Drinking, Friends, and Freedom

I’ve got several post in the pike here, so excuse my blasts as I figure out what to write and how.

Shortly after Stephen left the wings place, I sent a message to Drew (friend, fellow atheist expastor, and the head of communications for the Clergy Project).

Hey man, I need to talk.  You got a minute?

He lives in a different time zone and I know it’s probably late where he lives, but he does work at a steakhouse.  So maybe he’s getting off work soon?

I call my friend Anthony (I’ll write more about him very soon).  I know he’s on vacation and doesn’t need to go to work in the morning.

Me: So, I just had a friend “break-up” with me.  Do you think you can come to the wing place?

Anthony: What?!  What the hell? What do you mean “break-up” with you?  Like, just because you’re not a christian anymore he needs to divorce you as a friend?!

Me: Yep.

Anthony: Are you serious?!  You’re serious!  Ok, do you want just me to come or should both Stephanie and I come?

Me: Umm…Stephanie doesn’t have to come…but, actually…it’s probably a good idea if she can.  Cause, I’m kinda going to need a ride home, and it would be great if one of you could bring my car back to my house.

Anthony: No problem, we’re leaving shortly.

Drew calls back.

Drew: Hey what’s going on?  Are you ok?

Me: No man, I just had someone break up with me as a friend.

Drew: Oh shit, I’m sorry man.

Me: Yeah, and now I’m at a bar, probably drinking too much and waiting for someone to come pick me up.

Drew: Well that’s a good thing.

Me: I just need to talk to someone who understands and kill sometime before my ride comes.

I explain the whole conversation with Stephen to Drew.  Honestly, at this point the alcohol (Guinness and Jameson, of course) was starting to really cloud my mind.  I honestly don’t even remember what Drew and I talked about.  But it was just awesome to have a friend, who lives in Chicago, who completely understands what I’m going through because he went through it too.  So we talk until Anthony and Stephanie arrive at the bar.

Anthony: So explain what the fuck happened.

BTW, Anthony and Stephanie were church members and are still very religious Christians.  But they’ve delt with enough church bullshit that they aren’t idealistic.  Stephanie was only one of two people to actually check in on my wife after we left the church.  She sent text messages every other day to my wife while we were in AZ.

Stephanie: Do these people not know who Jesus is?  Have they ever even read the Bible?

Me: Apparently they never listened to my sermons either.

Anthony: No kidding.

Stephanie: What happened to the concept of loving people to Christ.  Jesus hated religious people and their rules.  He hung out with the unbelievers, sinners, and prostitutes.  How are you worse than that?

Anthony: All I can figure is that your “friends” are so insecure that all they can do is focus on themselves.

Me: But seriously, I’m ok with all of this.  If they hate me, fine.  But why my wife?  Why can’t they forgive her?  Why can’t they love her, and help her?  I swear, Stephanie, you are one of the VERY few people from Church who has even tried to be there for her.

Stephanie: Well because I actually believe Jesus when he says to love your neighbor.

Me: Shit, he even says “love your enemy”.  If they can’t love my wife, then how the fuck are they supposed to love their enemy?

Anthony: Exactly!

Me: But you know what?  At the end of the day, I don’t blame these people.  What I want to know, is where the hell is God?  I understand people are sinners.  But the buck has to stop somewhere, and it should stop with the man upstairs.  Why is he failing to do his job?

We have a brief, friendly, but serious debate about whether the actions of Christians can reflect on the character of their God.  I bust out one of my favorite Nietzsche quotes:

Me: It’s like what Nietzsche says:

“I’d be more willing to believe in a Redeemer, if his people appeared more redeemed.”

I was under the impression that the Bible taught that the Holy Spirit was supposed to change people to be more like Christ.  But clearly the vast majority of Christians haven’t experienced that change.  What they hell is the Holy Spirit waiting for?  What is his job description?

