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Brains Are Thicker Than Politics

Posted on 2009.01.21 at 00:29
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: We Just Disagree - Dave Mason
A friend of mine recently had an awkward moment with an old friend. I think it was the sort of moment we can all relate to, regardless of our political or philosophical views, so I’m going to remove the direct political references from the tale in the hope of telling a more universal story.

My friend (I’ll call her Inga) was recently reunited with someone she had spent a lot of time with when they were both in their late teens/early 20s. Back then, political discussions, or even political references, weren’t a strong part of their relationship. But during their years of separation, both had made some firm choices about where they stood and both had loosened their tongues when it came to articulating their respective views.

In the course of their reunion conversation, Inga made an offhand remark on a prominent political figure that indicated serious disapproval of his philosophies. She said this under the assumption that her old friend was in agreement. This turned out to be a naïve assumption, for her old friend reacted by giving her a brief stare before replying something along the lines of, “Well no; surely you don’t believe that! I’m a great fan of his and a strong supporter of his philosophies!”

There was no great argument following that moment. Both parties seemed to realize that this was beyond the scope of their current relationship and neither wanted to dwell on their differences at that moment. Inga later expressed to me her disappointment that her friend had “turned out that way.” I had little to offer in response other than the thought that sometimes, even good friends may have areas of profound philosophical disagreement, and if the friendship is to endure, it ought to be based more on the areas where the two of them can agree.

As I’ve pondered this topic, I’ve realized that there is a variation on this scenario I can relate from my own life. The difference is that this person and I have not had a reunion, but I wonder what it might be like were it ever to occur. He and I spent a lot of time together for a few years when we were in our 20s. He went off to Los Angeles to seek his fortune some years ago and has done pretty well according to what I’ve heard. I’ve also heard that he has Gotten Religion. I’ve capitalized that because what I mean is that he has not only become devoutly religious himself; he has also become an active proselyte for his faith and will often greet old friends by immediately trying to ascertain their religious orientation and will then proceed to explain the joys his faith has delivered to him. He’ll even offer printed materials to help you get onto The Path. I can assure you most solemnly that this is a dramatic shift from the life he was leading when I knew him. I’m not quite the same person I was then either for that matter, but it would be intriguing to see how we would interact today, since I am decidedly NOT an adherent of his religious views. I can at least report that I have no printed materials to offer espousing my philosophy or world view – though I might give him the URL for this journal in exchange for his materials, so maybe we should call it even!

I don’t know how many of you have had such moments with old friends (or even with new friends), but if you haven’t yet, there’s a good chance you will!


moonlitrose9 at 2009-01-21 13:33 (UTC) (Link)
That's a very interesting point. I have a friend I met about 20 years ago. I knew she had religious belief but she didn't talk much about it, anyway, we had so many other things in common that it didn't matter. Over the years she's become more zealous and fundamentalist and started to try and convert me. I explained that that wasn't my path but that obviously fell on deaf ears. She started giving me pamphlets - I accepted at first as I didn't want to offend her but after a while told her I didn't want any more. She still kept offering and I refusing. I said on numerous occasions that I valued our friendship but that we should keep religion out of it but that has never stopped her. She moved away and over time we have had less and less contact - mostly because she just couldn't let it go - she would bring up her faith in every conversation even though I asked her not to - we only spoke on the phone once last year!!! We still send each other christmas and birthday cards and, once again, even though I've asked her not to, she always puts a bible reference on every card. It drives me nuts but even worse, I've lost a person who used to be a very close and fun friend. What a shame.
charlesofcamden at 2009-01-21 16:50 (UTC) (Link)
Some religions induce their members to seek converts overtly - by telling them it is the command of God that they should do so. Others do it more subtly - by telling them that anyone who is not a member of their group will burn in hell. So your friend could be pursuing your conversion either out of concern for her own soul or out of concern for yours. Either way, it's a time-honored control and growth technique employed by a great many faiths. It may be beneficial to the long-term health of the religion, but it's hell on friendships.
(Anonymous) at 2009-01-22 05:38 (UTC) (Link)

Occasional Friends

Ultimately the only person's behavior you can really control is your own. If your faith is strong, then you know that you can't be converted. If someone has offended you, the best course of action is forgiveness.
There are certain friends I see only once a year; at those times, I am often reminded of why I don't see them more often.
-- ggreen
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