Monday, February 05, 2018

In Support of Choosing Unlikely Friendships

Image from the book Unlikely Friendships 
A noteworthy thing happened on my Facebook wall this winter.  Few people noticed it--but those who did called it everything from a "miracle" to "hell freezing over."  What happened was this: one of my friends wrote that s/he agreed with what another one of my friends had commented on my post.  This would have been completely un-noteworthy except for who those two people are; both are extremely active in United Methodist Church politics on the denominational level, and they disagree adamantly on an issue that is dividing the church.  The idea of the two causally interacting and agreeing on a separate subject in a FB comment thread seemed surreal to certain

That such an unusual thing occurred is no accident; I consider it the fruit of a discipline that my late father, the Rev. Dr. "Biking Bob" Walters, attempted to ingrain in me and modeled in every area of his life. Ten years ago when we were brainstorming names for our new venture, he suggested Theopraxis (already taken) or something involving the words Skunk Works (too obscure a reference, plus possibly copyrighted).  We explored on and on "What will be the core values of our organization?" Then, Dad hit upon the name Friendly Planet Missiology.  I was uncertain at first, but he was insistent that was the right one just as certain as he was that he must build friendships by visiting others by bicycle. Over time, I've come to appreciate this wisdom.

There is something truly radical about resolving to take a friendly peer-to-peer stance with those you encounter. It is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive no matter who or where you are.  It can be complicated; it can get you ostracized by some, and it can come back to bite you. But, it can also build bridges; it can generate hope and illuminate a way forward where before there was none.

So, I reasoned, if church leaders in North Katanga and Tanganyika have been building peace by transforming war lords into friends,* then surely I can decide to build unlikely friendships by focusing on positive things we can accomplish together.  Sure, it would be easier to treat everyone as either good or evil--ally or enemy combatant, but the friendly way prevents bloodbaths.     

In my husband's line of work, this is what we call diplomacy. In mine, we call it grace.

Let those with ears hear what I'm saying.


*to clarify: most are still war lords in many senses of the term.

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