of the “cult,” are hosting four other people (the childhood friend who is still in the cult and her husband, a mutual friend who is a member of the cult, and a friend of the mutual friend, who is also a cult member.) That right there is a red flag: you’re outnumbered. It’s going to be very natural for these people to talk about something they have in common– their religion. There is also the issue that because none of them can afford to look bad to the other, if one of them starts pitching the religious view, the others may feel obligated to support that person, or at least may feel that it’s impossible for them to try to stop that person.

    There’s a second red flag: one of the people who is invited is a complete unknown– the friend of the mutual friend. This can really change the dynamic of the group, because you have no way of knowing whether this person is going to behave reasonably, or what their motive is for wanting to be included in the outing.

    So you’re two red flags into potential problems before you’ve even gotten together. This calls for some preventive planning. Survival instinct should dictate that the nature of the social event has to be such that if things don’t go well, you already have an exit strategy.

    I’ve said before in other postings, but it bears repeating: if you’re unsure of how a get-together with other people might work out, one of the best ways to defuse the situation is to agree to meet at someplace like a food court of a local mall or a farmer’s market, or someplace where you can all arrive separately, choose your own food and pay for it in advance, and leave separately. That way, if someone starts committing etiquette felonies, like attacking you about your religious beliefs or attempting to convert you to their beliefs, you have an out: a quick look at your watch, a bright smile, and “Oh, my goodness, look at the time! I’m so sorry I can’t stay longer, I have to go to an appointment/meeting/unavoidable commitment. I wish we could have had more time, it’s been great catching up on things with you, we’ll have to try to figure out when we can get together again.” You stand up, you go. And you’re out of the awkwardness with no harm, no foul.

    If, on the other hand, things go well, you can then suggest that you move on to some other place where you can have a genuinely warm and comfortable furtherance of the get-together.

    Etiquette includes preparation for potentially awkward contingencies. Recognition that you’re sailing your social activity straight towards an iceberg that could cause a disaster, and making sure that you’re prepared to abandon the activity in a way that allows everyone to survive with as little injury as possible, is just plain smart planning and good etiquette.

    The lesson we can all learn from this letter writer: learn to recognize potential problems in advance, and have an escape route factored into your planning. Sometimes you can’t avoid an awkward situation, but if you know it’s possible and have planned what you’ll do if it comes up, you can mitigate the damage it causes. Live and learn.

  • Leslie Holman-Anderson November 28, 2011, 4:13 pm

    Coralreef’s ‘bean dip coated in chocolate gave me my first hearty laugh of the day! But I question OP’s use of the word ‘cult.’ Too often, ‘cult’ merely means ‘a religious group I personally don’t like/approve of.’

  • Miss Sweetbones November 28, 2011, 4:33 pm

    I think that in this case, it’s best not to discuss it at all. If you consider a person a heretic or cultist because they are a member of a certain faith (or denomination), it’s going to be difficult to have a respectful conversation. In general, your opinion comes through, even if you don’t come out and say it. When she asked you why you were no longer a member of the church, you answered in a way that she considered disrespectful. You probably meant it as a lighthearted joke, but she took it as an attack on her faith. Unfortunately, it escalated from there. She tried to defend her religion and discredit yours, and you did the same.

    In the future, if you find yourself confronted with a question like this, I’d suggest keeping it succinct and focusing on yourself rather than the religion or your former church. “We just think that the Baptist church is a better fit for us now” is one possibility. Then, change the subject. “Is Anne still making those wonderful cakes?” If a comment is misinterpreted and met with hostility (or you lose your cool, it happens), apologize and change the subject. “I’m sorry, that came out sounding angry. I didn’t mean to offend you. Please tell me more about your daughter’s new job.” If the other party continues to prod, simply tell him or her outright that you aren’t interested in continuing the conversation: “I’m sorry, but I’d prefer to not discuss our religions. I know that you are very happy at (The Church), but it wasn’t the right place for (my husband and me). We’re quite happy at (The New Church), and I don’t think that is going to change. I’d much prefer to talk about (our mutual friends/families/sports teams/whatever).”

