September 11, 2012

The Best Atheist Christian I Know.

Posted in Life Lessons, My Five tagged , , , , , , , , , at 9:17 pm by openendedcomment

My best friend is an Atheist.  She also happens to be the most Christian woman I have ever known.  She may not believe in Christ, but she lives her life to the ideals of a Christian better than any Sunday services attending, Wednesday FEP teaching and “I’ll pray for you” type walking this earth.  That may be an exaggeration, better to say she does this better than any of the afore-mentioned type I’ve ever met.

She and I have had countless discussions regarding religion.  I am Catholic and I believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  I pray to the Virgin Mary.  I pray to St. Jude and to St. Christopher.  I light candles at the Basillica of Saint Mary when my life feels unmanageable or when I’m simply sad…or grateful…or both.  I was there for hours exactly eleven years ago today.  I carry a rosary with me and I make confession.  I also happen to be fiercely pro-choice and pro-marriage equality.  Being Catholic does not deter from that.  It actually encourages it…but that’s another post entirely.  I do not attend mass regularly because I feel that God and I have a relationship that transcends a building.  I have raised my children to believe in God but to make their own decisions regarding what they feel is right and wrong and to not identify with one religion merely because their father and I have chosen to do so.  I encourage them to explore other religions and they know…clearly…that just because a Hindu or Muslim or Jew or even an Atheist or Agnostic heck even Wiccan do not believe what they believe or even worship the same God(s) that they do, they are not worse or lesser or even wrong…merely different.  I have encouraged them to accept that as long as someone is a good person and leads a good life that they too are worthy and deserving of respect.  I believe that all afore-mentioned will be rewarded for a life well led when this life has passed.  I have encouraged my children to attend services for many other religions,  I think it’s good for them.  My Mom and Dad did the same for me.  My Mother, who sent me to Catholic school and then pulled me out when they began telling me she and my Dad were wrong for being divorced and that everyone who had an abortion was going to hell, is agnostic.  She encouraged me to do exactly what I am now doing for my children.  I am telling you all of this to explain why and how Glitter and I are best friends regardless of, despite and perhaps even because of my beliefs and hers and why beliefs that seem so very different are actually almost the same.

She doesn’t “do” religion.  She is adamant in her stance that all of the world’s wars and evils, including the one we remember today, are rooted in religion.  She has a serious point on this one.  She and I are in agreement that religious groups wield far too much power in politics.  She has said that when someone she loves dies that God is not with her, God does not decide or guide, people do.  She knows, in her heart, that when she is crushed emotionally and her soul is aching that God does not hold her, her husband does.  She and I do not agree on that.  Not that he doesn’t hold her, I know him and he’s pretty great.  I am sure he does hold her…but I think God is there, too.  And that’s OK.  We respect our respective beliefs and non-beliefs.  We are able to have long, long discussions without ever offending each other.  And that is a gift.  A gift of friendship and love and trust.  It is not the only gift she has given.

She does not judge.  Ever.  Don’t get me wrong, she does express her opinion.  Loudly and occasionally laced with obscenities, but she does not judge.  She listens, she gives sound advice and she is a person literally hundreds of people would and do turn to in order to unload their souls.  They know she is a safe person to do this with as she will never and has never thought less of them for it.

She forgives.  My God that woman forgives.  She forgives everything; things that most people could never fathom ever moving on from, she has forgiven in others.  That is not to say she is a pushover.  She will keep it in the back of her mind, learn from it and approach the person and situation differently the next time as a result but she has no, not once in her life when an apology has been given with sincerity (and at times when none was even uttered) failed to offer forgiveness and welcome friendship back with open arms.  She feels that to allow anger or resentment to remain in her life is to poison herself and she values herself too much to allow for that kind of crap.

She does better.  She is a flawed and faulted human being who admits to her faults, scrutinizes her behavior and endeavors to be a better person as a result.  She occasionally flies off the handle and has a tendency to react with emotion.  In this way we are exactly alike.  But she feels terrible immediately after.  She makes amends fast and with humility.  Real humility, not the fake-this-makes-me-look-good kind.  She means it.  She isn’t trying to impress anyone, she just wants to know in her heart that she’s doing the right thing.

She is selfless.  She gives and gives and gives…and then she agrees to throw another party or do another fundraiser and proceeds to give some more.  She doesn’t tell people about half of it, it’s more than something she does, it is something that she is.

She believes in marriage, motherhood and sisterhood.  Family is not the center of her life, it is her life.  There is no way to expound on this one, it just is. Her commitment to them knows no bounds and  in it there are no voids.

She treats everyone with respect.  Everyone.  She does not attempt to convert others to her way of thinking, she simply accepts them as they are and loves them no matter what.

She is not proud and she does not brag.  She does not understand people who do or what it does for them.  There have been times she’s had much and times she has done without and no one but her very closest friends and family have ever known the difference.  Her life isn’t about things, it’s about people and experiences and finding the joy.  She can’t be bought.  It’s been tried and has failed each time.

If you were to list out every attribute of the ideal Christian Mother, Wife and Friend, she would be it.  Aside from the believing in God part.  And when it is all said and done, why should that matter?  How could an argument ever be made that someone who attends church every Sunday only to pass judgement on those who do not is more Christian than she?  The woman who tithes her church and announces to her prayer group how much money her new diamond cross cost yet ignores the children without a coat only a few miles away or dismisses the neighbor who lost their job or denounces the nineteen year old single mother who just found out her birth control failed…is she more deserving of salvation?  The one who tells you she will pray for your soul and then stabs you in the back the moment you turn away…is she on higher moral ground?  I don’t think so.  Even though it may be hard to wrap your brain around, I don’t think you think so, either.  Not really.  Not where it counts.

She and I don’t see eye to eye on the matters of God and Religion and Prayer.  And that, to me, is a good thing.  She doesn’t know this yet, but she has taught me more about God and the role of the Holy Spirit filling and guiding my life than any Priest or Deacon.  You see, I believe in what I teach.  When I teach my children that all of us are God’s children and even when we don’t recognize it and perhaps especially when we deny or dismiss it yet still live our lives according to His teachings, that we are at those times most blessed.  The Holy Spirit is within us all.  Some call it conscience, some an inner voice and others simply recognize it as what we know to be our morality.  Whatever you choose to label it, my label is the Spirit and hers is the strongest I know.  Charity and love without bounds; acceptance in the face of judgement.  Conviction which never waivers and courage which has yet to fold.

I will never tell her she is wrong.  She isn’t.  Someone so right simply could not be.  She has reasons, good ones, for everything she feels and thinks and for everything she is for and against.  I respect the Hell out of it all.  But as her friend, someday many decades from now, if I can manage to follow her lead…she and I will have a different conversation.  One outside of life on earth.  I can’t wait to tell her “I told you so”…

She isn’t going to like this post.  It’s too “nice” and too…too.  So Glitter, before you call me, know this: I mean it.  I want people to understand that saying you’re Christian doesn’t make you Christian and that if more people recognized that moral guidance can come from someone who doesn’t carry a bible or wear a cross the world might just be a better place.  Judge not lest ye be judged and all that other rot….love you.