Recently there have been a few blog entries by friends about deconverts interacting with Christian friends. The question was poignantly asked, Is it possible [for a deconvert] to have Christian friends and family? Obviously anything is possible, and I am sure there are numerous anecdotal accounts regarding individuals who do nicely, thank you very much.
I haven’t seemed to manage it.
To me, its feels like that summer after your first year of college. You get together with your high school buddies and by evening’s end, realize you have no interest getting together with your high school buddies!
In high school you shared experiences with your classmates—same teachers, same halls. Same inside jokes about Ms. Crabapple. The team losing the semi-finals together. The year ends with graduation, parties, and assurances of being BFF’s (contractually enforced through yearbook signatures.)
Then you go away to college. A whole new set of friends, experiences, and growing up. Coming back, the jokes about Ms. Crabapple seem stale. The lost semi-final forgotten amongst new memories of parties and inter-mural Frisbee golf. How many times can one recount the same thing? Either the relationship continues to grow with new experiences (and new jokes and laughter) or it dies. So you maintain a relationship with a few, and the rest fall off, only to be remembered when bumping into each other at Wal-Mart (“Boy did he lose his hair!”) or Facebook.
I wanted to maintain my relationship with Christian friends and my family. I naively thought it could work. But I started to realize I was having new experiences, new laughs, new inside jokes they couldn’t share.
Me: And then she said…get this…’Evolution is just a theory.’ Bwahahaha. Can you believe it?
Them: [Blank stare.]
(“This one time…at college…we created stair sledding. It was the funniest thing EVER!”
I began to have questions that they not only didn’t share—they didn’t want to share:
Me: Why didn’t Paul seem to know anything about the Jesus of the Gospels?
Them: Look, all I want to know is how to apply Paul’s doctrine to my life.
I don’t want to give the impression my journey is somehow better or more full than theirs. It is just…different. As if we were on a train, and I took a side-track. I’m seeing different scenery, going to different places. They are perfectly happy on their track (seeing things I am not), with their friends, and their scenery and stops. They would love to have me re-join the train, but have no interest in joining my side-track. Their life is complete without it.
With these two divergent courses, relationships will suffer, wither and end. They don’t want me to be friend—they want me to be convert. And, to be honest, how much do I want their friendship if I find myself stifling my curiosity, and censuring my statements around them? What kind of friendship is that?—I could do that with any acquaintance.
Facebook has brought this into sharp focus. Having joined many of my former friends, I get to see status updates and posts:
“We went to the Doctor and received a prescription for Tommy’s sickness. Isn’t God great?”
(Me [to myself]: Griznitmicklemuph…)
“Hey! Here’s a great video about how Einstein bested an atheist professor on the question of God. Einstein was only 2 1/2.”
(Me [to myself]: GrizNITMICKLemuph…)
“Why do those atheists have to put ads on buses?”
(Me [to myself]: GRIZNITMICKLEMOSTICKMON…)
And if I dare respond…carefully couching it in the most innocuous, harmless, questioning tone possible…I hear that AOL voice, “You’ve been defriended!”
So what—I was defriended by plenty long before Facebook developed it. Ha!
I find my laughter, my talks, my relaxation amongst those I can share new experiences together. Time to look back on those former friends with fond memories of good times with a smile, and look forward to new friends and more good times and a grin.