Yesterday, Darrell Vesterfelt wrote a piece asking if it is possible to disagree and still be friends. In it, he writes about wanting to have a diversity of friends. And while it sounds like something that I would be all about, it’s been bothering me in a way that I couldn’t quite put my finger on until today.
And then I realized, it’s because I don’t want to have those friends.
I write about my gay friend and my atheist husband and my married male friend. I love these people with my whole being. They are profoundly important to me in ways that I can’t even begin to explain here. But they aren’t the friends that I wanted.
I was friends with a girl who was in the marching band with me and liked They Might Be Giants and The B-52′s. I married a guy who made me laugh and introduced me to some really great music and wrote fantastic letters. I became friends with someone who asked if I’d play Neil Diamond with him in his band and who liked Stephen King books as much as me.
I have gay and atheist and male friends, but that’s not because that’s what I wanted.
And I think that’s a lot of the problem that we have with friendship in general, particularly in the Church. We want diverse friends because we feel like we should want diverse friends. We don’t want to become this person who only has friends who think like us or who act like us or who look like us. We want that moment where we look around the room and say, “Oh, thank God I’m not some terrible human because look at this lovely collection of diverse friends that I have! There’s the gay one and the black one and the Reformed one and the atheist one! I’m so open and accepting and wonderful!” We become very self-congratulatory about just how diverse our friends are and how awesome that makes us.
Except when we start looking for friends to fit in certain categories, there’s no way that we can avoid doing that. We become collectors of people, rather than friends. Even if our agenda isn’t to change the other person, we still have an agenda. And friendship based on any agenda can never be truly authentic.
What I wanted (and what I picked) were safe, church-approved friends. A pastor’s kid, a Bible college student, a worship team leader. There wasn’t anything about these relationships that stretched me at all. They were just people who I liked. But because I liked them, when things changed, it didn’t matter. Because our friendship wasn’t built on them fitting categories for diversity, they were just people I loved.
I don’t want any gay friends or atheist friends or cross-gender friends. I don’t want friends who hold different theological or political positions. I don’t want friends who are a different race or socioeconomic background. Because the truth is, I like people who are just like me.
But I want to be open to friends. Just…friends. The kind of friends who gets excited about the new season of Arrested Development. The kind of friends who can argue about feminism with me and then go for coffee. The kind of friends who stay up late at night quoting movie lines and sharing a bottle of wine. The kind of friends who know what pictures on Facebook will crack me up and is sure to tag me in them. The kind of friends who see what I’m not saying and don’t let me get away with that.
And if they’re gay or atheist or male, then that’s fine. Our disagreements and differences won’t be a problem, because they’re not what define our friendship, they will be what adds beauty to it.
By Oregon Department of Transportation (2011 Diversity Conference Uploaded by Smallman12q) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons