I have a deeply valued friendship with a young woman 45 years my junior! She is a Christian Republican who takes a strong anti-abortion stand.
I value this connection because I believe it is the only thing that will bring about a constructive compromise with those we disagree with.
My friend and I do not avoid the issues that we disagree on. In fact, we often joke that we don’t agree on anything. We are connected by the heart and the respect we hold for one another.
I wrote to her recently:
“I love you unconditionally.
“I love your passion, commitment and integrity.
“Your smile lights up a room!
“Your light shines very brightly.
“I honor the work you do and feel those who you reach are very lucky.
“You stand for the truth you believe in.
“And I have never felt anything less from you towards me (she knows I’m gay!).”
My friend tends to send me articles that speak to her belief systems. I would like to share a version of my reply revised for publication.
“Your belief system is often from biblically based ‘research.’ While I respect the scriptures and find some great inspiring quotes, I do not put much credibility in it. I find the writing inconsistent, fear-based and violent! Written by men, it has omitted the teachings of the women of the time, including those of Mary and Mary Magdalene. Interpretation after interpretation for over a century after Jesus depended on which ruling power declared they were divinely inspired or heresy.
“So when you share material with me that is sourced from these organizations, research and foundations, they are not credible resources to me. To me, these people are justifying what they already believe to be true! Many are well-educated and well-meaning but not objective. Fox News is another expression of pre-assumed perspectives.
“There is no doubt that material that I read and resonate with reflects the opposite bias. If you referred me to articles from the BBC or other foreign news media that are more objective and critical of both parties, I would take them into consideration.
“We must remember: We drink out of different wells. Nourished from different sources. Each tending to support what we hold to be true.
“I really don’t think anyone changes easily. Imagine if you announced tomorrow that you supported Obama or abortion rights! You would shake your world to the very roots of being. Family, friends, your community, even your husband would be confused, disappointed and possibly withdraw friendship and love.
“If I began spouting biblical quotes or conservative views, I would have much the same experience in my community. So change is something that is somewhat rare and comes from within. Sometimes through trauma, illness or shock, one loses or gains faith! It rarely occurs through conversation and even the kind of sharing we participate in.
“Therefore, there are three things I wish for in the world:
“I wish that we could talk to one another and not see each other as the enemy. Let go of the act of opposing and allow opposite views. We must let go of the ‘us and them’ mentality and meet one another first from the heart and then discuss and contemplate. Be able to listen deeply to understand our differences. What frightens you about what I believe? What frightens me about what you believe? How can we accept our unity and different viewpoints?
“I wish that we find common ground to support and work together. For us, we are both committed to life! We do not want to see war, divisiveness, gratuitous sex, violence or disrespect for women. I am pro-life. I would never have chosen to have an abortion. But I cannot walk in the shoes of another and must honor another woman’s decision for her body. ‘Judge not, least you be judged!’ I believe in the creator and the creation. We have a different understanding of what that is. Our culture has lost its sense of the reverence, the sacred … and everything is!
“I wish that humanity would embrace the capacity to love each other beyond differing beliefs and lifestyles. As the Pope said recently, ‘Who am I to judge?’”
My friend does not have to change one whit to receive my appreciation and my love.
I want to share our story with others, and suggest they might find the same experience if they are willing to listen and understand without the need to change the other. This is one way we can reduce the fear generated into the culture, just in listening and understanding a different point of view.
And true to all spiritual and religious teachings … only love can prevail.
Marilyn Nyborg lives in Grass Valley.