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Former Friend Trying To Reconnect


R. S. Martin
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A bit of background: She's the age of my mother. I found her via a book she wrote. Wife of Baptist preacher. He retired after about thirty years with the same congregation. Worked hard for equality of women, etc. Congregation got new minister. New minister threw out the new things and is going back to the Bible. About half the congregation did not like this, so she and her husband started a new church.

 

I tried to end the relationship; some of the reasons will become clear. Every three months or so she writes again. Here is her letter from yesterday, with my response.

 

Her email to me:

 

Just been thinking about you... Wondering what your summer studies are or what special focus you have for the summer and how you fared with the last semester. I was reflecting on how our friendship developed around sharing differences in culture. We kind of lost our "way" and frankly I miss those early sharing times.

 

Have you ever read Shakespeare? I'm just now doing that and find his writings so entertaining as well as challenging. Roger [her son who is a professor] was invited to give a lecture at Oxford U in May and we accompanied him; saw Othello which got me started on Shakespeare.

 

Our new congregation (2 years old) just purchased a 100 year old church building from a disbanded dwindling congregation so we have lots of excitement as well as plans to reach out to the 60 homes in the community.

 

I do miss hearing from you,

 

Love,

Ruth

 

My response:

 

Sorry, Ruth, you played an important part in my life for some years but it was mostly a disappointment. Empty promises and no answers. I was always hoping for fulfilling answers next time. "Next time" never came. Not even when I waited ten or twelve years. The answers you did give were superficial and you said you could never give me the answers I needed. I've found people whose search for truth and experience of reality are more similar to my own.

 

I'm finishing off my MA thesis and seeking further direction for my life. I'm studying the history of evangelicalism/fundamentalism. I find that many people whom I would call fundamentalists don't like being called that, but that is just because of the bad press the word has received--and not without reason. I am finding there are Christians who are moving away from the fundamentals of orthodoxy. This tells me one does not have to accept the literal heaven and hell and "saved alone by the shed blood of Christ" doctrines in order to identify as Christian. You would probably not accept them as Christian. So be it.

 

It seems that belief in an afterlife makes for an exclusivistic, elitist, intolerant mindset of which we have far too much in the world at the moment. We don't need the holy war your president is fighting with the Muslims. With a fundamentalist leading the Americans and a born-again evangelical leading the Brits, the rest of us white Westerners are out-numbered and out-powered and out-shouted. In a nutshell, between the evangelicals, the fundamentalists, and the Muslims, there's not much left in the West.

 

Us secular folks number about ten or fifteen per cent of the population in North America. Yet the Christians are fighting as though they were in a minority. The Muslims are fighting as though they were the minority. All of these religious people believe in an almighty God who is supposedly able to save. So they kill each other. Nobody saves them from each other. The rest of us live in terror while this War on Terrorism rages. What an irony. God saves no one. God helps no one.

 

Even if he did, he would still have to explain why he needed a blood sacrifice in order to accept us humans. As I have been arguing for years, it's totally ridiculous, it makes no sense. Time to lay aside petty questions about an afterlife and figure out how to live the one life we know we have.

 

A few years ago you said Maslow left no empty tomb. What do I need an empty tomb for? I have a good enough place to live. I don't need some holy cave to hide out in. Maslow laid out the best framework I have yet seen for being human. Jesus said the same things but the churches have twisted his descriptions of the happy life into commandments and laws for the holy life. And these people whose god says not to judge are so busy judging who belongs in the kingdom and who doesn't that no one has time to live today in this world.

 

So I guess you can see why our friendship lost its "way." You have no interest in disecting and analyzing these deep questions over the long haul in all their depth and complexity. You just want to sing praises to a butchered lamb. It is not without reason that Christianity is often called a Death Cult or Blood Cult. If that makes you happy go sing your praises. Just be sure you don't hurt anybody. So long as you support that war--and the religion that feeds it--you are hurting people.

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It sounds to me like she's reaching out to you... what went on between you that has you so angry? Is it forgivable? Or do you think she just wants to proselytize you?

