Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Who do you trust?

Here’s what this post is not asking: I’m not asking if polite interaction with a born-again is possible. My doubts aren’t involving whether or not it’s impossible to have a friendly conversation with a born-again Christian, or whether you can enjoy a book/movie/play. I’m not asking whether one can have a casual friendship with one. Maybe even a deep friendship, if the friendship involves how both are focused on community service, or volunteering at an animal shelter, or maybe even a political party.

What my post is asking is whether or not it’s possible to have a deep friendship with a born-again, conservative, evangelical Christian. One that is built on trust, in knowing that the person likes you for who you are, accepts you for who you are, and know that you can trust the other person with the very core of yourself.

Take person A: person A’s identity – the very way in which she interacts with the world, the way she functions, and the way she treats people is directly impacted by her views on the following: the environment, science, reproductive rights, a woman’s place in the home vs. the workplace, education, tolerance, and the fact that she doesn’t feel humanity deserves to be tormented for all eternity simply because humanity had the misfortune of being born. If any of those are changed, then person A has become a different person.

Take person B: person B is a born-again Christian, aligning very closely with the fundamentalist/evangelical mindset, and all that it stereotypically entails.

Person A disagrees with person B on a lot of matters, obviously. And she doesn’t see how much of person B’s mindset can be followed – and they’ve had discussions on this – yet it’s person B’s life (Although person A has had her moments of frustration in wishing for some sort of change).

Person B prays for person A’s salvation, for person A is not a born-again Christian. In essence, though I doubt person B views this as such, person B is asking God to change person A’s identity. Yet person A and B are also very close friends, and a key component of friendship is accepting the other person as she is, virtues, flaws, and all.

So Person B says to person A, “I accept you.” Yet at the same time, person B is praying that the “you” being accepted is saved, and gets the entire identity re-worked.

Can a friendship exist under these conditions? I know that conversations can occur with these two people, common goals can be fought for, and there can even be deep conversations. There can even be a casual friendship, perhaps revolving around the common goals. But can a friendship where both people trust each other implicitly exist, if one person in the friendship is asking a deity to re-work the other person?

For instance, friendship involves listening and understanding. But can person B truly just listen to what person A confides? Or would person B try and use the story in some way to sway person A towards Jesus?

Can person B even be capable of listening? If person A is sharing an experience where person A believed something connected her to the divine, and this experience contradicts person B’s truth, how well can person B listen to that? Or will person B simply assume that she has the truth position, and thus use that truth position to try and poke holes into person A’s worldview?

Will person B be the most compassionate person to talk to? After all, person B firmly believes that person A – like everyone else – deserves to be sent to Hell. Even if Hell is defined only as the absence of God, this is saying that person A believes person B does not deserve love, light, compassion, mercy, justice.

Can person B even be capable of seeing person A, since person B believes that everyone's life is almost empty without Jesus? That person B believes that for true love/life/happiness/purpose, one must have a relationship with Jesus? No matter what person A may say to the contrary, or that person A's life has demonstrated that it's no more empty that person B's?

Or is there just a day, when person A realizes that person B has no idea what she's asking person A to sacrifice in order to have this "salvation?" When person A realizes that it's almost impossible for person B to not only not understand person A, but it's impossible for person B to even try? When person looks at person B and thinks "You want me to become someone else, and see nothing wrong with that."

How long do these two remain good friends?