More friendships crash and burn

I’ve just had a pretty harrowing evening. A Christian man and wife in their fifties/sixties recently discovered my change in belief. I knew it was only a matter of time before they found out. I didn’t want them to remain in the dark indefinitely, but I’ve been dreading this day, because I know how hardcore they are about their faith.

So I called round to their house to talk it through with them. It didn’t go well. They believe I have committed apostasy, that I have “rejected the saviour.” It doesn’t matter that in my mind I haven’t rejected anyone. All I’ve done is changed my mind about what I believe is real. You can ask me, “Do you deny that Jesus is the son of God?” How can I deny something that isn’t even a reality to me, because I question the reliability of the documents that explain this person to me? Yet the idea that I have rejected an actual person is what will be imposed upon me, because they will only see it from their point of view.

They listened to me for a while. And they got their own concerns off their chest, too. It was mainly prophecies of doom upon my life, and the heavy suspicion that I had never been a true Christian in the first place. Furthermore, I’m no longer welcome at their house, nor do they want me to maintain a friendship with their twenty-two-year-old son, whom I’m quite close to, in case I lead him into deception. How about the idea of respecting his ability make up his own mind about what he hears? That doesn’t come into it, apparently. I left with a heavy heart, and feeling like I had been poisoned.

I also saw how real this was to them. The lady even wept slightly during the proceedings, so I know there is real love for me in these people, but they have lived so much of their lives within Christianity (or their particular Calvinistic brand of it) that it appears impossible for them react any other way than they did. And yet it’s the most bizarre kind of love. The underlying attitude seems to be, “I love you, but I must reject you. You are only acceptable to me if you believe what I believe.” Or, “I love you, but I must hang you out to dry.”

As fate would have it, a few weeks ago I bumped into the very guy who led me to Christ when I was seventeen. Hadn’t seen him in many, many years; he lives in England but was back here for a visit. This guy’s Christian faith has been a rocky road, like mine. Many years ago, in an email, he admitted to me that he was gay. And, you know, it was great to actually have the chance to tell him in person, “I just don’t care. You’re all right by me.” To allow myself to empathise with what he has had to go through and to express true unconditional love – not the love that says, “I love you but I don’t accept you.”

As for me, the experience this evening only reinforces my views about religion, and the problems with accepting any rigid belief system that tells you what you’re supposed to think en masse. The craziness of the extreme reaction to me is illustrated by the simple fact that I’m the same guy I always was. Better, morally, than I’ve ever been. To some extent, it’s even true to say that I was living a double life as a Christian, and for the first time in I don’t know how many years, I’m now the same person in private that I am in public. What’s a guy to do with that reality except embrace it?

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8 thoughts on “More friendships crash and burn

  1. Michael Reed says:

    Good for you. I’ve lost a couple of friends over the years thanks to my beliefs too. Being interested in male rights and gender politics often puts you into conflict with true believers. Each time it happens I just tell myself that I’m right and that you can’t expect a struggle not be difficult. You’d have to be a sociopath not to be affected by it, but but all you can do is move on.

  2. Gary Kauffman says:

    So what makes you doubt that Jesus is God’s son? I believe what the Bible says about him. I believe he is God’s son and the only way to heaven and he loved us enough to die for us on the cross. I am not condemning you or anything. I am just wondering what changed your mind after such a long time? Was it something you seen in the lives of others or just something that didn’t quite make sense with the message of Christ?

  3. Darryl Sloan says:

    Thanks, Mike.

    Gary, my problems with the Bible stem mostly from the Old Testament. The strange religion of continual animal sacrifice; God commanding his people to slaughter infants; attitudes to slavery and women. When the New Testament is built upon the Old, and both are supposed to be the Word of God, I don’t know how to even begin to accept it all en masse, on those terms. If you want an in-depth look at how my mind changed about my religion, start reading my blog from about June 2008 onwards.

  4. Sorry to hear about this. It must have been hard for you. I can see how that reaction would be typical for a Christian, at the same time it’s so very un-Christlike. How sad.
    Oh, and wasn’t it your turn to write? I’m leaving on Tuesday. Don’t be scared, I don’t bite!
    Regards,
    The Jesus Freak

  5. Paulie says:

    I recently met the woman who brought me to Christ, in town, and she offered me a lift home. We spoke for a bit about family, work, friends, etc, then she finally asked me if i was still Christian.
    I was dreading it, to be honest, and i knew it would come.

