My stepdad has had a Facebook account for about four years, but had about a year in which he was unable to be online much due to sight issues that required surgery. When he got back online recently, he discovered that a couple of people he’d known for a long time had unfriended him, or were at least no longer showing as being on his friends list.
As he started to wonder why he may have been unfriended (who hasn’t when it happens to them on Facebook?), he started to wonder if it may have been due to a check-in on his profile at a local congregation (other than the one he, my mom and I attend) that we’d attended for a Lenten program. Maybe the way that he lists his beliefs on Facebook “uncorrupted by modern religious institutions” was behind it. Perhaps they took his decision not to visit one of their churches, despite more than one invitation, personally.
Most likely, it was none of the above. People have all kinds of reasons for removing friends on Facebook, and many of them aren’t personal. I think it would be somewhat hasty to assume that church affiliation was the reason behind it without other evidence suggesting this was the reason.
This exchange does bring up an interesting question: would a real friend drop contact with you simply because they disapproved of a church you visited, your views if not expressed in a hurtful way, or your declining to visit their church? In short – no, IMO.
A friend who doesn’t have a spiritually toxic agenda shouldn’t judge you because a church you’ve visited once (or regularly attend) isn’t their cup of tea. After all, people often attend churches of various denominations due to weddings, funerals, and other events. To snub someone merely because of a one-time visit is ridiculous.
As far as dropping contact over disagreement with beliefs goes, if we all dumped people that weren’t in total agreement on everything, our social media feeds would be lonely places. Yes, it can be jarring to see someone express their opinion of modern religious institutions in such a blunt way. However, it helps to step back, take a deep breath, and realize they have a spiritual story that may not align with your experiences.
This brings me to my next point – declining to visit a church in a polite way isn’t something that should turn a rational person against you. This is a lesson I wish I’d learned a long time ago, as it would have saved me a few annoyances and some major headaches (this could be a whole post in and of itself).
Every denomination is not every person’s cup of tea. We all have different gifts and abilities that may not be able to be expressed adequately in some groups.
In my stepdad’s case, some of the invitations have occurred more than once simply because his friends didn’t realize the only type of Baptist he is now is an ex-Baptist. All they knew is that he attended a Baptist church as a kid, but not that it was because that’s where his mother and stepfather made him go.
I think many of us live in fear of offending people because of holding different beliefs, and we shouldn’t do this. Our loyalty ought to be to Christ, not the particular group that we choose to express our belief in Him.
He may have been unfriended for any number of reasons, but if any of the suspected reasons were true, he doesn’t need such “friends”. A real friend supports you no matter where you are in your journey and accepts you.