The antagonist in my novel (remember, it’s based on actual people) sees preachers as toxic. Yet he admires the religiosity, friendliness, and ethics of his wife’s father and that of her younger brother.
I’ve been meeting a friend (whom I’ll call Friend 1) for coffee, every other week, for over two years. Our conversations were interesting and mutually satisfying but over time they became—to me, at least—somewhat stale and predictable, as he wanted to keep everything at surface level. At my suggestion, we took a break of a few months. Besides, my life got very busy this past summer.
He and I are busy people but recently I figured it was time to re-connect, so I called and left him a message. Then he left a message … You know how that goes—connecting with an answering machine until we were able to set a time for coffee the following week.
In the interim, I stopped by to see another friend, Jack, who said his wife was out of town for two weeks. His aches and mobility problems were bothering him more than usual so to encourage him, I suggested he join us for coffee—if it was okay with Friend 1.
I emailed Friend 1 to see if Jack could join us. He called me within an hour—a real conversation this time—and said he wanted to know up front (he wasn’t joking) two things: 1) Is this guy selling insurance? And 2) is Jack a minister?
I thought this was very funny (if you knew Jack, you’d laugh, too). Afterward, I got upset, and maybe even a little angry. What kind of person does he think I am? After 60 coffee times over two years, he thinks I’m so devious that I’d set him up? Clearly, I wasn’t to be trusted.
Of course, the subliminal message is that insurance salesmen and ministers are to be feared or at least avoided. That was funny. Both questions revealed that my coffee-time friend has some bad history with both groups. Unpleasant experiences make anyone wary.
But I put my peevishness aside to look at myself and the relationship. Friend 1 said he really wants to resume our coffee-time … yet he distrusts my motives? Hadn’t I proven myself? What kind of friendship is that?
I make no secret that I’m a Christian. Over the 25-30 months we’ve met, a few times our discussions have spilled over into God-talk—a topic he finds both fascinating and unsettling. Part of me he likes (I listen a lot.), but the most important part of me causes alarm. This explains why ministers are on his watch list. (Actually, I avoid some types of ministers, too. But that will have to wait for another time.)
No one wants to be considered a goodie two-shoes but even worse is to be known as a hypocrite. Consider these questions: Have you ever been accused of being untrustworthy? Had your motives questioned? Been shunned because of your religious scruples or affiliation? Been accused of having a hidden agenda?
You might find the reason in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 2, verses 14-16.