Help me with my overly religious and bigoted dad

So, last week I flew back to Oregon to visit with my family, my dad included. My relationship with my father has always been kind of tenuous, but recently I find him more and more difficult to talk to and be around. In the past, I used to just let his off-the-wall remarks kind of roll off of me, or bounce off of me, or something like that… but now it’s getting really offensive and I don’t know how to address it.

I feel like I should say or try to do something, but I don’t know exactly what to do or say. This last time I was back visiting, I had to put up with tons of his bizarre beliefs like, “Hispanics are taking over the world,” and tons of crap about how the end of the world is coming soon, and the world is a sad place that deserves to be done away with, and tons of just awful stuff. I remember when we were driving, we saw a latino family crossing the street and he said something like, “Hurry and cross the street before another baby falls out of your vagina!”

Evidently he is also going to a church where they preach literal creationism, as in, the earth is only a few thousand years old (and I think he’s starting to believe it, or accept it as a possibility), and evidently they also have preached about knowing the precise day that the rapture is going to occur. It really saddens me that he’s surrounding himself with such nonsense.

I’m just getting really tired of this shit, and I don’t know how much longer I can put up with it before I ragequit my relationship with him completely. Is there anything I can do to help him, or to help me, or anything at all you can think of?

I am thinking about writing and sending him a letter via post, just telling him that bigoted things upset me and I don’t want to hear them when I’m around him. I don’t want to hear his religious and political rants either. I don’t know if such a letter would do more harm than good, but that’s my only idea so far.

Do any of you have any suggestions? Any and all advice is appreciated.

I can sympathize, even though I’ve never been in a situation even close to yours. People do interventions when someone is hurting the people they love, though. Maybe if others have noticed his change in personality, you could get them together and approach him as a group?

I have had situations like that with friends, although not with family members. (Well, yeah, actually, one distant cousin.) Alas, in a few cases, I’ve simply had to walk away from the friendship.

The approach that seems to work the best for me is to ask for a personal zone of exemption. “I respect your beliefs, but may I ask you, please, not to say such things when I’m around?”

Even if they agree, you have to expect a few violations of the treaty. “Damn Mexicans… Oops, did I say that?” Or “Damn those people you won’t let me talk about when you’re here.” Adults, no less than children, test social boundaries by small acts of rebellion. Here, you just have to be patient. “I believe we had an agreement…”

And what if they rebel outright? “I’m not gonna go tippy-toeing around, watching every word, lest I accidentally say something that offends only you.” Alas, there, you have to make a decision. Escalate…or walk away.

Keep as calm as possible… Talbot Mundy once said that it is impossible to be persuasive when angry. Wise words.

Is there some reason you really want to maintain a relationship with him?

My view on these kinds of situation is always this: He’s an old man. He’s a product of his era and he’s set in his ways. The odds are very low that anything you can say or do will change him when this is how he has been relating to the world for decades.
If you get something positive out of the relationship then just try your best to ignore the stuff you find offensive and steer the conversation to the things you do enjoy discussing with him.
I have a lot of relatives who have views that I would consider very offensive if one of my peers expressed that view. However, I do tend to cut slack to the elderly. They really don’t know any better. When they were young and forming their views of the world, everyone thought this way.

Besides…someday, we’ll be old and the future generation of young people will think of us as backwards and ignorant too probably. :slight_smile:

I disagree with Lavenderviolet. It’s not so much about him as it is about you, and where you draw your boundaries.

I think a letter is a bad idea; it’s impersonal and it may feel like you are sniping at him from a safe distance. If you aren’t able to say these things to him in person, probably you are better off not saying them at all.

I think Trinopus has the right idea: set your boundaries and stick to them. But be prepared for losing your relationship with your father, at least for a time. If you do it calmly and without rancour, he may come around in time.

Do you want a relationship with him?

That’s a serious question, and one you should consider carefully. Odds are basically zero that you will be able to talk him out of his belief system, so your options are pretty much 1> bite your tongue and put up with it, 2> request that he refrain from making racist/political remarks in your presence (which he may or may not comply with), or 3> walk away.

If 1, good luck. If 2, just be direct the next time he says something offensive, e.g. “Please don’t make racist remarks in my presence.” He’ll probably try to argue with you; if he does, don’t bite, just say, “I’m not going to argue with you, I’m asking you to respect my request not to hear it.” If he still argues, or says no, then you know how much he respects you.

If 3, I wouldn’t bother giving him a good-bye/explanation letter. He’ll try to argue with you and tell you that you’re wrong. (He’ll probably try to do that anyway, once he tips to the fact that you don’t talk to him anymore.) That argument will be the least productive thing you can do with your time, so just don’t. If he tries to draw you into one, just ignore him. He’ll stop eventually.

