This post is also available in: हिन्दी

Part 1:

My mother decided when we moved to the Sacramento valley to find a Seventh Day Adventist church. At first, she went on her own on Saturdays, then eventually she started taking my brother and I. We attended regular services for a year when she made the decision she wanted to become a baptized member, and wanted the same for us too. The day before the day we got baptized, the pastor from our church came to visit my brother and I to talk to us, and make sure we were serious about being baptized; he also wanted to talk to our dad, who was and still is a Hindu. Really, it was just a cursory visit. My dad said my brother and I will only say yes to baptism because of pressure from their mother. He was right. My mother had threatened both of us that if we did not get baptized, she would no longer have a relationship with us. In addition, my maternal grandmother was also visiting, and was part of the meeting. The pastor had no intention of listening to my dad’s objections. I remember I heard so much disdain from him towards “heathens”, so this was not surprising. So of course, we consented to getting baptized. We didn’t want to let down our mother, or our maternal grandmother.

I remember that day well. We were baptized on a sabbath day (Saturday), but it didn’t really feel all that special to me. That morning, before everyone woke up, I remember I was secretly listening to a Fleetwood Mac CD I had bought the day before in my Walkman. I had a vague sense that I would become a different person and was probably subconsciously trying to experience small pleasures before I took this step and became a new person. That’s the line the pastor gave my brother and I, that we would become new people when we get baptized in the name of the holy spirit. We had to go to a bigger church for the baptism as our church didn’t have a pool to get baptized in. In fact, we were using the facilities of a Baptist church; my old church still uses the Baptist church for services. I don’t remember if I gave a testimony or anything, or if I said a prayer before the pastor baptized me, my brother and our mother in the name of the father, son and holy spirit. I remember after being dunked, I could see tears streaming down my maternal grandmother’s face. Even though she was part of a different denomination (Methodist), she must have been SO happy that we were no longer half-heathen children anymore. We were children of this god and that we were finally saved.

From that point, my mother took seventh day Adventism seriously. We were to strictly observe the sabbath day from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. No homework, and no other ungodly activity then. She also prohibited reading fiction books and severely discouraged us from listening to non-Christian music. She also made my brother and I watch Amazing Facts videos and other videos of her choosing. I was in high school, and had no choice but to sneakily work on homework on the sabbath day, otherwise I would have a large pile on Sunday. Also, I never stopped reading fiction books or listening to non-Christian music. Eventually, she let up on those arbitrary restrictions. At the same time, I did earnestly and sincerely try my best to be a good Christian and good seventh day Adventist. Even so, I never felt any different after my baptism. In an attempt to try and feel the holy spirit, I read the bible, front to back several times. That did not help at all. Reading the bible created more doubts and questions in my mind which I had to constantly suppress. If I ever asked my mother or my pastor questions, I would just get in trouble, especially with my mother.

A year after getting baptized, my mother decided to take an evangelism course at the Amazing Facts College of Evangelism. Her goal was to go to India as a missionary. There, she learnt scripture front to back, which was no problem for her as she knew scripture already. She also learnt strategies on engaging people and getting them interested in prophecy, as taught by Amazing Facts of course. She and her classmates were sent to work with a church 2 hours east of Sacramento to get people to come to watch an Amazing Facts video series in that church. I know my brother and I were also tasked by our home church with giving out flyers at our schools advertising the video series. I didn’t do that. Instead, I left the pile of flyers I was given on an empty cafeteria table and ran away. I’m sure the janitor threw them away. I digress though. My mother would have me drive with her 2 hours away to help spread the word in that town about the Amazing Facts series. Particularly, she was tasked with going to people who were not white and/or from immigrant backgrounds. I remember going with her to visit an Indian single mother with a local churchgoer who also spoke the same language. I was never comfortable with evangelizing or advertising this. To me, it felt sinister. Especially going to vulnerable people like that.

Image for post
Image credit: Beltsville Seventh Day Adventist Church

In spite of any misgivings I must have felt deep down as a teenager, I still did my best to be a good seventh day Adventist. My brother was defiant throughout. He didn’t care to take it seriously. Often times, my brother and my mother would get into fights on sabbath days, and he would frequently get kicked out of the car while driving to and from church. But I kept my head down and did my best to observe seventh day Adventist tenets. It cost me a lot. I couldn’t get a job as a teenager because I refused to work Saturdays. If I had a job, I would have had more money saved up and it would have gone a long way for me. Even so, I somehow still had it in me to be secretly defiant while I lived under my mother’s roof. I had some vague plans to run away as soon as I turned 18, but those plans fell through.

It was shortly before I graduated high school that my dad decided he wanted a divorce. He decided he couldn’t wait until my brother had finished high school. Enough was enough. He moved out within a month of asking for a divorce, otherwise my mother would have had some sort of violent confrontation with him. My mother then had the pastor (a new pastor had taken over by then) from our church come and comfort my brother and I. He told us not to feel sad or distressed. That our dad was not a real dad, he is just a sperm donor, and a heathen for that matter. That it would be best if we had nothing to do with him. It was a very confusing time even though my parents needed to divorce years before they did. And even before the divorce, my mother poisoned both my brother and I against our dad, when we were little kids. So my relationship with my dad, already strained, was strained even further because of the divorce and because he was a heathen still. I haven’t forgiven my mother or this pastor for that. The only reason she didn’t want me to completely cut off contact with my dad was for money. He promised to pay for college. The money he paid for college will come into play in later parts.

I graduated from high school. Nothing much to remember, except my dad not being allowed to attend the ceremony. I finally got a temporary summer job, thankfully not working on the sabbath, and then I started college. It was back in the Bay Area, so it was my first experience being away on my own. I still had to go back every weekend, but just being on my own gave me some breathing room, and started the slow deconversion process, which I will start to write about in Part 3.

DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.