  • WildIrishRose November 28, 2011, 4:39 pm

    At the risk of exposing the fact that I live in a cave, what is “bean dipping”?

  • Calliope November 28, 2011, 6:35 pm

    I totally agree with Jo about the use of the word “cult” and about the oddly detailed description of the dinner, which warranted its own paragraph. I was trying to figure out why the specifics of the pasta dishes, wine, and someone named Jeanette’s leftover birthday cake were significant. Overall, I was just a little perplexed by this story. It does seem that the mutual friend was very rude, though.

  • DocCAC November 28, 2011, 6:44 pm

    Some people just like to argue. My brother is like that…he would argue religion (which particular one or denomination depended on which church he was attendng at the time) and nothing short of getting up and leaving would shut him down. Once, I agreed with him to shut him up, and he switched sides in the argument. I also joined a religion at one time that is considered a cult by many and when I left was told I had to have a hearing to see if I had sufficent reason to leave. I replied I didn’t need a hearing to get in, I didn’t need one to get out–this is America and we still have freedom of religion and refused to be engaged in argument. Do I think they are wrong in what they believe? Oh, yes. Do I care if they choose to continue to practice what they think is right? Well, yes, but that is their right in this country and I refuse to get engaged in debate about it. Once, my brother (of course) introduced me to one of their missionaries in a Wal-Mart and tried to get a debate going. When the missionary rather incredulously asked if I had left the church and I said yes, and refused to discuss it with him, he told me he would be praying for me to find the truth. I told him I felt I had and I’d be praying for him too and walked off. It was neither the time nor the place and I later let my brother know what I thought of his little stab at playing the game of “let’s you and he fight” (another of his favorite games to play). Obviously the OP & hubby did not have the option of walking out since it was their hotel room, but I congratulate them on not throwing out the friend of a friend when that person continued to be rude and obnoxious. The rudeness is squarely on the FOF, and I would make it clear to the mutual friend that that person is not to be included in future outings. The only fault I can find in the OP is going to the cult in the first place, as this may have led to the FOF (or even the friend) thinking they might be ameniable to a debate on whether or not they were really happy not being in the cult. I’m sure if asked, mutual friend would deny knowing the other person would keep on pushing things, but I wonder if this wasn’t a round about attempt on the mutual friend to either find out what happened or a try to get the OP and hubby back into the fold, as it were, so the mutual friend gets a qualified pass. It’s hard to believe the mutual friend wasn’t aware of the um, fevor of the other friend.

  • ellesee November 28, 2011, 6:55 pm

    Usually a chirpy “Why not?” with a smile throws people off guard for me. Thean bean dip.

  • Edhla November 28, 2011, 7:36 pm

    I think this sort of person (religion aside!) is impervious to bean dipping. The only thing that was ever going to work was your husband’s very blunt, almost aggressive approach. I’d work up to it, though. “I don’t want to talk about that.” “I said, I don’t want to talk about that.” “That is not up for discussion.” “If you continue to bring that up, you will be asked to leave.” “Ok, leave.”

    The other sad thing is that your friend may have been asked to befriend you that night for the sole purpose of “inviting” you back into the cult. Generally, cults don’t like their members buddying around with non-members unless they are trying to convert or re-convert. A friend of mine who left a cult over ten years ago because she divorced one of the cults members had some people she used to know arrive on her doorstep to “catch up.” Inside of five minutes they confessed they had been sent to reconvert her and ordered to take nothing from her hands, not even a glass of water, because she was outside the cult. Very sad for everyone.

    Be prepared that if you refuse to talk cult, she might disappear, is what I’m saying.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith November 28, 2011, 7:40 pm

    I have to say that “bean dipping like a fiend” about covers it! Trying to get someone who is overly focused on their own internal mandate to accept a reasonable limit with verbal warnings, negotiations, and restatements of why a subject is exhausted or simply closed is like trying to make a toddler on a sugar high comply with directions to “sit down” or “stop screaming”. These provacateurs require a nonverbal and nonnegotiable limit. They literally cannot “hear” the significance and meaning of a request (or command!) to desist from their line of questioning and arguing. Gotta love the bean dip! Finally, if one tires of passing bean dip, one can always call it a day (or a night), even in a hotel room (or restaurant, lobby, friend’s home, street corner…). We can all cross the line in the heat of expressing our views, but it’s the bully and the boor who won’t be stopped at any cost. These etiquette felons muzzle the rest of society by default because the pain and outrage induced by even distant recall of their behavior makes one want to flee any situation that has the barest whisper of potential to become a repetition of such an awful episode.

