Thursday, May 1, 2008

Songbird, a blog friend of my mom's, has a cool blog where she often
talks about her life as an interim minister. In a recent post, she
talked about a book by Henri J.M.Nouwen , Life of the Beloved, and how,
although he wrote it for a secular friend, the friend still found it
too "religious-y". I have not read the book (summer reading list,
maybe?) but I know all about the secular/sacred friend divide.

Nouwen and I seem to have a similar challenge when speaking with friends about
faith and spirituality. Of the non-church friends I have (meaning, friends I didn't grow up going to church with), I can think of one off the top of my head who still goes to church. And really, all I know is that he was raised Lutheran and still goes to services with his sister on occasion-but the important part for me is that he does not condemn me for my faith practices.

Now, condemn is a strong word, and I don't mean it to be. But it seems to me that most of my friends were raised in left-wing, middle-class families that worked so hard not to pressure their children into any particular path of faith, that it led
them to have a disdain for it in general. Since the majority of faith we see represented in the media is conservativeChristianity, this doesn't really shock me. I think some of their disdain stems from not understanding.

If you had never seen a flower bloom, would you believe it could?

That's a little cliche, but I am totally serious! It has literally made me cry
to think that I have friends who are unwilling or unable to tap into
the higher power that I am blessed to encounter, simply because they
are not open to it.

But what has having these friends done for me, and what have I done for them?

For me, I think it has led to both positive and negative outcomes. A
negative one is that I tend to be very defensive about my faith. "I go
to church, and I dare you to laugh!" I expect people to be offended or
contemptuous right off the bat. In my defense, I have been in enough
situations where my defenses do need to be up, but defense is only a
small step away from offense, and that is not a path I want to take.

A positive outcome, however, is that "And They'll Know We Are Christians
By Our Love" has become a mantra for me. I recently had a conversation
with a new friend from Karaoke. I had known her for maybe two months
when we had this conversation.

We were standing in my tiny kitchen and it went like this:

Friend: "Oh, this is a great magnet! "Thank God I'm not a Christian!"
Me: "Yeah, it's funny cause I am one, but that was my sister's back when she was Wiccan. HA! Now she's graduating from seminary, she's going to be a minister!"
Friend: "Umm, I don't understand that" and she gave me a look like she was suddenly a little frightened of me, not sure if I would reach in my pocket and
pull out a "Jesus Loves You, too" packet.

It turns out she is herself Wiccan, and has felt oppressed by Christians in her life. I understand that. I remember a "friend" telling me in fifth grade that I was going to hell with my sister because she was a lesbian and I loved her - seriously. she said that to my face, like, "Oh, so sorry to have to break the news, but..."

Anywho, back to the magnet story.

So, I saw this as an opportunity to enlighten my friend and maybe ease some of her
wariness about my religion. I think it went well. I explained a little
about my sister's faith journey (what I know of it mostly from sermons
she has preached) and my own path that I still walk of finding daily wisdom's that I add to my personal theology.

And this is where the "knowing I'm a Christian by my love" comes in. If I
had had that conversation with her right after I met her, she wouldn't
have been open to hearing it. I am not saying I was trying to convert
her, not in the least. But I like to think I opened her heart and mind
to the possibility that my RELIGION'S past does not dictate my SPIRITUAL

If this was a sermon, I would now say,

"Let me say that again: My RELIGION'S past does not dictate my SPIRITUAL future"

and I did this by showing her through my actions that I am a good friend,
one that is caring and will be there for you when you are down and will
visit you at your crummy job at the mall, without having superficial
concepts like "religion" as a prereq.

So, did I get anywhere with that? I am not sure. But I am now headed out of here to work on a screenplay, film a chase scene and go to the last full screenwriting class of the semester :(


Auntie Knickers said...

As they say on the RevGalBlogPals, "That'll preach, sister!"

Onkel Hankie Pants said...

Yup, some sermon fodder there, all right.

Songbird said...

I am way behind getting to read this but want to thank you for sharing your story this way. I'm reading a really good book right now called "The Faith Club" written by three women trying to understand each other's faith. They are Christian, Jewish and Muslim. I wonder what it would have been like to add a Wiccan to the mix?