Butterfly Cauldron

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Friendship, loyalty and religious psychosis

Ren's got some seriously fucked up shit going on and, in addition to making me want to deal out some righteous vengence on her behalf, it's got me thinking about friendship and well, how religion can fuck 'em up.

I'm picky with my friends. I get along with just about everyone, but I don't have a lot of friends, exactly. It suits me, because I'm a pretty private person and most people? They're not so good with keeping things private. But the friends I have have been my friends for decades. Once you are my friend, you are my friend for life. There are people who have moved away, who I haven't seen in years, who if they called me and said they were coming into town and needed a place to stay and they didn't know how long they needed it, I'd not even blink about letting the stay with me. To me, friendship is a committment as serious as any marriage vow. Unless a friend is about to do something dangerous, you do not ever rat them out. Even if what they're doing is something you don't agree with, even if you think they're going to get themselves hurt. You stand by them, you pick them up if they fall and you love them. You let them know that, no matter what they do, they are never going to be alone and they always have somewhere to go. That's just the way I'm made. (Although, I'm far less dramatic about it in rl :)

So, for me, having a friend convert to a more. . .vocal. . .religion is always frightening. Because it often causes me to come into conflict with this part of myself. Not, understand, because I think my friends and I have to have the same religious beliefs. But because the more fundamental a religion is, the more problems they have with me.

There are friends I've lost over the years because, after I left the church, our relationship devolved into them attempting to rope me back in. We go out to lunch, everything seems to be cool and then "So, Zan, when are you coming back to church?" Or we're picking a movie and it's "Oh, I can't see that movie because they swear and Jesus hates it when people swear. You know, Zan, you should really not swear like you do. It's not nice." (Because, ya know, Jesus was allll about holding up social norms and not rocking the boat. Uh huh.) Or I'm sleeping in Sunday mornings and "Oh, I'd like to sleep in Sunday mornings, but I've got my Christian duty to do." Every conversation, in other words, becomes an effort to not-so-subtly remind me the I need to go back to Church.

I've never had anyone do to me what happened to Ren, but that's mostly because I keep my mouth shut about things my family would not like to know about me around people who are likely to tell them. But then...what happens if my best friend decides to become a fundamentalist Catholic? And decides, oh god!, I can't let Zan keep being bisexual! That's an abomination! I know, I'll tell her family, who can then harrass her and roll out the drama and then she'll see the light. Oh and let's drop that whole pagan thing on them too. After all, it's for her own good.

I mean, it could happen. People have religious conversions all the time. I've had a few myself. So, everytime one of my friends tells me they've started going to church, I get a little nervous feeling inside. (And yeah, a lot of that is coming from my own issues and my own experiences. There are places in my life I am Not Going Back.)

When I was dating the ex seriously, he used to come home with me on the weekends and we'd go to church with my parents. Now, he was raised Catholic, but was basically an agnostic with atheistic leanings. And yet...yet everytime we walked into that church together, I could feel my insides start to curl up. What if he got struck with the godstick? I'd seen it happen before. What if my solidly rational boyfriend suddenly decided to become a raving fundy? What would that mean for our relationship? I knew, frankly, that I'd have to leave him. Because I cannot marry or date a fundamentalist. Period.

It never happened, of course, but that fear was always there. Because I've seen the power those religions have over their adherents. I've seen people go from normal, everyday people to out there religious zealots. And while it's great for the zealots, the people closest to them are often collateral damage. All while the new convert just shakes their head, saying they were only doing -whatever- because they wanted to -help-. It was only for your own good. I was only trying to share Jesus with you. I was only trying to substitute my judgement for yours. Why are you so upset?

Example -- Our family has been friends with Family X for years. They live down the road from us, we do potlucks and dinners and parties together all the time. Family X has three children. Youngest Son got 'saved' one day. Full-on, crazy alive for Jesus. Parents X were okay with this, although they were Catholics who occassionally attended the Baptist church in the neighborhood because it was nearby. Son X decides his parents are not saved and are going to hell. They do not live correctly. They drink beer sometimes. They swear sometimes. They fight sometimes. They are not properly religious. They are Catholic. And so, Son decides to TELL them they are wicked and damned and not living right and need to convert or burn. Unless they do so, he cannot associate with them. Because the Bible says not to be yoked with unbelievers. Convert or lose your child, ye sinners!

Parents X, upset, call my parents. My parents, while way too Baptist for my tastes, cannot believe Son X did this and so, my Father goes to have a talk with him. Gets him to calm down. Tries to get him to apologize and have relationship with Parents X. Son X is resistant, but eventually, they work things out. However, Son X still believes his family is damned and going to burn. Because they're Catholic and well, Catholics are all lost, ya know. They're not real Christians.

So, yeah. I've seen this sort of thing before. To me, it's just further proof that fundamentalist religion is evil. It is not of God, it is not of the good, it is a destructive force that needs to be eradicated from the planet. And yeah, I don't care which religion. If it's fundamentalist, it's gotta go.

(And there goes my chance of ever working for a political campaign. Good thing I never wanted to do that anyway.)

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posted by Zan at 7:11 PM

4 Comments:

Oh, you can still work for a political campaign. Everyone knows trying to reason w/ fundamentalists is worse than pissing against the wind. If I run for office, I'll be calling on you.

You can run for president soon enough.

11:35 PM  

True enough. In three years: Zan for President!

7:31 AM  

My oldest friend is going through the process of becoming a nun in a very strict and restrictive order. I write her all the time and I get increasingly bizarre letters once a year about how she is becoming a "little bride" to Jesus.

But... my friend is my friend. She was always a pious Catholic. Today I am thinking of her as all through high school we'd have Biology on a Wednesday and it would be during Biology on Ash Wednesday, that the fasting would take its toll and she would pass out - usually at the sight of some anatomical diagram in a textbook or some such.

However fundamental her beliefs, she has always been a good friend to me. She hasn't condemned my very different choices and I know she would never break a confidence. God would certainly get to hear about it, but others would not.

9:10 AM  

Rational religious people who don't use their beliefs as a weapon need better PR.

11:19 PM  

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