Stephanie: But you can’t blame God for the actions of his people.  They have a choice, and they’re choosing to be dirtbags.  God gives people choices.

Me: So can one of you drive stick shift?

Anthony drives my tiny car, which is hilarious because he is one big Mexican dude.  We get home and they come inside.  We’ve actually hung out with this couple a few times since I’ve left the church.  We’ve had good fun together.

My wife joins us and we all talk for a long time.  It was a good conversation.  Then Stephanie brought out the big guns:

Stephanie: You guys cannot allow the actions of shitty people to ruin your emotional health.  My oncologist told me once that I have only so man emotions in a single day.  Am I going to waste them on people who don’t matter, or am I going to save them for my husband?  Don’t waste your feelings on people who only care about themselves!  They aren’t worth it!

Anthony says he feels called to pray for us.  So he does, in my living room.  It’s weird that it wasn’t weird.  I wasn’t offended or put off at all.  I’ve come to find out that I’m ok with people praying for me, so long as prayer is an act of friendship instead of a substitution for it.

We all hug.  They say goodnight.  I love these guys.

I go to bed.  I wake up 2 am, just tortured over losing my friends.  I’m tortured over my wife losing friends because of me.  I got back to sleep around 7am.  Anthony has set up an interview for me at his work for the next morning.  I hope I’m not too hung over. (Spoiler Alert: I NAILED THAT INTERVIEW)

Just before I got back to sleep, I see that someone has commented on my Stephen inspired Facebook post.  Would you believe it’s my ex-girlfriend?  And not just any ex, the one woman who was THE reason I first came to church to begin with?!  She writes:

This sounds familiar, several years back quite a few of my best friends just stopped talking to me and calling or wanting to hanging out and I really am not even sure why. I don’t know if it was that my belief in Christianity was staring to dwindle or that I was hanging out with people who were not Christians that I was trying to help. But I do know that it crushed me to think that people who I considered family would just leave. I struggled for awhile until I realized that they were in the wrong not me. If they really truly are Christians they are to love everyone no matter what and that you are suppose to hold the ones who are struggling with their beliefs tighter. I really did take it one day at a time and finally it didn’t hurt so much to lose almost all my friends. On a plus side I meet my beloved Husband shortly after this happened and the friends that did stay became even closer and I still too this day have a strong relationship with them. The other friends did eventually come back into my life but it was never the same. I am sure this doesn’t sound comforting right now, but I promise it will get better and your heart won’t hurt so much and the anger will not be so fueled. Hug your family and concentrate on them and the pain will subside. Sorry this is something you are going through.

I wake up the next morning.  10 am. I’ve got an interview at 12:30.  I’m slightly hung over.  I’m very tired.  I get in the shower.

I start laughing.  It starts with a smile and then moves to a chuckle.  A thought has occurred to me:

Wait a minute!  I’m not a christian!  I don’t have to forgive these people.  I don’t have to show them any grace.  I don’t have to feel guilty for not reconciling with them.  I don’t have to care if they like me or not anymore.  I am free to hate them if I so choose.  Without guilt, I can tell them all to FUCK OFF.

This thought amuses the shit out of me.  Like I am stupid smiling.

I get out of the shower and I look at the phrase my wife has written on our mirror a few days back:

People that matter:

  1. My husband
  2. My children
  3. My family
  4. My friends who are actually stepping up!

Everyone else can suck it!

She’s never been that gracious, and has always “struggled” with forgiveness.

Her mirror writings make me chuckle louder.  I edit it to say “1. My husband/My wife”.  This is not for her anymore.  It’s for us.

I run down stairs, grab my wife and proceed to make out with her.

Wife: What’s gotten into you?

Me: You know that saying on the wall…

I explain my revelation, my epiphany, my freedom.  I don’t have to care for these people anymore.  I don’t have to care about these people anymore.  I don’t care what they think of me, or what they might think of me.  They can “suck it!”