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I didn't see a reason in her message to you to be as angry as you are. But I must be missing part of the story. Had it been me, I'd have just answered her superficially and left it at that.

 

Spoomonkey

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I can't think of a single reason why she is still contacting me except to proselytize me. She knows I don't want to be friends anymore. She knows where she failed me. That is, if she ever listened to me, she knows.

 

Like I say in my first paragraph to her--and throughout, she never answered my questions. She merely excused herself as not having what it takes to answer my deep questions. Having people like that proselytize me make me MAD. And rightly so.

 

If god is so smart and all-knowing he should be able to give answers to people who pretend to be in the question-answering business. If he fails to do this, they should be smart enough to quit pretending that they have answers.

 

And when I find my own answers they should respect those answers. Proselytizing a person who left religion because religion has no answers is a most out-rageous insult.

 

I consider it significant that the only two people who responded to this thread are people who have not exactly deconverted from Christianity.

 

Spoomonkey, my apologies to you. You're very new here and probably haven't really learned our language yet. I would expect Pandora to recognize a "blast the christian" letter for what it is. This woman is first and foremost a christian. Secondly she is so obviously "reaching out" to a person who has clearly indicated that she does not want to be reached out to. Maybe that is the part that is missing in the story--no, I checked just now and it's in there. Second paragraph of the post.

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I consider it significant that the only two people who responded to this thread are people who have not exactly deconverted from Christianity.

 

I did re-read your post. Sometimes you have to pull the band-aid off and, if there is a history there, it makes sense to cut it off.

 

I am curious about the statement above, though. Actually, maybe more confused by it. Like you said - I am new and don't know the language. I would say that I have deconverted. I think I have anyway...

 

It is obvious from your reply to her that you needed to say something strong to her. I get that. Me? I'm mostly a big softy I guess. For what it is worth, I think your thoughts are well composed and valid. You make your point very well - which is one of the things I have come to admire about many on this board.

 

Spoomonkey

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I consider it significant that the only two people who responded to this thread are people who have not exactly deconverted from Christianity.

 

.............

 

I am curious about the statement above, though. Actually, maybe more confused by it. Like you said - I am new and don't know the language. I would say that I have deconverted. I think I have anyway...

 

 

Maybe I got things mixed up a bit. I read several "Testimonies of Former Christians," and other posts. I thought you said you have not fully decided yet that Christianity is not for you. In my mind, that would mean you have not fully deconverted from Christianity. Also, you say "yes" under "any gods."

 

I realize there are other gods besides the Christian biblegod, so it's mostly that I thought you said you have not fully decided yet that Christianity is not for you. Not that we don't allow people on here who are religious because we have many here who adhere to some religion or other. But those religious positions do give a person a certain world view. That can never be discounted when reading what somebody wrote. That's all I meant.

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I read several "Testimonies of Former Christians," and other posts. I thought you said you have not fully decided yet that Christianity is not for you. In my mind, that would mean you have not fully deconverted from Christianity. Also, you say "yes" under "any gods."

 

Cool.

 

No - I am completely deconverted :grin:

 

I have a concept of a god, but it is anything but the Christian version.

 

It would be easy to confuse things with some many posts and faces around here.

 

Have a great night, RubySierra! I'm off to be completely reprobate... It is Friday night, after all :woohoo:

 

Spoomonkey

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The only person who knows best about her situation is RubySera and I believe her.

 

I had similar problems in the past with a couple of Christians too. They wouldn't leave me alone. So, yeah, I can relate with the anger.

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I read several "Testimonies of Former Christians," and other posts. I thought you said you have not fully decided yet that Christianity is not for you. In my mind, that would mean you have not fully deconverted from Christianity. Also, you say "yes" under "any gods."

 

Cool.

 

No - I am completely deconverted :grin:

 

I have a concept of a god, but it is anything but the Christian version.

 

It would be easy to confuse things with some many posts and faces around here.

