There were non-Christians, and then there were certain non-Christian “others” who we perceived as specific threats to our religious freedom: they thought anyone who believed same-sex marriage was a sin was a bigot; they supported abortion-on-demand. Such people were anti-Christs, according to my campus ministry.
One of those “anti-Christs” was my best friend.
B and I met my senior year of college, in a Comparative Religious Thought class. The goal of the course was to learn about the world’s religions, and compare and contrast what they have in common with our particular traditions. On the very first day, the professor opened the class discussion with a simple question: “What is the purpose of religion?” I, the eager campus missionary, raised my hand and sanctimoniously replied, “Religion is man-made; we were made to have a relationship with God.”
This answer irritated B, who vehemently challenged me, and continued to challenge me for the rest of the class period. I believed this is what my bible study friends called a “divine appointment”: a golden opportunity to evangelize that was so obvious, it must have been planned by God.
You would think that an opportunity arranged by God would go pretty smoothly: I’d pull out my best apologetics, and have a convert within no time. But B was unique because she challenged me. She asked me questions I wasn’t able to answer. She did not follow the script that the Campus Crusade for Christ director swore would work.
She frightened me with her pointed questions (“If God is so omnipotent, why did he put the Forbidden Tree in the Garden of Eden knowing that Adam and Eve would eat from it?” “If your God is so pro-life, why did he wipe out the whole earth with a flood?”). An obnoxious know-it-all that I was, though, I failed to scare her at all.
After that first dispute, she asked me to have lunch with her. In fact, we started meeting for lunch every day, no matter how viciously we debated in class.
B was the exact kind of “other” I was warned about: not only was she a fierce proponent of gay marriage and abortion, but she also interned at Planned Parenthood. A woman like her was supposed to be bad news for my faith, planting doubts where I didn’t need them, ultimately pulling me away from the Absolute Truth.
But that never happened. B’s questions motivated me to read and study more of my faith; to engage in deeper dialogue with other Christians, and refuse to be placated by shallow platitudes to my inquiries. For her part, B was never interested in de-converting me, like my Cru friends believed she would. She firmly disagreed with many of my beliefs but was sincerely interested in learning about me as a person, and I in her. B was never a project, a lost cause in need of saving. She’s an individual with a unique journey of her own, and I’m truly blessed to have her in my life.
Two years ago, B stood next to me as a bridesmaid at my wedding. We often joke that our friendship doesn’t make much sense, given how little we have in common in the religious and political realm, but then again, maybe that’s why it works.