  • Asharah November 28, 2011, 8:52 pm

    Bean dipping? Changing the subject. “Have you tried the bean dip?”

  • sv November 28, 2011, 10:04 pm

    I think I would simply say, ” I really don’t want to talk about it. ” Probably with a smile, if the conversation had not yet gotten too tense. Definitely without one if it had. Repeat as needed. Your religious beliefs and practices are your private business and not open for public debate.

  • sv November 28, 2011, 10:09 pm

    Wild Irish Rose – Bean dipping is changing the subject, as in, ” Have you tried he wonderful bean dip? ” when you are in a social situation and someone asks an awkward question you would like to ignore 🙂

  • Linnie November 29, 2011, 12:14 am

    I say if the woman acts that ridiculous to just stop associating with her.
    Religion is a touchy subject. I’m a firm believer in Christ but I come from a family of Atheists and in order to avoid arguments we just don’t discuss such things.
    Unfortunately people of any religion can be pushy and just don’t know when to stop.

    If she makes you uncomfortable, stop talking to her. Clearly she’s going to bring up the same argument every time you see her, so don’t even bother.

  • Emmers November 29, 2011, 1:59 am

    Unfortunately when someone needs validation from others, they will fight to get it. I agree with the Admin’s statement that this woman seems threatened by the difference of opinion, and perhaps may have been feeling the cracks in her armor when she realized that others out there do NOT feel the same way. Humans in general like to feel as if they are ‘right’ and ‘justified’, with things as petty and nonsensical as taste in music or movies. When we are threatened, and our way of life is challenged by an opposing view point it can be difficult for someone to grasp that ‘right’ for one person, is ‘wrong’ for the other. But that is not an attack on them personally.

    A wonderful example of this is my Boyfriend and I. I am atheist, raised in a fairly religious home on one side being Catholic and the other Agnostic. For many years I dabbled in different religions before I became a solid atheist. Boyfriends family is fairly heavily religious, to the point his brother has told his mom to stop bringing religion up in every discussion. Boyfriend himself is Christian. Both of us are able to laugh and make fun of our respective religious beliefs and have never clashed with our differences. We’ve had talks about religion before and they’ve always turned out interesting. In Boyfriends words “If you’re going to believe in a religion you have to accept it as a personal opinion, not a fact that applies to everyone in the world. Because none of us know for sure and to say we’re right and everyone’s wrong is completely insane” , we have even discussed how we might raise children if we where to so go down that route. Curious, since I know he was raised religiously, I asked him. He told me honestly that he would tell his child “Some people believe in X Y Z, some people believe A B C, and let them chose what they think is right”

    Clashing views and opinions do NOT have be destructive at all, and I openly admit to stating in the past I likely wouldn’t date someone religious because of the stigma I had experienced against myself from both family and strangers over my atheism. I mean it got BAD. I had people giving me death threats. I was atheist in High School as well, and I went to one that was extremely religious though still public. Essentially the area was very Christian and almost every kid in my class owned the same Bible Camp tee shirts that they wore almost every Friday. When one class was discussing religion I briefly mentioned my atheism and the entire class went dead, then a girl of whom I’d been friendly with previously sneered at me and responded “Why would you even do that?” I’ve had family members tell me I was living in sin…goes on and on.

    It wasn’t until Boyfriend that I was able to see the difference and knew my bad experiences came from ignorant people like the one described in this story.

  • Enna November 29, 2011, 7:17 am

    I do see where Admin is coming from that some people who are firm in their beliefs can tolerate and enjoy the company of people who pratice different faiths or demoniations. However there are some individuals who can’t. I would say the polite thing to do would be to try and change the subject. If the person doesn’t take the hint then maybe distance yourself form that person. Depending how close you are to that person emotionally maybe you could have an adult chat? Personally I would say “I’m happy where I am now, you are happy where you are, let us have a nice evening.”

