This is Tanya Riches, singer, songwriter, academic, researcher, Hillsong member and my friend. I've known her for a long time, and for the past few years we've grown closer, as much due to our differences as our similarities. While I cannot bear anything Hillsong, Tanya is a vocal supporter of her church community. Personally though, she is kind, generous, and has a knock-out sense of humour. She is consistent and loyal and these are qualities that make her a great person and an amazing friend.
We talk a lot about Hillsong, it's true, each of us tripping over ourselves to make sure we don't diminish the other, or our beliefs as we do so. There seems to be a genuine bewilderment from both parties as to how the other has arrived at her conclusions, and this is part of our fascination.
Something else we've discussed is the idea of having conversations. Its been my observation that the debates of atheist v person of faith have been overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly antagonistic, which doesn't achieve much, apart from well meaning people getting hurt, and rhetoric winning over all. It needed to be done; clever needed to be shown from the logicians' side, but it hasn't lead to much social progress.
Tanya Riches and I took part in an interview, part one of which was published last weekend at TheBigSmoke. I hope we can demonstrate that being right isn't the most important issue in the world. I hope it leads to more conversations between the two of us but also that we see more discussion between people of faith, and people without faith wherein resolution and agreement is paramount, not point-scoring and technicalities.
Ms Riches is questioned by some Christians as to why she would have anything to do with me. It blows me away that she has to justify loving the sinner, but there are very clearly two kinds of Christianity I have seen emerge in my travels:
The kind that is about reaching out to others, and the kind that is about keeping people out.
Tanya Riches would heal the world if she could. I have my exceptions. ;)
But we both feel that we have nothing to fear from the other. She is confident that her god is bigger than anything I could do or say about her church, and I am confident that critical thinking will produce the same conclusions every time.
Both of us care a lot about people living with disadvantage and making social change. Neither of us will change the other's mind, nor do we want to. What we do want to do is find a way to solve some very human problems together, not on opposing sides or at each other's throats, because so far that's produced very little meaningful change at all.