 

Have a great night, RubySierra! I'm off to be completely reprobate... It is Friday night, after all :woohoo:

 

Spoomonkey

 

I read your post again where you tell your story. I must have gotten you mixed up with someone else. Quite a few "new faces" started posting the past few days. Not quite enough time for me to get to know each person before I meet the next new person. I think I've got you fixed in my memory now.

 

You might want to note that my name is RubySera, not RubySierra. I first chose this name for an msn group, and I couldn't use just Ruby so it became RubySera, pronounced like Sarah, which is my real name. "Ruby" comes from my mother's maiden name; her maiden name is my middle name. I just played around with the spelling a bit and came up with Ruby. Online, most people call me Ruby. I was flattered that we finally have a person who uses my full name. Except, well, if I remember correctly, Sierra is a mountain range and I don't think that describes me very well. But no problem. Just figured I'd mention it.

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The only person who knows best about her situation is RubySera and I believe her.

 

I had similar problems in the past with a couple of Christians too. They wouldn't leave me alone. So, yeah, I can relate with the anger.

 

Thank you for understanding. I reread it again just now and I can see why people don't find her message offensive. It's just friendly chit-chat, afterall. It's the context of the relationship as a whole that gives it the meaning I get from it. She and I share practically no interests. The only interests we share are Myers-Briggs and theology. But for both these topics, I want to dig down to the bedrock and really understand it thoroughly. She is content with "surface" knowledge.

 

For example, Abraham H. Maslow's self-actualization model (which I encountered in a psych course) has been extremely helpful for me as I searched for my real self as opposed to the Mennonite self I was supposed to be and never could quite measure up. Finding my real self was the beginning of my journey to mental health. I will never be totally healthy because the damage was too extensive, but I'm MUCH better than I used to be.

 

Myers-Briggs played a very important part in this search, and so did Maslow, and a lot of other books. This person wrote a book on Myers-Briggs. It was given to me one Christmas and I liked it so much that I contacted her. That book led me to read many more Myers-Briggs books and my life has not been the same since. I found a local Myers-Briggs interest group. That group led indirectly to university. And university is what helped me turn my life around and make a brand new start in life. I read her book and found the Myers-Briggs group more than ten years ago.

 

I was so excited with Maslow's self-actualization theory that I told her how much it meant to me. She practically laughed me out of the house. She said Maslow did not leave an empty tomb. Please understand, this woman is a counselor. She should have known that anything that contributes to improved self-image and mental health has to be good. Apparently she is first and foremost a Christian. I guess for her the empty tomb proves that Jesus rose from the dead and legitimates her religion.

 

What neither she, nor her pastor husband, nor her chaplain brother would answer is HOW Jesus death and resurrection changed anything on a level that opened heaven's gates to humans. So long as that question is not answered, Christianity makes no sense to me. So here I am--condemned for not having enough faith to accept a silly story and rejected for finding my own answers. And she who is a counselor and should know about boundaries violates my request not to talk to me. I blocked her email for a while. Maybe I have to do that again.

 

What really seriously bugs me about her kind of Christianity is that they think they are so much more enlightened than my people. I love my people and the culture and the language. I am terribly mad at them for all the unnecessary pain and rejection they have caused me--it's so bad that I can't even travel through the area without the black clouds of depression rolling in. But I don't need smug church people telling me that they are better than my own people when it comes to religious insight. They don't answer my questions any better than my own mother used to.

 

Probably none of this makes sense to anyone else. Just take it as a rant that I needed to get out of my system.

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I consider it significant that the only two people who responded to this thread are people who have not exactly deconverted from Christianity.

 

Wow... I have no idea where you got that idea! I'm an ex-Christian... have been one for about four or five years now. You must have me confused with someone else.

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Oh boy! Pandora, I'm looking at what you say under "any gods." I must have been more upset than I realized. Sorry.