    I wasn’t dreading it because i thought she’d be nasty though, or think lowly of me, it was just because i felt like i’d let her down. And i knew she’d be a little upset, because in her mind, i’d no longer be going to heaven, etc.

    She was a little disappointed, but she never judged me once, nor did she try and force me back into the flock. She merely offered to pray for me, and gave me her phone number, should i ever need her or just want to talk, etc.

    This is why i really don’t agree that religion is the culprit, when people react badly, or throw a hissy fit. Not all Christians do this. Just like not all atheists hate religious people, etc.

    That couple, in my eyes, reacted to you in a very unloving, selfish way. But in their eyes, they were doing what was right. It’s a difficult one, i don’t think it makes them bad people, just misguided. The confusing thing is their attitude is very un-Christ-like. Christ mixed with the sinners, he didn’t think himself better or think they were a bad influence on him, he was strong in his own convictions and went into the places that needed it most, showing by example and converting people with his works. If anything, the way you are now Darryl, from their perspective, according to the teachings of Christ, makes you need them all the more. Yet they choose to just turn away.

    Maybe it was just an angry first response? And they’ll come round, after they’ve had time to think about it?

  6. Darryl Sloan says:

    Grace,

    It sure was hard. But I’ll be all right. Thanks.

    Paul,

    The subject of our rather different church experiences comes round quite a lot in our chats. Be glad you never fell in with my crowd.

    “That couple, in my eyes, reacted to you in a very unloving, selfish way. But in their eyes, they were doing what was right. It’s a difficult one, i don’t think it makes them bad people, just misguided. “

    I think that’s exactly it. And I certainly don’t harbour any ill-will towards them. They do, however, scare me a little.

    “The confusing thing is their attitude is very un-Christ-like. Christ mixed with the sinners, he didn’t think himself better or think they were a bad influence on him, he was strong in his own convictions and went into the places that needed it most, showing by example and converting people with his works.”

    They have their own complex understandings of church government and their duties within that. I am technically “under discipline” by the church (although I was never told this, and had to learn second hand). They say they must reject friendship with me out of loyalty to the church.

    Also, the man concerned believes this applies to me (Hebrews 10:26-31):

    If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

    “Maybe it was just an angry first response? And they’ll come round, after they’ve had time to think about it?

    I don’t think so. I know these people. They are total hardcore believers in their particular version of Christianity. I have no doubt that they are praying for me, maybe even to the point of tears, and in their own way they love me. But sadly, this love is not unconditional.

  7. Paulie says:

    I would go so far as to claim it isn’t “love” at all. Certainly not in the true meaning of love.

    As to that verse, i’m not very familiar with it, and it’s difficult to gain true meaning of it when i’m not Christian, but personally:
    I think that’s talking about God’s judgement, not man’s. Who are we to decide whether or not the person next to us has had full knowledge or not?
    Surely only God can make that decision.

    I really am thankful for my church experience, and i appreciate it a good deal, even when i no longer believe, it taught me a lot, about people, love, respect, etc. And i look back on it positively, because of that. And i know in my heart, if i went to the door of the woman who brought me to Christ, at 3am, because i was depressed, she’d be there for me, she’d listen, she’d advise, and although her advice would be Christ related, she wouldn’t thrust Christianity in my face, or tell me it’s the only answer.
    In my opinion she’s a truly loving person. Someone i respect a great deal.

    I can only remember one man ever being kicked out of our church, thinking about it, and the reason was for the safety of others. He had some problems and was an ex-boxer. He was a really, really nice guy, but one of the problems he had was from his past mistakes in life (in the paramilitaries, jail, etc), his ex-wife had denied him access to the kids, and it got him down a great deal, sometimes.
    One night he lost it in the church, and started throwing punches. I wasn’t there, but apparently it was bedlam, i don’t think anyone got hurt, but the pastor had no choice but to ask him not to come back. Even he wasn’t kicked aside though, people still went to his house, including the pastor, on a regular basis, to pray with him and help him through it, then about 2 months later, he returned to the church and everything went back to normal.

  8. Darryl Sloan says:

    Paul,

    “I would go as far as to claim it isn’t ‘love’ at all. Certainly not in the true meaning of love.”

    Oh, there’s love. It’s hard to mistake the lady’s tears for anything else. Her treatment of me is coming out of how controlled she is by her particular religious views.

    “And I know in my heart, if I went to the door of the woman who brought me to Christ, at 3am, because I was depressed, she’d be there for me.”

    These people said I could always call for help, if I needed it. Just not to socialise. Those were the terms. Man, oh man.

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