[Side note: November is likely going to be a very light blogging month – writing focus, so I’m mostly going to scam good quotes from friends ;-). This may be the last thoughtful post for a while.]
One of the animals with a special place in my heart is the chameleon. It’s not that my looks make it easy for me to blend in anywhere, but I’ve tried to make myself believe that if I proceed carefully and slowly enough, I could somehow keep my wildly disparate worlds from clashing (1 Cor. 9:20 comes to mind and stereotypical missionary kid (MK) tendencies).
Blogging has blown my cover. I used to be able to say one thing to one group of friends, and an entirely different thing to another. It’s not that I would lie or be deceitful in any way. It’s just that I would focus on the common ground. Now anything I post can be read by a my entire range of friends.
I’m getting used to it, but it’s still uncomfortable because I’m sensitive and I know how passionate some of my friends are about certain issues. Last week was a tough week in that regard.
- I wrote a post with a title that understandably hit some buttons from an internet friend whose comments I’ve really come to appreciate over recent months. In the ensuing comments exchange, she was very gracious about an issue I know she feels strongly about. On the other hand, I kept thinking how a different group of friends reading the exchange might think I was selling out.
- I wrote an e-mail to many of my conservative high school classmates (where I was the chief of conservatives). I was responding to the Huntley Brown e-mail that has been circulating – something about how a Christian can’t vote for Obama. Knowing where most of them were coming from, it wasn’t “comfortable” explaining how I thought I could vote for Obama and still be a Christian – even if some of his really liberal policies give me the chills. They were all really loving, and it turned out to be a fun exchange.
- I posted an article on Facebook and got some positive feedback and a caution from great friends.
All great exchanges that serve as a reminder of how tense it can be when your friends from polar opposites of the spectrum “get together.” (Two-thirds of this is my own fault for opening my mouth about politics.) Part of me wants to crawl back into into a shell or become a chameleon again; I’m not the only one. Here’s an example where one of my favorite blogging friends who retracted a post about his own theological journeys (read his relational reasons for the retraction.) I’m also constantly reminded that anything I say can and will be used against me; future employment is likely at stake.
The hottest, most dangerous issues seem to be related to:
- ethnicity and racism
- religion; theology related ideas (doctrinal viewpoints).
The three regularly appear together and they are a potent mix as we all know.
The beauty of the recent exchanges is that they have forced me to think much more deeply about some of my views. They they have also reminded me of the importance of our contexts, experiences, and who we associate with. If I had one piece of advice to all my friends, it would be this:
Make sure you develop deep relationships with people who are very different from you and think very differently than you do. You’ll never be the same. Bill Dyrness once said, (quoting someone else I think). “We will never fully understand the gospel until we have heard it articulated in every different language and culture.”
I have changed because I am surrounded by people who think differently from myself. I can’t avoid it.
I realized it was useless to try when my Facebook friend list started growing and I realized I could no longer keep my extremely diverse circles from perceiving one another.
And nor did I want to anymore. If it’s been healthy for me to be confronted with all of these people, the same could probably be said for all of them.
I know that this blog is read not only by my conservative Christian friends . . . , but also by my atheist and agnostic friends. It is read by black friends and family from the inner city and the suburbs … by white friends from every economic level …
All of these friends — truly friends — make it impossible for me to be closed in my thinking. They don’t let me get away with that.
I must think about how I am saying things and how different people will understand what I am saying.
More than that, I have learned from all of them. I have learned that none of them are out to harm me. They all want basically the same things in life, even if they disagree about how to go about seeking it.
[Not surprisingly, both of these bloggers are black men who have moved in white evangelical circles. From my experience, these guys get hit the hardest and every one of them should get some kind of medal.]
So here’s to radically different social contexts. To all my widely divergent friends out there, I’d like to say a big thanks for hanging with me and shaping me.