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Not knowing the full history between the two of you I can't really say for sure what to tell you. It's clear you have some conditions you would need her to accept before the two of you become friends again, and from what I gather she is ignoring those conditions. Her letter seemed friendly enough, but then I know that mere words don't always tell the whole story. I have a younger brother who I have strong reason to believe will try to deconvert me. He's recently gotten married to another Christian, recommitted his life to the Lord, and become a kind of über-Christian. For his own sake I hope that it does not burn him out emotionally. Of course he pretends to be filled with unspeakable joy, but I've been Christian long enough to know that sort of state cannot continue indefinitely before you eventually crash. He recently revealed to me that God appeared to him in a vision and told him the purpose of his life. He has called me on the phone at random times to ask my forgiveness for long-past sins he committed against me during our childhood--which I have already forgiven him for, and barely even remember. Why did he do this? Well, because he was praying and God convicted him in his heart to come clean about them. It seems Christians will do anything to dig up the tiniest dirt to feel "sinful" about so that they can at least have something to feel guilty about and repent of! It's actually quite humorous, and also very sad in a way. He's also felt the need to call me on the phone and tell me about miracles he witnessed or messages God gave him to forward to me (prophecies and the like). (Why God couldn't just tell me directly I don't know!) He's even been moved to pray for me in tongues--over the phone!

 

I try to take it in stride. It's slightly annoying but we live thousands of miles apart and if I simply don't have time to talk, I have no qualms about telling him that and hanging up the phone if necessary. I am sure that once he finds out I am no longer a believer he is going to feel a tremendous pressure to pray for my eternal soul, and perhaps try to reconvert me. I intend to put up with it for the time being if only because I can sympathize with his feelings because I have been exactly at that place in my life before myself. I have no idea if the same reasons that brought me out of it will also bring him out of it though, particularly since he's much more affected by feeling than by thinking (it's just the way his personality is). It's at least worth a try. What becomes of our relationship, I suppose only time will tell.

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MathGuy, I will respond to your post below. I want to post this email before I lose it.

 

She replied to my email and thanked me for my thoughts. Weird.

 

Either she did not pick up on the anger or she intentionally ignored it. Either way, I think it shows how little she actually cares for me regardless of her claims. Her email was designed to tug at my heart-strings. I don't know if it qualifies for emotional manipulation or not but I'm beyond wanting to take risks with her.

 

The really difficult part about this is that it was a nice, long, and mostly interesting, email--the kind I really like. But she never writes this kind of message when she is secure in the relationship--except when she's on holidays. One theme was the old "you're my Canadian daughter" song. The way she put it this time was that she sees herself as a surrogate mother for me. For most of our relationship I have treated her like that because I really needed it. In other words, I depended on her and she failed to meet my needs. So there you go, MathGuy. There are conditions she must meet and she is ignoring those conditions.

 

My needs don't count because they are not part of her vision of what a relationship with me should be like. Another part that makes it difficult to prove to her that I just don't want the relationship anymore is that one or two of her own flesh-and-blood daughters rejected her for about ten years and then reunited. So she has every reason to think this is just a passing phase.

 

I think anybody who knows anything about co-dependent relationships can see this for what it is/was. Time to move on. Here is what I sent to her just now:

 

I don't know what to do about this. I am finally in a position to choose my friends. I cannot have a relationship for its own sake if there is no shared interest. You and I share no interests outside Myers-Briggs and theology.

 

You indicated a long time ago that your interest in Myers-Briggs does not go anywhere near as deep as mine so that is not a topic we can discuss. You indicate that theology is not open to discussion. The only other interest we share is culture and I have learned pretty much everything about your family, religion, and way of life that interests me.

 

What I am looking for at the moment is a local community to take the place of school since my classes are forever over--a community where I can show up for events or not, as I like. You live a bit too far off for that [she's in Pennsylvania]. Church does not work because I don't share the beliefs and passions of church people.

 

I found out the other day that UW [where I did my BA] has get-togethers for alumni for events like Canada Day (July 1). I may look into that.

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Ruby, I think I know exactly where your frustration comes from because I deal with it on a daily basis. For me, it's my parents.

