Friendships with Fundies can be very taxing.
When I began my friendship with “Frieda” we were both members of an Australian Methodist church. I began studying for the Methodist ministry but the intensive academic study of the Bible led to me losing my religious beliefs. Shortly after that Frieda moved to a country town. The ensuing 20 year relationship has been continued, for the most part, by email.
When the Methodist Church joined to become part of the Uniting Church, Frieda joined a charismatic community. From that point on I have sadly watched her slip away into Fundie dementia. I managed to ignore most of until recently.
A few years ago Frieda completed a two year Fundie-level “masters” degree in “christian counseling”. The program is one of the new breed of mis-education which managed to slip through into the Australian system under the regressive Howard government. The degree has managed to “de-educate” her to the point where any critical ability she possessed in the past appears to have been surgically removed.
Until recently I have not bothered her with declarations of my non-belief in the supernatural because I did not want to rock the boat and cause conflict. The straw that broke my back was meeting up with her again when she traveled to Los Angeles for a Gideon conference. What I saw shocked me so much that I wrote to her after the event and told her, in rather muted fashion, some of my concerns. She followed by sending me a spate of religious email virals. I replied to two of them which opened up a discussion which has been continuing on and off for about two years now.
In the course of an ongoing discussion about the inconsistency of christian moral views and behaviour she berated me for my “ignorance of the many different beliefs held by various Christian groups in one country, let alone around the world”, challenged me to provide chapter and verse for various statements I had made about inconsistencies in the worldview of Paul, Jesus and the other Apostles, implied that I had not “thoroughly read the Bible”, argued that archeology has authenticated all the gospels and refered me to a 150 page book by Josh McDowell (“Evidence with demands a verdict”).
She ended thus:
When we believe in the loving, holy and just Sovereign God as revealed in the bible and supremely in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and ask him to be in charge of our life, love enters our life in all its spiritual power, and changes us from the inside out. We find significance and hope and purpose in our lives. The more we read his Word and open our lives to his influence, the more we want to be loving, holy and just as he is. The journey of becoming more like Jesus never ends in this life, as our fallen human nature fouls up time and again. But my relationship with Him is more important than anything else to me - it is indescribably precious. He never stops challenging me to a life of holiness, loving God, loving my fellow human, obeying his wise laws, eg, do not tell lies or steal, have sexual relationships only within marriage, forgive, do not covet... I delight in his Word, and find it speaks freshly to me again and again as the Spirit moves.
God, my Father, my Sovereign Lord, Jesus, Saviour and Redeemer, Holy Spirit, my counsellor, close than my heartbeat: One God, three persons. Tripartite God, as in Jesus words of John 16. My joy in this life and the next.
.. Maybe I'll live to be old like my mother, maybe I'll die tomorrow. Either way, I'm OK. What about you? God continues to hold his hand out to you...
After replying to her initial assertions and comments I finally expressed my pent up frustration at her habit of “christian witness” as follows:
This preaching does not logically follow from any of the above. It is a self-indulgent expression of your personal opinion as informed by the restricted authors that you read and the company that you keep. I do, however, acknowledge that it probably stems from your belief that such expression is your Christian "duty". It has a formulaic ring about it which is familiar. I began my religious life as an evangelical and I remember the behavioural pressures to perform in this manner. I abandoned the position as logically untenable in my early twenties.
I accept that what I said was somewhat severe, but I have had a gut full of this type of preaching over several years and the annoyance level had reached breaking point.
She replied to this section thus:
When you respond to my declaration of faith in the Sovereign Lord of the universe, the Almighty and one true God, calling it a self -indulgent expression of my personal opinion, then I stop this email discussion. It is one thing to disagree with respect; it is another thing to be rude to me.
The implied ending of the relationship does not concern me. That needs to happen. Firstly, I have not been able to share much with her for some time now. Secondly, if I caused her to lose her beliefs she would lose most or all of her friends and she is too old to make new ones.
What bothers me is why I feel so irritated with her. I cannot figure out why I feel that she is being rude by subjecting me to constant declarations of her faith. Can someone explain this to me? Is the feeling justified?