I have a neighbor – at least he will be for ten more days – who has become a dear friend. Kili and I have sold the house we’ve called home for the past four years and are moving to Mexico. The house is beautifully situated on two acres backed up to a wooded dry river bed. We love it here. But we love Mexico as well, and fiscally it makes more sense to live there.
The thing I’m going to miss the most about living here isn’t the house, or the wooded view, it’s the frequent conversations I have with a neighbor. I don’t usually associate with neighbors. I once said – and you can quote me – “Geographical proximity is not the basis for a friendship.”
That’s especially true when you’re as different as I am. I don’t find much in common with most people, and I dislike inane conversation. That would include such topics as who will be the quarterback for the Cowboys next season, or how dry the grass looks.
So what do I find to talk about with my neighbor? Well, a lot of things, but our favorite topics are religion, philosophy, politics and the meaning of life. The things most people avoid talking about. On the contrary, we love it! What could possibly be more important?
My neighbor has two degrees in – hold onto your hat – theology! He’s a Christian. If you know anything about me it is that I abhor the Christian religion; all religions, but Christianity the most. So how can I be friends – close friends – with a Christian?
Well, although he is a Bible believer, and attends church regularly, he isn’t a Christian in the usual sense of the word. He doesn’t even really care whether Jesus Christ was a real person. He does, I don’t, but he says it wouldn’t matter either way. What kind of Christian is that?
He’s the kind who believes it’s his example that matters. The goal is to emulate Christ. The example he set was to live unselfishly, which in a theological nutshell is just about all one needs to know about Jesus Christ.
We have argued as only two men passionate about their beliefs can argue; but always with respect. Respect because we both know the rules of logic and reason. And we concede when the other has made a valid point.
We have, though rarely, both raised our voices to be heard by the other; to the point where a neighbor once wondered what the hell the ruckus was about. In a neighborhood where the lots are measured in acres.
In spite of that, we have never gotten mad at one another. There is no reason to be angry if your differing opinions are accompanied by reasonable assertions, facts, examples, analogies, i.e.,the accepted tools of persuasion. Never have our debates devolved into an ad-hominem attack with name calling.
The best part is that we each leave our conversations with a bit more than we came with. One plus one always equals three. My mind has been expanded, and I’ve been given food for thought. For example, I am considering the differences between utilitarian versus deontological ethics. Would I be if we hadn’t had a discussion on abortion? Maybe yes, and maybe no. But I am.
Has he converted me to Christianity? He hasn’t tried. Have I damaged his faith? I may have given him a lot to ponder, but converting him from his faith has never been my goal. I don’t care.
I’ve learned from my friend that it isn’t the religion of Christianity that I object to, it is the inanity and hypocrisy of its practitioners.
Just because I’m not a Christian doesn’t mean I can’t aspire to be Christ-like. Christians would be a lot less obnoxious if they did too. Like my dear friend Randy.
I’m gonna miss the great debates, the Rocky Mountain springwater, and you amigo.