 

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you are tired of being placated to, sick of having your sincere questions dismissed and your intelligence insulted. Did that do it justice?

 

If I hit anywhere near what you're truly feeling then I know it well. My mom and dad are polar opposites. My mom wears her heart on her sleeve which disallows me from serious conversation with her. My dad disarms me with his collectedness when I bring questions or concerns to him. They both share the feeling that my disbelief stems from a rebellion of them and their wishes and a great rebellion from God.

 

There's not much I can do to show them the contrary except live my life happily (for once) without all the crazy dictates of the church. Perhaps if I can't reach them in question I can reach them in creed. Sort of a counter-evangelism.

 

I'd love to hear how this progresses. Be well.

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MathGuy, now I read all of your post. I just read a few lines when I was writing the other post. One thing comes through loud and clear in your post--you love your brother. That's what makes it so heart-wrenching. You have reason to think he is on a path that will not serve him well but you also know it is best to let him learn on his own, so you put up with his evangelization and prayers when you can do so. You say you hang up if you don't have time. My guess is there is nobody else on earth (except perhaps your own child if you have one) from whom you would take that kind of treatment.

 

Not knowing the full history between the two of you I can't really say for sure what to tell you. It's clear you have some conditions you would need her to accept before the two of you become friends again, and from what I gather she is ignoring those conditions. Her letter seemed friendly enough, but then I know that mere words don't always tell the whole story.

 

I didn't realize how little the words convey until people here all insisted that it is a friendly note.

 

I have a younger brother who I have strong reason to believe will try to deconvert me. He's recently gotten married to another Christian, recommitted his life to the Lord, and become a kind of über-Christian. For his own sake I hope that it does not burn him out emotionally. Of course he pretends to be filled with unspeakable joy, but I've been Christian long enough to know that sort of state cannot continue indefinitely before you eventually crash. He recently revealed to me that God appeared to him in a vision and told him the purpose of his life. He has called me on the phone at random times to ask my forgiveness for long-past sins he committed against me during our childhood--which I have already forgiven him for, and barely even remember. Why did he do this? Well, because he was praying and God convicted him in his heart to come clean about them. It seems Christians will do anything to dig up the tiniest dirt to feel "sinful" about so that they can at least have something to feel guilty about and repent of! It's actually quite humorous, and also very sad in a way. He's also felt the need to call me on the phone and tell me about miracles he witnessed or messages God gave him to forward to me (prophecies and the like). (Why God couldn't just tell me directly I don't know!) He's even been moved to pray for me in tongues--over the phone!

 

I think my former friend has matured far beyond this kind of behaviour. What really rankles me, though, is that I have asked her my questions about Christianity and neither she, nor her pastor husband, nor her army chaplain brother, can provide satisfactory answers. They all gave it a try. I don't remember if I ever had direct communication with her pet son Roger who is also a philosophy prof--I am sure she has tried to get him involved but I forget.

 

Just so you don't get funny ideas he's married. But she would do anything to get me to just accept the precious word of her lord. The christians I come from are very anti-"born-again"-minded. Evangelicals tend to think they aren't Christians at all and will bring them the message of the new birth any chance they get. This woman told me several times when she brought someone to the lord so I know she does that. She never played that game with me and I am not sure why not.

 

She told me in today's email that she believes the most important thing is peace in one's own heart. I did not respond to that. I am quite sure that I have told her about finding real peace when I left the horse and buggy church. I think there is no point in repeating it. I don't like bragging about that kind of really personal thing.

 

I try to take it in stride. It's slightly annoying but we live thousands of miles apart and if I simply don't have time to talk, I have no qualms about telling him that and hanging up the phone if necessary. I am sure that once he finds out I am no longer a believer he is going to feel a tremendous pressure to pray for my eternal soul, and perhaps try to reconvert me. I intend to put up with it for the time being if only because I can sympathize with his feelings because I have been exactly at that place in my life before myself. I have no idea if the same reasons that brought me out of it will also bring him out of it though, particularly since he's much more affected by feeling than by thinking (it's just the way his personality is). It's at least worth a try. What becomes of our relationship, I suppose only time will tell.

