[Previously on The Sad State Of The Greek Orthodox Church: My friend had drawn a big fat line in the sand. I was apparently out of line, applying pure reason to the Church, calling it hypocritical, its approach to life un-Christ-like, and that was offensive. I was out of control, and needed to have my ass kicked to set me straight. I needed to be told I was getting away with it on account of friendship.]
Turns out I didn’t get my ass kicked.
All credit to my buddy for not laying a hand on me.
I told him that. You’re so magnanimous and merciful, boss! Thank you, boss, for letting me off the hook.
He didn’t take the bait.
We went on with our drinks, as we often do because we’re old friends and get to say and hear shit all the time, so much shit we’re used to each other being jerks and idiots.
It’s weird, too weird sometimes, and too comfortable. I often wonder if it’s friendship or some pathological overfamiliarity that keeps us together. I mean, I could have taken this as an insult — to myself, to all things decent and intelligent — and I did, to a great extent. But I tried to see beyond it, give it a spin. Part of me took it as feedback, something to learn from. There was something to it, like it or not. I had just been exposed, gratis, to the mindset of a significant chunk of people who would take offense at my arguments. I got to experience their type of reaction preemptively and with no real damage, through good friendly vacuous rage.
Call it a blank shot fired at me to prepare me for the live ammo situation probably waiting for me down the line in the public forums, among strangers.
See, people take their religion extremely seriously. They’re pathologically dependent on it. Show them how it doesn’t make any sense or hold up against the latest data, argue all you want, they won’t listen. They’ll get angry and push back, desperate to keep their worldview intact.
That’s what my friend was showing me.
It was a great insight, delivered in the best possible way. Plenty of warning, none of the bruises.
Still, part of me was hurt, more angry than grateful. I was more shocked and righteous than illuminated and forewarned. A threat had been made against me. My friend had been serious. He hadn’t done this to prepare me for anything. This was not an ingenious drill on his part. He’d been deeply offended by my attitude, his revulsion toward me genuine on some visceral level, but he knew not to get too mad about it. He kept himself in check, making a joke out of the entire incident, trying to anyway, grinning through a red, wild face contorted by passion, by barely suppressed anger.
Part of him really wanted to crack me across the cheek.
Part of me wanted to do the same.
We managed to contain ourselves and finish our drink, though the banter went on, spilling over to unrelated matters. Others joined us, old buddies from school, the gang, and we made an afternoon of it. Saturday-lazy, almost student-like, carefree, we joked and jabbed and drank, the tension never really going away, not fully. The argument simmering under the surface like a deep fault loaded with tectonic tension. When I refused to chug my drink, as we used to do, my friend called me a pussy. I called him a broken record, then called him an imbecile when he started shouting ‘More drinks, waiter, hurry up!’ He called me an oversensitive liberal, I called him Taliban-light.
Just another afternoon among old friends.
Meanwhile the alcohol kept coming.
Part 6 to follow