It was a silly Facebook conversation. It was not an earth-shattering ultra serious, life-or-death discussion. A friend posted a picture and made a funny comment. The photo did in fact touch on religion, but not in a “hater” sort of way. A few of us chimed in something funny, snarky, silly. It was a *Facebook* conversation for crying out loud.
And then along came one of my friend’s Facebook friends (a guy who was also in the group of friends I hung out with in college) and inserts an ultra serious, judgmental, downer comment into the discussion. You could almost hear everyone’s mental brakes screech, <crickets chirp>.
Aside from feeling like a little kid who just got his hand slapped for trying to sneak a cookie, all I could think of was, “Did I used to sound like that?” “When I was a faithful, sold-out Evangelical Christian, did *I* used to sound like that?” So un-loving, so judgmental, so condemning of others’ innocent fun?
The other thing I wondered, hard on the heels of that first thought, was “Was *he* always like this?” In college, while we weren’t close friends, I remember how much I admired his passionate faith, his offbeat and quirky sense of humor. We were in the Christian clown troupe together, and he had been a lot of fun to clown around with – quite literally. But if I had been an “unwashed heathen” would I have seen this side of him? Or did he only show that side to insiders – his “brothers and sisters in Christ”?
The whole incident put my in mind of a conversation I’d had with another friend from college some years back. I’d only been living in our present city for a couple years, we’d only recently begun to suspect our oldest son of having autism – I think he was maybe 3 when this happened. I’d gotten her phone number from a mutual friend and called to see if she wanted to catch up some time. Now, unlike the other guy, this woman had been a very close friend of mine. I’d been a bridesmaid in her wedding. I don’t know what, exactly, I was expecting from the conversation but it wasn’t what I got.
We were sharing about what had gone on in our lives since last we’d met up. She and her husband had two daughters now. We were holding off on a second child till we figured out more what was going on with our son. I hinted in my conversation about my faith-doubts that had crept in in the middle of this whole experience.
Rather than offer sympathy, a prayer, *something* – she began to back away from the conversation. As though I were a pariah for having troubles, for having doubts about my faith in the middle of my crisis. She was acting like my doubts were a communicable disease. We finished up the conversation, and I knew there was really no point in ever calling back. She was living in her happy little Christian bubble, and I was disturbing her fragile peace.
Was her faith really so fragile? Is his? Maybe this is the *real* reason that Christians always need to be “ready to defend the faith”. They are not standing up for God. They are simply warding off their own doubts, and shoring up their own faith fortress.