Be prepared for him to blame you for the dissolution of your relationship, too. There’s nothing you can say that would make him understand why you find his behavior offensive.

IMHO old people can be very similar to rebellious teenagers in some ways, except they prefer extremist politics instead of wearing goth makeup and dabbling in satanism. There’s really nothing an outsider can do except leave it alone. If you argue, they’ll either be happy they pissed you off or angry that you just don’t get them.

Not to dispute this directly, but in my experience it’s a little more subtle than that. I’ve known a number of people that started out as run-of-the-mill average tolerant open minded people, but as they passed into middle age and older they lost their ability to tolerate differences. So, no it’s not always about being a product of their era or set in their ways.

My interpretation is - as someone ages they may feel less in control of their own life and the world around them. This can be because of ever reducing physical capabilities or even early cognitive deterioration. Consequently, they feel more threatened in general and powerless so they react.

Can you do anything about it? Probably just be somewhat understanding of what they are going through?

Take my approach. Shame him for his lack of intelligence. Force him to argue for his beliefs and mock his irrationality. You can’t reason with these people so you have to attack emotionally - make him embarrassed to hold the beliefs he does.

Well, first I have a question.

Does he live alone?

If he lives with someone else, maybe talking to whoever that is might be helpful. Is this new behavior, is he watching a lot of Fox TV lately?

I wouldn’t send a letter.

That’s a plausible general point but it looks to me like he’s changed – or at least gotten substantially more vocal about it – recently. He wasn’t always so openly, vehemently racist, that is.

I would echo several posters above…first, decide if you want a relationship with him. If the answer is yes, than I would take a different tack than confronting him…ignore it. Simply refuse to respond or acknowledge it when he starts saying things like that. I have a favorite tactic, wherein I simply hold the conversation I want to be having, instead of the one the other person is trying to have. ie…“Those damn Mexicans, etc, etc.” “I’m thinking I’m going to grill steak tonight.” “Also Jews, they’re evil.” “I think I’ll roast some potatos, too.” “They’re all going to hell when the world ends.” “You have to be careful when you roast potatos, so the skin doesn’t get too tough.”

It’s remarkably effective, in my experience. If you persist, you can usually get the person to have the conversation you’re having in 5-10 remarks, or so.

Could it be dementia? Paranoia and lack of appropriate behavior are common in dementia patients, even early on.

Maybe something weird and crazy like it’s his dad?

Finally, a common sense answer. Thank you.

And it’s about far more than being elderly/etc. For crying out loud…it’s your DAD. Hello.

Sorry but I find it incredibly scary how many people here think it makes more sense to suggest getting all high n mighty and severing a relationship with one’s father vs just letting his rants roll off your back, or at most, trying to approach him about it and if he balks just taking the high road. Or how many people are seriously going “do you want a relationship with him?” Does he want a relationship with his father? Gee ya think? Wow and yikes. I guess family love for some ends at political/religious disagreements :dubious:

I have relatives, not even parents, who I disagreed with strongly on some things, but I wouldn’t think of blowing them off because of it. What the hell? It’s not like a spouse or something.

Just because someone’s family doesn’t mean they’re a decent human being. I’m not saying that’s true in this case, but it’s a valid question to ask.

To the OP: Get over yourself. Your Dad is not as racist as you think and you are not as open-minded as you think. Your world is different from your Dad’s world. Your Dad (as you describe him), is uncomfortable with the speed of change that has occurred to the world he grew up in. Perhaps he does not have the vocabulary to describe his feelings, so he settles for easy (racist sounding) descriptions.

Do not doubt that however open-minded you think you are, your children will think you just as much of a social ogre as you consider your Dad.

If you are truly irked, don’t shove your ire into your Dad’s face, but try (with all your might) to find gentle ways to share your opinion.

There is a huge difference between racial inexperience and true racism. Give your Dad the benefit of the doubt.

Thanks for all the advice guys and gals. Looks like a letter is out of the question so I won’t go that route. I will try to bring it up gently during one of our Skype sessions. My dad is in his mid 50s so he’s not some racist old geezer. He has always had some strong opinions but it seems to me he is more scared or threatened lately and he’s adhering to some more extreme positions.

Basically, anybody who would drop their father because of different beliefs is emotionally immature and unable to deal with people who see things differently.
How about - “Dad, even if I was racist, that wasn’t even funny.”
Or roll your eyes and say “come on Dad”
Let him know, that you know what he is doing, but you don’t approve.
If he can’t take the hints, do what others of mentioned (write letters etc.)

And it is painful to see a loved one absorbed in bad qualities. But you nailed it on the head. It is fear.