It is good to have close friendships with members of the opposite sex.
Relational apologetics is a topic I’ve been speaking about a lot this year. Often I tell the story of my friendship with Deanna Unyk as an illustration of what I’m encouraging, and then argue for why we should pursue friends, even if the person is the opposite gender.
I recently learned that some people who have heard me speak about Deanna have concerns about our friendship. First is that some people will think I’m a wimpy pro-lifer. After all, how could I be good friends with a pro-choice, lesbian atheist without compromising my beliefs when discussing topics like abortion or same-sex marriage? I’ll address that concern in a future post. Today I want to address the concern that I am “too close” to Deanna, that I’m even putting my marriage at risk.
I don’t usually take the time in my speeches to give a strong defense of guy-girl friendship. Frankly, I’m still learning the best ways to communicate with people about my friendship with Deanna. I don’t want my audience distracted by wondering, “Is his marriage unhealthy? Why does he care so much about a woman he’s not married to?” I’m making a few minor adjustments to the way I talk about Deanna in my speeches to minimize the possibility of being misunderstood.
There’s also a part of me that feels sad that a blog post defending guy-girl friendship is even necessary. While we’ve all seen the painful consequences of men and women falling into sexual sin, some people unfortunately assume that members of the opposite sex are more dangerous than they are worth in a friendship. Many of us have bought into an idea that is preached at us time and time again in movies and popular TV shows, that men and women CAN’T be friends without eventually sleeping with each other, or at least lusting for each other. According to this theory, whether it’s Ted and Robin or Harry and Sally, it is impossible for a man and a woman to have a lifelong, platonic friendship.
I don’t buy that.
While it is possible for people to fall into sin, guy-girl friendship can also be virtuous, God-honoring brother-sister friendship.
Daniel from Canada recently asked me this question: “What should pro-lifers say to someone who performs abortions?” He commented that this would be a good follow-up to my recent posts on what pro-lifers should say to someone who wishes they had been aborted, is happy about her abortion, or someone who has post-abortive friends.
There were recently good discussions on this question at the Secular Pro-Life and Jill Stanek blogs, and I also asked the question to my followers on my Facebook page. This post is a combination of my own thoughts and my favorite comments from other pro-life advocates on this topic.
These opportunities can actually happen. Sidewalk counselors are in an especially good position to develop friendships with abortion practitioners. Abby Johnson’s book “Unplanned” recounts the impact that the kind members of Coalition for Life had on Abby. I had the great privilege of coaching my friend Don Blythe, a sidewalk counselor in Modesto and Stockton, who was having a congenial email exchange with the abortion practitioner at his local abortion facility. He’s also had multiple conversations with other abortion practitioners since.
Before I get to the list, I think that the best environment for conversations like this would be at a neutral place like a coffee shop, as opposed to the sidewalk in front of the abortion facility. This may not always be possible, but if the abortion practitioner was willing to meet once a month for coffee, I would take that opportunity in a heartbeat. (No pun intended.)
To my non-Christian readers, religion is about to happen, but it’s important to explain where I’m coming from on this topic.
Roni Cairns is a good friend of mine whom I’ve known for at least four years. She’s the reason I began exploring the use of relational apologetics to persuade pro-choice people to the pro-life position. After four years of friendship and debate, Roni is now pro-life.
Roni and I met each other in an abortion debate group on Facebook. I spent about a year participating in that group, ultimately becoming one of the admins, even though most of the participants were pro-choice. I learned a lot that year about how to (and how not to) debate online. (I’m sure I will be publishing some of what I learned in the future.)
Roni was extremely pro-choice, but we genuinely liked each other from the beginning. Of all the people in that group, Roni was one of the three pro-choice people whom I was closest to, and believed most likely to one day become pro-life. Roni is an amazing reader, a good thinker and her ultimate fantasy is being a Supreme Court justice.
Roni just finished writing a series of blog posts about her conversion. There are links to all of them at the bottom of this article, but my favorite is part four, which Roni gave me permission to post in its entirety here. It’s about the night my friend Clinton Wilcox and I took Roni to dinner.
I want to bring relational apologetics to the pro-life movement. I’ve written and spoken previously about my dear friend Deanna Unyk. I’d encourage you to check out one of those two links to get the beginning of the story that I’m going to continue here. I’m so excited to tell you why Deanna now calls herself pro-life.
Meet Deanna, my good friend.
In case you didn’t click either of those links, Deanna was a pro-choice, atheist lesbian in Canada who befriended me in February 2013, through a YouTube message. Deanna was one of the most intelligent pro-choice bloggers I’d ever read. We exchanged nearly 120 philosophical emails, then started Skyping together.
I’m eager to share with you how my relationship with Deanna has progressed and the ways that her thinking has changed, but there’s a danger in this. It’s possible that some people would read this and interpret it as me telling you about a project of mine. It’s very important to me that you know that Deanna is not an object to me, a mind to be changed so that I can get another notch on my pro-life belt.
I have no shame in telling you that I love Deanna.
Yes, I have close friends who are girls, and if you want to know why I think it’s healthy for some Christians to have cross-sex friendships, my friend (notice I didn’t call her a colleague) Jonalyn Fincher has published some wonderful thoughts on this subject. I’ve also written on the subject here.
When I say that I love Deanna, I mean what Jason Lepojärvi means when he defined love this way:
Love says that it is good that you exist and insofar as I am able I will contribute to your happiness, your existence, your flourishing.
Some of my pro-choice friends have not changed their thinking about abortion very much, but Deanna has. I want to share with you some of the changes in her thinking. Don’t read these as the reasons I’m friends with Deanna. Deanna will always be my friend, regardless of her views on abortion, her religion or her sexuality.
A lesson I learned about listening from “Pulp Fiction” and my marriage.
In a deleted scene from Pulp Fiction, Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) meets Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and the first thing she asks him is, “When in conversation, do you listen, or do you just wait to talk?”
Vincent thinks about it and then responds, “I wait to talk, but I’m trying to listen.”
The first three times I saw that scene, I didn’t understand the meaning of this dialogue. Both of those statements sounded synonymous to me. Because I’m a visual learner, I had to see the quote in print before it dawned on me: Most people just wait to talk.
In other words, I can be talking to a pro-choice person and while she’s making her arguments, I have an inner monologue going on inside my mind:
Wow, that’s a lot of arguments she’s making.
Which one should I choose to respond to when she’s done?
Should I ask another question or make an argument?
When can I make MY argument?
What did my wife ask me to get on the way home?”
That’s not listening. That’s waiting to talk.