Monday, 7 January 2013

Friends Will Be Friends

"Friendship" Monument

One of my favorite fictional characters at the moment is Chuck's John Casey, the hard knuckle bully of an NSA agent in charge of looking after the series’ hero (and the counterweight to the similarly tasked but sexy female CIA agent). In one of the episodes Casey says he doesn’t have any friends because, ultimately, friend fail you.
I was thinking about that observation in light learning gradually, over the past month or so, that most of my Australian friends are sending their children to Catholic schools. They do so despite many if not most not being of Catholic heritage, despite some of them claiming to be agnostic (although some still shivered when I let loose with my opinion on the concept commonly referred to as “hell”), and despite the fact some acknowledge Catholicism to equal bullshit. One even makes the claim that Catholic schools are fine because the children are able to filter out the crap, a claim that is obviously wrong by virtue of the fact religion is very much still here and has been here for many a generation. Indeed, I would say that last claim is a typical lazy Australian one, spoken by one who is generally unexposed to the harms of religion through living in a generally peaceful country.
I, on the other hand, consider the very concept of Catholic schools a crime against humanity in the sense that we are indoctrinating children without giving them a saying on the matter. There is a reason why we don’t let kids vote before they are 18; why should we impose a dubious framework for life on them before they are even remotely able to make their own minds up?
The question I found myself asking is whether religion is going to prove itself my biggest friends’ alienator yet again. As in, many people giving this blog a read stop doing so when they hit upon my views on matters of religion. Will this alienation now apply beyond the borders of the virtual world?
This time, however, the onus is on me: my friends are obviously fine with Catholic schools; however, can I truly consider myself someone’s friend when that so called friend is sending their child to a Catholic school? I don't argue us being able to be friends in the more casual sense of the word, that of the “good morning” and the polite “how are you” level; but can we be true friends, best friends, with such a shadow looming over the friendship?
This question is often asked in reverse context; it is not limited to the matter of Catholic education. Say, for instance, a Christian befriends a Muslim through one circumstance or another: can the two become true friends when each of the two is sure their colleague is on the highway to hell, a sinner from head to two that could well be raising future generations of sinners?
I don’t know what my Muslim and Christian colleagues might think, but I know I do not like the John Casey point of view. The reality is that shadows loom over all friendships and religion is just one of them (albeit one of the worst). The reality is that the entire concept of friendship revolves around being there for your friend even when times are tough; occasionally we might enjoy wrapping ourselves with them, but none of us needs fair weather friends.
I therefore conclude that friendships move through this continuum of quality. That continuum goes through ups and downs the way everything else does, and that continuum is affected by degrees. Ultimately, though, religion is not necessarily an inhibitor of friendships. Where there’s a will there should be a way.

Image by redteam, Creative Commons license

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