Saturday, February 2, 2008

What would you do for a friend?

This week's talk by John von Heyking was really interesting and I've been talking with people about it ever since. The main focus of his talk was the issue of the implications for civic friendship of Canada's political culture. He began though by looking at studies of Canadians' views of friendship. One of the questions people were asked was whether they could rely on their friends and a high percentage said that they could. The numbers dropped significantly though when people were asked whether or not they could borrow money from their friends. John's question was does it mean to rely on our friends. Then he asked how many people outside of our immediate families were we willing to die for. At the break we decided probably the more challenging question was how many people were we willing to live for.

Since then I've had a number of conversations with friends about the variations of what it means to live for others from are you willing to take over a casserole if they have a death in their family to would you be willing to take over their personal care if they were sick for six months. Some of the folks I've talked to about this have found this a really uncomfortable topic. I think it raises the fear that maybe we can't count on people in tough times. A couple of people commented that they weren't sure people could always count on their immediate family either in a tough time. I wonder though if it wouldn't be easier for people to live out that vow to their spouse if they had the support of a whole community.

John asked the question of whether or not Canada's political culture encouraged the kind of virtues needed to form these kinds of friendships before turning to the issue of civic friendships. I wondered whether or not the church is a place where these kinds of friendships form. I know we talk a lot about Jesus' example of service and the call to love our neighbours but I think the cultural forces that isolate us and encourage self-obsession are strong and difficult to resist.

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