…and how I’ve responded without losing any of them.
Although this hasn’t always been the case, I’ve got a pretty solid policy for how I exist as a Catholic with non-Catholic friends. First, I never lie about being Catholic or go out of my way to downplay the strong role that my faith plays in the formation of my identity. Second, I always try to avoid condescending about others’ beliefs. (Or worse, looking like I’m angling for the conversion!) I like to call it the “Be True to Myself without Being a Jerk Approach.”
For the most part, it’s a solid policy. I have lots of friends – Catholic and non-Catholic alike – and we all get along just fine, thank you very much.
Still, I sometimes find myself having uncomfortable conversations that require a certain amount of finesse to keep in line with the “BTTMWBAJA.”
Here are five examples of conversations I’ve had with my non-Catholic friends and how I’ve responded:
- “You should wait to have kids.”/”I hope you don’t have kids soon.”
Response: “Well, we’ll just have to cross that bridge when we get there, won’t we?”
For the record, this is usually said to me over drink, so I’m pretty sure it comes from a place of concern that I’m going to become less fun and/or myself after I have children. Certainly, things will change, but I don’t plan to dump all my friends, either.
For that reason, whenever anybody says anything like that, I try to focus on them. More specifically, I try to focus on all the fun things I do with that friend as well as how important they are to me. Usually, once they realize that I do cherish their friendship, they stop telling me when I should grow my family.
- “I couldn’t be Catholic. I can’t support bigotry/homophobia/institutionalized sexism/child molestation.”
Response: “Yea, I can’t support that stuff either.”
There are two ways you can go with this line of commentary: educate or distract. If I’m in the mood to educate, I talk about all the wonderful things that the Catholic Church does here in my community as well as around the world. I also talk about the mistakes we’ve made in the past and what we’re doing to make them right.
If I’m not in the mood to educate, I ask them to pass the salt and quickly change the subject.
- “Why do you still go to church? I only go with my family at Christmas and Easter.”
Response: “I go to church because it’s important to me, but I’m not sitting here judging you. Still, if you want to come to church more often, hit me up! We’re fun! We play a lot of euchre and eat a lot of pizza in the church basement.”
It took me awhile to figure this out, but I’ve determined that a lot of people must think that I sit around judging them for their church habits. Since I’m not – believe me, I have plenty of better things to do – I choose to respond to this one playfully. I’m not judging you if you don’t go to church, but if you want to, you can come with me any time.
- “Having more than X kids is irresponsible.”
Response: “That’s none of your business, really.”
It took me a long time to come up with a response for this one. In fact, the first dozen times I heard it, I did that awkward thing where you stare at a person and make fish motions with your mouth. These days, I just tell them that it’s none of their business because a.) it really isn’t and b.) I don’t feel like fighting an impossible battle with people who have already made up their minds about how many children a family should have.
- “You should just be Lutheran.”
Response: “But I’m not.”
Sometimes, you just have to be direct.