A few years ago, I was a really crappy friend to someone I’ll call Summer. She and I met back when we were taking college classes at Indiana Tech and we became fast friends. Even after I moved away, we maintained a friendship. This wasn’t a surface-level friendship, either. We confided in each other about our struggles as wives and working women and we were always telling one another how thankful we were to have the other in our lives.
And then it all changed.
The shift was subtle. Summer found a new church and they helped her save her marriage. I started my journey towards converting to Catholicism. She stopped wearing pants and cutting her hair. I became more and more of a mouthpiece for the Roman Catholic Church. She began espousing the errors of believing in the Trinity. I became a baptized, confirmed Catholic. She became an on-fire Pentecostal.
We tried to maintain our friendship, even then. I moved back up to Indy and we were in driving distance with one another again. She frequently invited me to her church; I frequently declined. Her Facebook pages began to annoy me because her joyful posts, although truly from the heart, were obviously theologically not sound. She embraced a neo-conservative view of America. I was moderate (or downright liberal) and believed in equal rights for all. She questioned my devotion to Mary. I questioned her sudden need to be subservient to her husband in all things. She told me that I should only pray in Jesus’ name. I told her that I was okay having the whole crew by my side: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
At Christmas time a few years ago, she invited me and my husband to have dinner with her family and some missionary friends of theirs. We agreed to go, but I made it very clear to her that I was expecting not to be pressured to go to her church or have my religious beliefs questioned by these mysterious missionaries. In fact, I was such an aggressive jerk about the whole thing that our evening was strained. Our smiles weren’t genuine. Our connection felt off.
After that, we drifted apart. Wait… that’s not true. We didn’t drift. Drifting would indicate that the split was slow. It wasn’t. It was catastrophic. It was like the Titanic slamming into that stupid iceberg. We were floating and then we were sinking. We were friends and then we weren’t. And it was my fault.
They say hindsight is 20/20, but I say that hindsight downright hurts. I look back at the person I was then, when I was a virulent Catholic, and I realize that I was a total snob. My Christianity was the absolute “one, true church” and I looked down on anyone – friends, family, co-workers – who clung to their watered down Protestant denominations. They were in denial. They needed to be saved. They needed to find the faith in Christ that only the Eucharist could provide. Hindsight is pretty clear when it shows me that I was a Christian creep.
It’s funny that, once you leave something you were formerly a part of, you start viewing it through a different lens. After I left a church that was doing nothing to sustain me, I would read through Catholic message boards and get irritated at the haughty, “you are lesser than me” posts that I saw. I got tired of seeing Catholics tell Protestants that you didn’t need a powerful minster or theologically sound Biblical education as long as you had the Eucharist. The rest of Christian life was just like parsley on a dinner plate – there for show although not at all important – just meant to be pushed aside to focus on the main course: the Eucharist. The Eucharist should be all I’ll ever need.
Except it’s not. That didn’t work for me. It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. Mainly because Catholics take that one part of Jesus’ words and life literally -“This is my body… this is my blood.” Scriptures around Jesus’ brothers, meaning Mary had other children? Nope, not literal at all.
“Brother is just a poor translation. They mean cousin,” I was told.
“But it doesn’t say that,” I pointed out.
“Mary was a virgin until she became Queen of Heaven,” they shouted.
As I endured that conversation again and again, I became more frustrated because, for a long time, that was me. I was that person, quick to discount your beliefs because they didn’t align with mine. I was such a snob.
Since then, my Christian journey has felt more like the Happy Go Pukey ride at the amusement park. Up and down. Left and right. I’ve made so many changes, and some of them so fast that I’m surprised I haven’t somehow loosened a few teeth. And although I have no idea why I’ve been seeking for so long, I believe that there’s been a lesson in all of this. (Or, more accurately, 14,569 lessons and counting!) It’s made me more accepting of different faiths. I don’t believe that there’s one single church with a Floo Network (thank you, Harry Potter) to Heaven. I think the majority of denominations have truths within them, snippets of faith that is enduring from the early Christians. I also believe that we’re human and that we’ve muddied the waters and changed things from the days of Jesus. The crux of it all is that so many of us, from Pentecostal to Catholic to United Methodist to Mennonite to Mormon to Seventh-Day Adventist, are still trying. We’re still giving it our all, hoping to get it right. We’re not perfect and none of us have all of it. We need to support one another instead of shooting down each other’s beliefs. We can disagree on theology, absolutely. It’s going to happen. There’s a lot of theology in a lot of these churches that I don’t agree with, but I’m not the person anymore that’s going to tell you that your way isn’t right because my way so obviously is. We need to snip our snobbery. Crush our creepiness. This world has enough discord as it is, and I’m no longer going to ruin a friendship because of the way someone prefers to end a prayer.