Hax: Non-Christians tired of invites

The Washington PostMay 30, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Help, Carolyn!: I have asked this question in a lot of different forums, and no advice columnist seems to want to touch it.

My husband and I are non-Christians living in a small town in the Bible Belt. We have made some friends (it took a while) who are fun people and share most of our values, except religion. I don't have a problem being friends with people of different religions; I consider it none of my business what other people believe, and just wish they would extend me the same courtesy!

These friends are evangelical Christians and invite us to church almost every time we see them. At first, I thought they were just being friendly. After the 1,000th time, I feel like it's really obnoxious and disrespectful. I've always just smiled and politely declined, but they keep bringing it up. Is there a way to salvage the friendship while putting my foot down?

FRIEND IN THE BIBLE BELT

That's up to them, and it would be even if your differences involved a less loaded topic than religion. For example, say you renounced the exchange of material gifts unless it was food or vintage, out of concern for the environment - and you refused to use giftwrap. And let's say you made a friend who felt it was rude to come to your home without bringing some mass-produced trinket all wrapped up, tied and glittered.

What you have is a friend who does something that annoys you, and who (experience tells you) has a low likelihood of stopping it, might be offended when you ask, and has just as much of a right as you do to act on her core beliefs.

Keep in mind, another issue on which you differ: You "consider it none of my business what other people believe," and your friends consider your beliefs their business - likely an obligation. Try steering your conversation toward understanding each other instead of just one of you getting your way in perpetuity: "You feel you must draw me in. It's pushing me away. How can we serve both principle and friendship?"

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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