Three thoughts chewed over with friends in the last month or so:
- Religion is a relationship: it’s not really about exactly what you do, but the relationship that those acts and activities somehow sustain and develop.
- Am I great company but a terrible friend? And what would make me a better friend?
- Why do we still have reservations about online dating? Given how technology has changed every other way we relate to each other, cyber-romance shouldn’t be weird or seen as a last resort.
Food for thought, right?
The common thread that runs through the heart of all three is this: a distinction, a tension, between form and substance/essence; the intangibility of relationship made real only by tangible things.
Why do I get up early every Sunday morning to sing, listen to someone speak for anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours (the latter particularly if you’re in Latin America!) and pray? Why do we meet to read and talk about the Bible? God doesn’t really need any of that from us, but the structure helps us draw near to Him, strengthens our relationship with Him. In that sense, religion as I practise it is like a friendship. It’s spending time with God, and getting to know Him better.
That said, when I spend time together with someone, does that automatically create a bond of friendship between us? If we just hang out and have fun, what kind of connection do we have? If we talk about deep, personal things, is that connection automatically deeper and more personal? Why would that relationship be more significant than a friendship where we spend a significant amount of time together but have only superficial conversations?
Why is it that I have not tried meeting people online? This goes both for meeting potential partners and making new friends. Why does it still feel like an awkward, artificial thing to do, as opposed to meeting someone at a party? I think part of the reason is that I’m not shy and meet enough people as it is, without the need or desire to reach out to randoms in cyberspace. But beyond that, I do still have a perhaps irrational reaction to just the idea “meeting” and developing a relationship with someone over the internet, without any other connection, such as a mutual friend.
This post and the timing of it isn’t completely random. I find that every time I get ready to leave a place in which I’ve invested a portion of my life, of myself, I turn back to these questions.
What does friendship, what does relationship mean when you are only sharing your lives for a finite period of time. And why is one year – or two – any more “finite” than a lifetime, in the context of eternity?
In my experience, technology helps maintain the connections made, but it’s no substitute for being in the same place, geographically speaking.
The question of geography applies to my faith also. We talk about the Kingdom of Heaven being here and also in the future – where does that leave us? Is God here with me now, or is He more like a cyber friend, present via some kind of spiritual technology?
I don’t have a neat conclusion for this post, precisely because this post is all about questions. Open to your thoughts on this!