I've been here before.
(Courtesy of jaillustration.com)
We have been told by various etiquette "experts" that there are two topics you must absolutely stay away from whenever you are introduced to a stranger for the first time, or when you are on a first date (or even the next ten dates): politics and religion.
And it is the latter that has evoked that sense of "where did I experience this before?"
My previous blog post was what I reflected on during the past Holy Week, with the question, "how many of us would choose the religion that we now identify with, if we were not taught it since we were young, and had to make that decision only as an adult?" being thrown out there.
I also commented that with the way we have been exposed to religion - specifically the religion of our parents - it may become a blurred line whether we really choose our religion, or we subscribe to it because it's what we've known and have been exposed to, all our lives.
Little did I know that it would mean the end of a friendship that had gone past the decade mark.
Someone who I called a friend immediately responded as soon as she read my post, and construed it as an attack of her (Catholic) faith, which I patently was not doing. My question was applicable to anyone who subscribed to any faith, a call to examine whether it was freely chosen, or, was it possibly, to put it in the vernacular, nakasanayan na kasi. (That's what we're used to)
Why she chose to see it that way will always puzzle me, because I have always found her to be intelligent, and we share many of the same views in political matters, sexuality and civil rights. Maybe there is something to be said for the advice of these "experts" - religion is a time-bomb, and if any one had the temerity to even ask a question about it, it can explode and splat all over one's face.
She sent me a private message, and mentioned in passing that if I was to continue this train of thought (as well as have friends who see things the same way I did with this particular subject), she may have to reconsider the label "friend".
By the end of the day, I had been blocked on her Facebook account.
This is not the first time that someone had traded our friendship for what they deemed to be a tenet of their faith that was impossible to give up.
Growing up, I had two people I considered my best friends. It was with them that I dreaded coming out to: I knew, from being a voracious reader early on, that when a gay person undergoes this (gut-wrenching) process, one must be prepared for the worst: rejection, hatred, gossip fodder, these are all too common reactions and results for anyone with the courage to do it, so my anxiety level was at an all-time high.
I decided to do it individually, because to have two people I cared for immensely reject me at the same time might have been too much to bear for a teenager who, like any other one, was filled with insecurities and questions.
The sh*t hit the fan, alright.
The first person I came out to - and yes, you correctly guessed that she is no longer someone I consider a friend - was aghast: "No, no, no...it's a sin! It says in Leviticus, chapter..."
"Wait. I came out to you, not to be judged or be made to feel like the worst person alive. I came out to you because I consider you my friend, one of my best friends."
"But you are going against the Word of God!!! Oh, my...I don't know what to do..."
"You could say that you are still my friend. We're still friends, aren't we?"
She became eerily silent (we were in a car, so that silence was magnified) and after some time spent with her eyes closed, she turned to me and said, "I'm sorry. No. Unless you change, change your evil ways, I cannot accept you as a friend."
This was one of the few times in my life that my jaw literally dropped. I could not believe what I was hearing: this person, who at that point I had considered as having a more important opinion than my own parents, was rejecting me, full frontal.
As the tears started running down my face, and the realization had begun to sink in, that this was the end of a friendship that I had cherished so much that I risked being nakedly honest, she attempted to deflect it and turn my pain into a prayer meeting: "Here's what we'll do - let's pray." And without waiting for me, she went ahead, closed her eyes, clasped her hands over mine, and said "Lord, hear us, hear our prayer. Cleanse him from his unrighteousness, rid him of his unholiness, make him right, Father. Make him right again, in Your eyes. We believe in Your power, You can do all things. Cleanse him, Father. Cleanse him. Amen!"
Even with the benefit of the rear view of a deja vu, I don't think I will ever be able to readily get over someone who gave up on our friendship, for the sake of a personal belief. This is exactly why I have always championed faith as something personal, because if you signed up for it, then only you are bound by its rules.
I've always dreamed of a time when one's faith was not a hindrance to finding someone who connects with you on such deep levels that you have come to see them as family, not "just" friends. There aren't many, but the ones who have stayed around, despite all of us having various religious persuasions, they're the keepers.
And the kind of memories we have are the ones I want to relive, over and over.