friends vs. doctrine
I have read a lot of stories of people facing a terrible backlash from friends or family when leaving Christianity, or even just a particular church or ministry. Many feel, or actually are ostracized by those around them. I have been blessed that has not been my experience in the church at all. While in some ways I believe the doctrine of the church does not provide an adequate framework for dealing with issues of doubt and asking certain kinds of questions, I have never had cause to doubt the sincerity of friends of mine as they have sought to help me.
Last week we had dinner with a family who are among our closest friends from church. Despite the changes in beliefs that I have experienced, we enjoyed and benefited from our time together. As we were driving home I remarked to my wife that, “Friends are more important than doctrine.” Not that doctrines may never be relevant in friendships, but often doctrines are unneccesarily divisive. That should be a no-brainer for me, but it is something I am learning more lately.
I was freshly reminded of this lesson when I received the email below a couple of days later from the same friend:
Subject: did you catch me?
J., I hope you’re not quitting [blogging] on my account. C. found your blog (you might say randomly) last week as she was looking for back yard bible club info. I sat down tonight and read most of it, except for your June posts. If you are uncomfortable with me looking at it I will stop. If you feel or think you cannot be blunt or honest because one of your conservative christian friends may read it and be offended I can stop reading. You have not offended me. I am sad of course. I understand your need to express what you are thinking and feeling and blog world seems like a good place to do that.
In the beginning of all this (beginning for me) it was a bit shocking. I don’t know if I know many people that have so clearly deconverted. Of course I wouldn’t want you to be someone you are not or believe something for the sake of those around you. It’s o.k. to be you J. I’ll still love you. I’m still going to pray for you and C. If I ask you corny or seemingly shallow questions about when was the last time you were at church it’s not so I can notch it on the wall and pray that somehow you make it to another service. We obviously differ at many levels and on many points but we can still interact right? I’m looking forward to Wednesday when we can talk about what we can talk about. Does that make sense? Again, if you want me to get off your blog, I will. I’ll understand. I might even still buy you bkfst. C.
I told him, “yes,” he could continue to read, as long as he is willing to comment from time to time, call me on the carpet if needed. It’s worth the trade off for me, sacrificing the relative freedom of writing in anonymity to be able to live a less anonymous life. And how could I say no to an offer like that anyway? ;^) I have a lot to be thankful for; I can’t imagine a more understanding or gracious message.