  • Xtina November 29, 2011, 12:48 pm

    Couldn’t agree more that people who are most uncomfortable with a decision or situation they’ve made/gotten into want to talk and talk and talk about it. It’s as if by talking about it and convincing others that what they are doing is OK, it’s a form of convincing themselves. For all the OP knows, perhaps the rude woman here might be interested in getting out but isn’t sure how to go about it (and is going about it all wrong, obviously). Sometimes, the best way to remove the focus from oneself is to start asking a lot of questions of the other person–most people like to talk about themselves! If all else fails, one is certainly free to walk away or refuse to discuss it any further.

    OP, it’s good that you’ve kept some friends from your old days, but if the religion truly was toxic, then remember that your friends are still involved. Unless your friends (and their acquaintances you may meet) can commit to not focusing on the religion/cult at all when they are around you, then you’re probably better off finding new friends who more share your views. Religion is a big, big life commitment and like many other things that can so easily change a person’s life merely by a person’s association with it, tread carefully.

  • Kimberly Herbert November 29, 2011, 1:47 pm

    My cousin is in a similar position. Except when she left the cult she left her husband (arranged marriage but she was over 18). Her father and our extended family and her Mother’s extended family are all here for her. But she “lost” her Mother (Mom joined the cult when the kids were little) and sister – and most everyone she knew growing up. Her rules are pretty simple when meeting up with old friends

    1. They don’t discuss “cult”.
    2. If they bring it up one time she reminds them of rule number 1. If they bring it up a 2nd time – she walks away without a word. She never puts herself in a position where she had to depend on a member for a ride or shelter.

    While she is not in physical danger from them. She is in emotional danger from them because she was conditioned from a young age to accept their abuse. So she has firm boundaries to protect herself.

  • WildIrishRose November 29, 2011, 4:15 pm

    Bean dipping. Great phrase! 🙂 Thanks for answering that, those who did!

  • KitKat November 29, 2011, 6:23 pm

    I had an acquaintance that was very like the ‘pushy’ friend even though we were the same religion (and in the same religious club). She was a bit clueless as to why people in the club didn’t want to associate with her even after we all attempted bean dipping several times. I unfortunately had to continue to associate with her due to her also having the same major as me. I’m happy to have a good discussion about religion and how it varies but the moment someone starts evangelizing, I either bean dip or walk away (depends on if they are willing to change the subject).

  • Raven November 30, 2011, 8:52 pm

    I find these types of people exhausting – religion, politics, childrearing, you name it. I think it’s wonderful that people feel strongly about things (imagine a world without strong feelings – yawn) but you don’t get to feel strongly about it in my face – or my home, for that matter.

    We have relatives who are Baptist missionaries, and they come to “visit” us (save us?) now and then. They are wonderful people and we love them, but it would be so nice to just leave Jesus outside for a while so we can get caught up on other things. My parents are polite and simply nod and eat their food, but I find myself biting my tongue more often than not. I’m not offended by religion, but I’m quite offended by being told that I’m going Hell because of the way I live my life – pass the bean dip.

    The thing is, it’s not just religion; anything people feel strongly about can be overboard. Good conversation is about watching your partner for cues: have they stopped looking you in the eye? Are they checking their watch? Are they shrugging? Are they trying to stab you?

    Whether it’s your new diet, your faith, your political party, or the top 20 reasons you feed your toddler organic chick peas, please – tread lightly.

  • The Geekette Down Under December 10, 2011, 9:03 pm

    The thing is, cult is not a pleasant word and should be used carefully for a reason. My experience is that the cult encourages their members to act like this, and I honestly think its a case where regular etiquette (of the bean-dip or ‘let’s not talk about it’ variety Will. Not. Work), simply because of their nature. Think of it as the cult overwriting regular etiquette with their own, where its okay to keep pushing to gain new members, especially since you’ll be saving their soul.