I still attend the little church I found here in Delaware after my retirement eight years ago. Dave does not.
Dave and I met shortly after I started worshiping in the little church. We hit it off great, even though he was about 20 years my junior. I betrayed my sense of humor early on when he learned I was a pastor and he asked me how he should address me. “’Your Eminence’ will be fine,” I blurted out, without really even knowing the guy and wondering if I had offended him in some way. He guffawed a hearty one, and from that time on, I was “Your Eminence” to Dave. In subsequent emails he would open with “Y. E.,” and I would sign mine to him as “M. E.”
We enjoyed engaging in conversations about religion. It wasn’t long before I learned that Dave held some strong conservative views about the church. In fact, those views spilled over into a dislike for the direction that he perceived the United Methodist Church was moving, specifically around the issue of homosexuality. We started to see lines of delineation forming between his conservative-leaning views and my more middle-of-the-road to liberal views. But that was OK. We had bonded as friends and felt we could be open with our opinions without being offensive.
In fact, Dave invited me to his home on one occasion where we could enjoy coffee and conversation together and present our arguments for what we held as our positions (opinions?) relative to faith and the mainline church. It was one of those rare, precious connections that I totally enjoy – that is, being able to engage in civil conversation with someone who holds opposing views on issues without jeopardizing a friendship.
I soon learned that Dave was as deeply interested in politics as he was in religion. Once again, his conservative perspectives came into play as a diametrically opposite stance to mine. Before we were able to get very involved in political rhetoric, Dave decided that he could no longer support a United Methodist church since it became apparent that the denomination was not going to change its direction any time soon. He left.
That pretty much ended the invigorating conversations we had enjoyed. But I still considered him a friend. We would occasionally cross paths on Saturday mornings when he met with his friends at a local restaurant and I was there to lead a men’s Bible study. “Good morning, Your Eminence,” he would say, and we’d both laugh, not only at the inside joke, but also at the quizzical looks on the faces of the others. Our friendship was still intact, surviving the distance that his leaving the church had created.
Then came election year. Dave – a staunch supporter of Donald Trump – was running for Governor of the State of Delaware. His small signs began showing up along the major thorofares and intersections, and I found myself in an immediate quandary.
I consider myself to be a loyal friend. I have made it a practice to keep issues as a secondary consideration to friendship. If I am your friend, you can depend on me to be supportive. However, for the first time that I can remember, I have been presented with a choice: do I cast my vote next month on the basis of friendship or on the basis of my political beliefs and values which are different from those of my friend? I haven’t had the chance to talk with Dave for many weeks now, so I haven’t had to answer that question directly to him.
Which lever will I pull on November 3rd?