Roundtable: Unlikely Friendships

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

As part of the Rally to Restore Unity, I  asked some of my favorite writers and thinkers to respond to this prompt: “In three to five sentences, tell us about a meaningful relationship you’ve maintained with a fellow Christian who doesn’t necessarily share your theological or political views." Here’s what they said—


Scot McKnight: One of my best friends is an Eastern Orthodox theologian who is politically—well, how to put this?—to the right of me, and sometimes far right of me. And, yet, I know he is as committed as I am to living before the Lord with integrity, to listening to the church tradition, and to teaching our students in a way that leads through theology and Bible into faith and love and hope. I also know that whatever his politics, they never trump following the Lord. In each conversation we have I learn from him, and I grow, and and I have new things to consider. Time and time again I realize that Brad has had a significant impact on my own life and thinking, and most of this because he is different.


Phyllis Tickle: Over the past dozen or so years, one of the relationships I have learned the most from has been with a dear colleague who is an adult convert to Mormonism. While I think Mormonism is nearer to being the fourth Abramhamic faith than to being a division within Christianity and while we differ on more points than we agree on, we both know without hesitation or any qualifying discussion that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, Son of God and Son of Man. What I have learned to appreciate is that so long as that belief is the central one, all the rest of our divergent doctrines tend to feather out into long, intellectualized discussions full of words, but not necessarily of holiness or even salvific significance. The other thing I know is that she, in every part of her life from diet to family to work to worship, exercises a discipline and orderliness and obedience that I could never attain to in a hundred lifetimes and that, by her own admission, those ways of being and doing come up out of her Mormon faith and are her praxis.


Kathy Escobar: One of our best family friends has a very systematic approach to theology and the Bible, one that is quite different from mine.  The beautiful part of our relationship, though, is that we honor and respect our differences.  Sure, we have had our share of late night discussions going around and around the same topics, realizing that we'll never completely agree on interpretation of a particular scripture.  They've sometimes been pretty heated, our spouses sitting on the other side of the table wondering if eventually our differences will lead to the demise of our friendship.  It hasn't. In fact, it's strengthened it.  I have deep respect for his convictions, and he has deep respect for mine.  At the end of each of these conversations, we always end with "well, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree, but I still love you."  A few years ago, they moved closer and are now part of The Refuge community so we now hold the tension in closer proximity instead of only meeting once in a while.   Sometimes he teases me about my more liberal views and I tease him about his conservative ones.  Love and respect binds us together, superseding all the dogma and the disagreement.  

Dave Reirson (Kathy’s friend!): As a right brained, type "A", who believes very strongly the Bible is the inspired word of God, I often don't have a lot of time for people who don't know exactly what they believe.  If they would just ask, I could usually give them a pretty quick answer from that same Bible.  Women pastors...check, homosexuality...check, abortion...check.  The only problem with such black and white answers is they run in stark contrast to the love that permeates from one of my best friends.  Her belief in the same loving, forgiving, merciful God manifests itself entirely differently and yet somehow the same.  I love others because God told me...she loves others because it flows from her.  So how does one deal with the reality of a friend who sees God from an often different perspective?  Love them and learn from them! In my case, I attend the The Refuge community where she's my pastor....God does have a great sense of humor.


Mary DeMuth: Since I’ve lived overseas (France) and been to several countries around the world, my politics can’t help but be influenced by a global perspective. This puts me at odds with many of my friends here in the South. But I really don’t mind. It’s not my job to “enlighten” them, nor do they despise my political meanderings. To me, the best part of love is loving those who differ. Jesus said tax collectors love those who love them, but it takes a stronger more vital God-breathed love to love those who differ. I’d rather be in circle of folks who differ so I can exercise love than to exist in an enclave of exactly-the-same thinkers. 


Jamie Arpin-Ricci: After yet another gang shooting in our neighbourhood, myself & a local Baptist pastor got together to talk about how we could make our community a safer place.  While friends, we knew that our theology & politics differed significantly at points, yet what we shared most dearly was the conviction that, despite these difference, we were brothers in Christ.  As a result, we formed the local Christian Collective, a place where believers who lives and/or worshiped in our community could come together to talk, pray & get to know each other.   The result has been an amazing gathering of diverse believers representing at least 6 Christian traditions, 7 linguistic groups and ages ranging from 18 to 80.  God is good!


Kent Annan: Last year 1,941 people gave to the work I'm part of in Haiti. It's humbling to be in all these meaningful relationships, which includes both my closest friends and some people I've never met and likely never will. Surely there's a vast political and theological range among the 1,941 of us. But here's part of why I love this work: in the focus on loving our neighbors, especially people who have desperate needs and great potential, there's a profound opportunity for unity.


Now it's your turn! Tell us about an unlikely friendship you've maintained through theological and political differences? 

[Note: I've been overwhelmed by the response to rally so far! Hundreds of blog posts, signs, and tweets are rolling in.  This afternoon I'll post new synchroblog links, signs, thoughts on yesterday's big news, and an update on our Charity:Water fundraising effort. Keep sharing on Twitter (#restoreunity) and on the Facebook page.]

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