An Open Letter to a Friend Lost to Religion

For the purposes of this open letter, the subject will be addressed as Tammy. -Ty

 

Dear Tammy,

From the first moment we met in class the day I had a cold, and you offered me your box of tissues, I felt a connection with you. A connection that did grow and mature as our friendship evolved. Through college and beyond, via phone and Facebook and such, it was fine. You even told me, when you became pregnant with your first child, that I was going to be an “uncle,” thus showing to me how much you at least said you thought of me and my presence in your life.

The only real friction that ever came between us, at least at first, was your stance on homosexuality. I understand it comes from a religious background, and as such I made no efforts to convince you otherwise. If only you could have reciprocated that and not continued to try to mention how the Bible allegedly supported your own view. Nor did I appreciate you, a highly intelligent woman in most other regards, resorting to the standby response of people without an argument when someone mentioned they don’t wish to discuss a subject; mentioning that if I were truly secure in my view on the matter, I’d have no problems having a conversation about it.

The truth is, when two people are absolutely set in an opinion, I often see no reason to discuss said topic, if the two people wish to remain friends. What is the point? I felt the same way when you wanted several times to talk about Jesus. This is not something you used to do, and the more I thought about it, (and the more you told me about the new pastoral counselor you had been going to) the more I felt that what had been your honest religion before was becoming increasingly radicalized thanks to whatever counseling you were getting.

Still, this did not end our friendship, though it made some moments more awkward than they had to be. Still, we talked, and even spoke on the phone a few times. You told me about your second child, and all the things that go along with that.

Yet I still knew things were going in a different direction. One day, when I went to send you a message on Facebook, and found myself unable to do so, I saw that i had been blocked. I still had your email, and i wrote you asking what was up.

Frankly, never hearing anything from you from that point on might have been more palatable than what you said. If you recall, you told me that somehow I had missed the email you had sent out to all of your male friends. Then you forwarded me a copy of it which essentially said that henceforth, all communications with male friends would have to be handled through your husband, who would read the emails, share them with you, and then reply back to me on your behalf as needed. This was the only thing, it seemed to you, that a proper Christian married woman should do, and that you should have been doing it long ago.

I wasn’t exactly hurt. I was sickened. Yes, I am tolerant of many things and many avenues of religious conviction. But when friends can no longer speak to one another without the approval and observation of one’s male spouse, I have to admit my tolerance runs out. That to me seems for more like slavery than it does even simple deferment to the man of the house. What kind of religion, and for that matter what kind of a husband requires that of his wife? I’m friends with people who don’t see the world as I do, but at least with them I have a relationship with them, and not a second-hand correspondence through their spouse. If that’s the life you want to live, live it. I, however, found it personally insulting that after all the years we had invested in one another, I was now being asked to not connect with you due to some new (and in my view) warped sense of matrimonial purity. I have to wonder if the two of you were so insecure in your marriage that you thought emails from friends all the way across the country could somehow weaken it?

I wasn’t about to enable that sort of life, Tammy. I still cared about you, and do now, to some extent. Yet I have too much pride in myself to submit to a man i have never met, and have him censor all of my communications with you. If that’s the sort of submission you believe in, I decided you’d have to do it without me. The last thing I told you and your husband, (an email he probably never allowed you to see) was that I hoped someday you’d come to believe in a more loving god again. I’m sorry if that was hurtful, but it truly is how I saw the matter. Only an angry god to me would deny a woman her good friends because she is married and under the control of her husband. I guess I truly am not tolerant of every possible view point.

Though perhaps it wasn’t as much the viewpoint alone, as the fact that you didn’t always hold that view point. You had, rather, been brought into it by some counselor. When someone isn’t that way and then becomes that way, it feels to me like something else, other than religion, is at work. Certainly not the “progressive values” you claimed to have when we met.

So, yes, officially and technically, I am the one who opted not to continue communicating, when you look at it a certain way. Yet in truth I feel it was you who separated from me, and I suppose from all of your male friends, by refusing to talk to them, without your husband present, in the name of religion. That’s why it’s more sadness and regret for me now when I think of you, than it is anything else. I therefore still hope you are well, overall, though in my deepest opinion, if your choice to interact with people is no different than it was, I fear some aspect of you will never be totally well again. Certainly not as well, and as generous as the woman who offered me her tissues.

sincerely, Ty Unglebower

 

This post is part of the Open Letter Continuum.

 

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2 Comments

  1. That’s sick. There’s a difference between sharing in a marriage and control. I have married friends who share a single email account, and other married friends who regularly use each other’s phones, log on each other’s facebooks if need be, and use each other’s accounts interchangeably with no problem. THAT is real trust. The arrangement that friend of yours had is not trust; it’s based on mistrust and fear and jealousy. That’s control, not sharing or trust. Yeesh. There’d be a huge difference if it had been, “fyi, my husband and I are getting a shared email account, here’s the new address.” But…deleting you from her facebook?? Forcing her friends to go through her husband when writing emails? Nuts. And depressing. That kind of micromanaging isn’t a sign of a more spiritual marriage; it has nothing to do with God and everything to do with the couple’s own jealousy and mistrust issues. Stuff like that is often an early sign of an abusive relationship. Isolating someone from their friends and controlling their contact with others is a way that abusers control the victim, keep them isolated, and prevent them from realizing anything is abnormal or reaching out to a support network for help.

    Beyond all that, I can’t imagine giving up a private life when getting married. I don’t understand the share-y couples at all. I need my little corner where I have just MY stuff. So this case is particularly horrifying to my type of personality, which really values privacy.

  2. “Sick” and “depressing” are excellent words for the entire affair.

    And as for signs of an abusive relationship, I had not even thought of that, though you’re right. I of course have no evidence either way, but it certainly cannot be discounted as one of the reasons for such a drastic and sudden withdrawal from others in the name of “solid marriage” or being more pleasing to God.

    And, I’m with you when it comes to the amount of sharing in a marriage. Much must be shared and explained in a strong union, but at the same time, there can be no strong union if each party does not remain a strong individual that is true to themselves. At least in my view of the matter. If I marry one day, (and I believe I probably will), I won’t be able to go whole hog on the shared Facebook/email deal. People deserve to talk to just me or just my wife, and not have to construct everything to consider how we both may interpret it. After all, once married, I am still a human being with my own needs for privacy and perspective. Nor could I deprive my wife of same.

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