 

Yeah. Sad. Religion, esp. Christianity, is supposed to be about love. Yet Jesus' saying about bringing a sword that divides families is often more accurate than the love and peace thing they like to brag about.

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Ruby, I think I know exactly where your frustration comes from because I deal with it on a daily basis. For me, it's my parents.

 

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you are tired of being placated to, sick of having your sincere questions dismissed and your intelligence insulted. Did that do it justice?

 

YES! I had to read your story several times to get at what you really mean but YES--I am more than sick of having my sincere questions dismissed. My own biological family used to ridicule me for having these questions. This woman took a kinder approach so it was not quite so obvious but YES that is a big part of it.

 

I am beginning to think that it was her more gentle approach that made me stick with her so long (not to mention that she was practically the only human being I knew who was half-decent to me). She did not repulse me right off so I believed if I tried hard enough I could eventually explain my questions well enough for her to answer them. I think she really tried, esp. that time when she got her husband and brother involved. But when their answers did not satisfy, it seems they just gave up.

 

I would so much like people to be honest and confess that the inability to believe will not send me to hell. I am convinced that the fire-breathing god of the bible does not exist. I believe that if a loving god exists, he will not send anyone to hell, just like none of us would beat a three-year-old within an inch of life for failing to set the dinner table perfectly.

 

Jesus compared god with humans and said if hard-hearted judges give in to a widow's plea just for the sake of peace of mind, surely god will do much more. So I guess we can expect just as much of god as we would of the best human parent. And that is quite a bit.

 

If I hit anywhere near what you're truly feeling then I know it well. My mom and dad are polar opposites. My mom wears her heart on her sleeve which disallows me from serious conversation with her. My dad disarms me with his collectedness when I bring questions or concerns to him. They both share the feeling that my disbelief stems from a rebellion of them and their wishes and a great rebellion from God.

 

IF ONLY THEY WOULD LISTEN.

 

There's not much I can do to show them the contrary except live my life happily (for once) without all the crazy dictates of the church. Perhaps if I can't reach them in question I can reach them in creed. Sort of a counter-evangelism.

 

I'd love to hear how this progresses. Be well.

 

Thank you, Former Follier. We'll see how things come off with this woman. With my own family I have given up. There is nothing I can do for them and I conclude that it is not my job to bring them any special messages. I, too, believed that eventually they would see that I am happy. But I have been informed in recent months that if I have peace it is the peace of Satan.

 

It is impossible to argue with that kind of mindset and I am no longer trying. I am seeking to find my own way in life independent of them and their beliefs. Maybe your parents will be more perceptive but what I'm saying is, don't count on it.

 

In my search to better understand fundamentalism I came across some interesting ideas. I have always wondered where the teachings come from that "everybody" preaches. It's not in the Bible, yet they preach it as though it were. I suspect it trickled down from the Moral Majority gang, maybe the guys who preceeded the Moral Majority. Jerry Falwell, Tim Lahaye, Pat Robertson, to name a few, seem to have very creative brains (past tense for JF) and I would guess they cooked up a few rules that the rest of us fundy-raised people had to live by no matter how far removed we are religiously from those guys. My prof dismissed this idea out of hand but he's not part of that culture and I am. The ideas HAD to come from somewhere. The fact that they are so wide-spread but not in the Bible proves they came from somewhere. They are too consistent for it to be random incident. There had to be a master mind somewhere. And I'm quite sure this is the central nerve node for it. It's not general fundamentalism because that started far earlier. This trend increased in intensity after 1980, I would say, maybe late 1970s. That corresponds exactly with the timeline of JF's public activity.

 

Okay that is totally off-topic. Thanks for helping me understand my extreme frustration with this seemingly very friendly woman. Christianity has no answers but Christians pretend it does. Makes me want to scream but I know it's not worth the effort.

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