I am free.

Damn it feels good to be a gangster.

Hope you like the movie reference!

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8 thoughts on “Drinking, Friends, and Freedom

  1. Welcome to Freedom, my friend. You owe them nothing. Rebuild your life and do it without regret. They will only hold you back, but you have so much waiting for you in your future. Make the most of each day and laugh in the face of their approval. We love you, brother.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Talk about a rollercoaster of emotions, there! I’m really sad that your wife has been so badly treated — so much for a religion of love, right? 😦 I know hug boxes don’t really mean that much, but ((((((HUGS)))))) for you and your wife.

    Hang in there — I’m hoping things improve and work out for the better. I suspect that the friends you find on this journey will be much more supporting of you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeah, I think you’ll find you will need to forgive eventually, for your own sake. But that’s down the road a ways, when you can look at this whole episode in your life with distance and not misery. Small, insecure people aren’t worth your anger. Later, when you’ve got more distance, it will be worth thinking over the Evangelical Christian narrative to understand if/how that contributes, because you’ve been heavily affected by that narrative too. But one problem at a time!

    Like

  4. Your ex-girlfriends sounds like someone I would like to meet. That’s a very thoughtful message she left you (especially considering the history behind you two).

    I also love this:

    People that matter:

    My husband
    My children
    My family
    My friends who are actually stepping up!
    Everyone else can suck it!

    When I became sick with liver disease and my wife with her own health issues, it was amazing how many friends we lost. Some people think that tragedy is contagious.

    But in the matter of prayer, I have an anecdote about good christians that still makes me, a lifelong atheist, smile sometimes.

    One of my best friends was my boss at the company I worked for in the 90’s. I met his family at the annual christmas party and we chatted and got to know each other.

    Shortly after, I got very ill with liver disease. My friend also left the company and moved on the other side of the country but we kept in touch.

    Time passed and eventually I had my surgery and got better.
    Eventually, my friend, whom is also an atheist, let me know something I was completely unaware of. Apparently, his parents were very distressed when they learned I was so sick and I may not make it. Remember, they met me only once and I was just a friend of their son. There wasn’t much they could do, but they took it upon themselves to add me to their weekly prayers in their congregation.

    For a full 3 years, unbeknownst to me, they prayed for my recovery. Every single week for 3 years.
    My friend was a bit embarrassed when he told me, knowing me. We also both agree that prayer is wishful thinking and nothing more.

    However, I have to admit that their gesture touched me. I was a nobody to them. Yet, they did what they considered their best to help me.
    They didn’t tell anyone, especially me or their son. The only reason he knew about it was because he attended one of their post church pic-nics and another parishioner asked him how I was doing.
    My friend was taken aback. “How do you know about [my name]?” and that’s when this guy told him.

    That’s something I can appreciate. They didn’t do it out of self aggrandizement. They didn’t do it so they could glorify their god to their heathen son. They did it because they care and that was what they felt they could do.

    By the time I discovered this, I was well on my way to recovery, but I asked my friend to let them know that I was doing better and that I appreciated what they did. Because I really did appreciate it.

    Christians, like the rest of us, have a choice to be good or bad. They chose to be good. To follow the most basic tenet of their religion which is to love thy neighbor. Love thy neighbor not to make yourself feel better or to gain a choice spot in heaven, but for the sake of being good.

    That’s what being good is about. Choosing love over hate. A lesson some of your former friends should really try to learn.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Religion divides people. It’s not accidental. It’s not a side-effect, it’s built-in. Belief is the separator. But, as you told Stephen, you can’t choose what to believe. (Cognitive dissonance works for a while, but eventually stops.)

    It sucks that you (and your wife) have been rejected by your church friends. It’s really nobody’s fault. I’m sure they still love you, but you stopped playing by club rules.

    Feel the power (BTW, great video!) Won’t it be nice to have conversations with people without folding religious dogma into them?

    Like

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