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?

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Comment by Jennie on February 18, 2009 at 2:51pm
I understand where you're coming from. I've had similar friends... It seems that I met these friends at a time when the levels of religiosity was neutral on both ends. But as time passed, we seemed to drift further and further apart. They became more engrossed in their religions and I became a stronger atheist. So, the way these old friends act now (spewing their religious crap) irritates me because I know how they used to be. We used to be friends. These people used to be cool. It's a shame, really. So maybe this is kind of why you feel irritated??

I think you're more than justified in feeling like she was being rude. She definitely was. It's hard not to be rude when you're basically telling someone that your religion is the TRUE religion and anyone who does not adopt it is stupid and going to burn in hell for all eternity.

[sorry if my writing doesn't make sense, I just woke up]
Comment by jc morrison on February 18, 2009 at 2:07pm
wow, good on you. if all of us had that kind of courage, the world would be a better place.

in case you can't tell, i love it. even the wording is great.
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on February 18, 2009 at 2:04pm

I think I should begin with this statement:

It concerns me that you appear to be oblivious to some generally accepted social rules.
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on February 18, 2009 at 1:59pm
I am considering replying to my friend is this manner. Comments, recommendations, warnings, and exclamations of "what are you thinking" will be gratefully accepted.

Dear "Frieda",

Matthew 7:3
"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (New American Standard Bible)

Extended “declarations of faith” are acceptable if they are projected towards those with a similar world view, in which case you could expect a reply in kind. They are also considered acceptable when directed towards individuals or groups who have freely elected to subject themselves to the experience, such as someone attending a Moslim mosque, a Hindu temple, a Pentecostal service or an American Evangelical Crusade as part of their general education and curiosity about life.

Such “witnessing” is considered to be rude when directed at people who do not fit these criteria because it is an act which makes the perpetrator feel good but causes negative feelings in the recipient. It is grossly bad mannered when directed towards those who once held the speaker’s position but abandoned it after encountering inconsistent realities.

Every time you inform me of the “relationship” you have with something I decided long ago was purely imaginary, this is what I hear:

“The conclusions which I have drawn from my subjective experience, and which I have no interest in logically examining, are far superior to the conclusions you have reached after careful examination of the evidence. I have no respect for your reasoning ability or your education because your conclusions differ from mine. If you don’t believe as I do then you must be ignorant, stupid, evil or cursed. You are therefore inferior to me. Let me fix you and show you how you to think correctly.

This is the arrogance of ignorance, not wisdom. This is rudeness, not respect. This is selfishness, not love.

The response you got from me was a relatively mild reaction stemming from a couple of years of pent up irritation over the steadily increasing levels of unsolicited religious assault from you. It has now reached the stage where I have failed to read your last Christmas letter for fear of the religious “head smacks” which it will almost certainly contain. The "Frieda" I originally befriended did not behave in this inconsiderate manner.
Comment by jc morrison on February 18, 2009 at 8:18am
hi rosemary,
yes, plus i completely forgot about your professional background when i wrote that comment.

pardon my homeric nod,
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on February 17, 2009 at 6:52pm
JCMorrison wrote:
it may also be that you feel a bit sensitive around her because she has completed her christian education while [i assume] you did not.(/blockquote> No sensitivities here. I believe my "christian education" is much better than hers. I did a year of mainstream theological study, and a lot of background reading prior to this. She has no formal theological training at all - and clearly has not engaged in "background reading" of any substance. The stuff she has read is similar or identical to stuff I read in my late teens.

She did her "christian counseling" degree on the basis of nursing certificates. She has absolutely no formal background in psychology or, for that matter, in normal Australian university level Arts or Science (which starts at the US equivalent of 3rd or 4th year College). Her training is a joke.
Comment by Dr. Terence Meaden on February 17, 2009 at 3:08pm
It is so sad and sickening.
Rest assured that you know you are right and she is so wrong.
Just be proud that you are a true atheist standing on the intellectually high ground.
You'll never change these people. Just stop. You have tried enough.
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on February 16, 2009 at 11:01pm
Thanks, Jim. I think that is an interesting and useful way of describing things.
Comment by Moonbeam on February 16, 2009 at 9:31pm
They're always whining about "respect my beliefs"! Why should we? They aren't worthy of any respect, and besides, they don't respect our lack of belief.

Yes she is very annoying, but only because she was once your friend. If it wasn't for that, she would be just another ignorant irrational person whose opinion you shouldn't care about whatsoever.
Comment by Rosemary LYNDALL WEMM on February 16, 2009 at 8:56pm
Thanks for your thoughtful reply Daniel.

You guessed right. I owe my friend a lot for getting me through some very difficult times. I was seduced by a Methodist minister with a US Masters degree in psychology (counseling). He had a much better brain than my friend, but caused a lot of pain, nevertheless. It's strange, but I didn't see the irony in the similarities until now.

I did write a kind of closure letter to my friend after the Gideon conference meet up so that lose end is tied up. I should have ended it right there but she kept sending emails about her activities and her "joy in the Lord".

She is not a nasty person and is probably a good counselor - provided that she sticks to counseling Fundies. I wouldn't want her set loose on people of other belief systems. If she was working under me she would get some very firm guidelines about what she could say to non-Fundie clients.



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