John + Heather

Truth. Inner transformation. Embracing our common humanity.
But this is not about holding hands and feeling groovy.
It’s hard. But it’s doable. These two show us how.

You know how the internet can provide cover for our dark sides—like the curtain that separates the real (and gentle) Wizard of Oz from his fearsome thundering image?

There is, of course, another way to use the technology – just ask John & Heather!

Like millions of other Americans this last decade, they found themselves discussing competing views of sexuality and gender online – in their case, in an internet book club.

As the only conservative person in the group, Heather was a “tad nervous” (who wouldn’t be?) but was quickly “put at ease” by how John, especially, responded. She writes, “Rather than dismissing me as a stuffy conservative, John took genuine interest in my views regarding sexuality and how I came to them.  I’ve never felt so understood/respected by a left-leaning Christian before.”

READ MORE

Together, John and Heather have discovered how a treasonous friendship “can make you larger, more fully human, more of your best self, than ever before.” Although friendships like these are never what you think, Heather and John both agree that pushing each other has been one of the greatest gifts yet.

Meet John Backman.

John is a longtime writer, self-described “hermit lite,” guinea pig judge, proudly non-binary, Christian-Zen blend, spiritual director, diner fan, who is not at all sure about the world right now.

Heather on John: John is a thoughtful, gentle, compassionate critical thinker whom I absolutely adore. He has a quirky sense of humor, is skilled at the art of dialogue, and happens to be gender fluid (go ahead…Google it. I had to the first time we met, too!) John has a way of putting people at ease, even while asking about the very thing that could destroy any relationship: the thing(s) they most disagree upon.

Meet Heather Schmiedicke.

Heather is a straight, white, middle aged, Conservative Christian, wife, momma, talker, nature lover, high-functioning extrovert, “fruit fly,” with a heart for all who is saddened by division in the Church and our country.

John on Heather: Seriously, who runs a Bible study for gay men and still believes marriage is between a man and a woman? Heather does. More than that, the study group knows what she thinks and love her anyway. That says tons about the depth of her thought and the size of her heart. She also articulates those traditional beliefs in the most compelling way I’ve ever heard. As if that weren’t enough, she’s cooler than I am.

A Little More About Heather & John’s Unorthodox Friendship:

Though both identifying Christian, John and Heather were miles apart when it came to sexuality. Rather than being satisfied co-existing in different ideological camps, their story is one of venturing outside their own tribal territory – and “flirting with the [ideological] foreigners.”

It was at a February of 2017 online book club they first met, organized by LoveBoldly – an organization that aims to “empower willing Christians and LGBTQ+ individuals to step towards loving one another more boldly.” (Not incidentally, Heidi Weaver-Smith, who founded this organization, first coined the term “treasonous friendship” around which this entire project centers).

The book they chose to read (Oriented to Faith by Tim Otto), as they both remarked, seemed almost like it was “written for the very purpose of preparing us for this venture.”  Otto writes:

Rather than embracing the conflict around gay relationships as an opportunity for the church to talk honestly about human sexuality, Christians continue to hurt one another with the same tired arguments that divide us along predictable political battle lines. If the world is to “know that we are Christians by our love,” the church needs to discover better ways to live out the deep unity we share in Christ as we engage with politics and our world.”

In a way, John & Heather’s own emerging friendship demonstrated these very “better ways” to engage politics and faith. Rather than pointedly debating (or avoiding the tough questions), these two opened their hearts to the possibility of testing their own personal truths and certainly testing each other’s.

By Heather’s admission, this started with John’s curious capacity to listen deeply: “He’s such a great listener, and skilled at dialogue – not looking to argue or find weaknesses in others’ viewpoints, and never intent on pushing his views on others.”

Hey, what do you expect from a person who’s a card-carrying member of the International Listening Association, right?

Now it’s time for the rest of America to learn the same!

Their Talk: “Friends with Benefits: How Friendships Across Divides Will Change Your Life–and Why You Want It To”

They describe themes of their talk as follows:

  • Here’s the reason treasonous friendships are so wonderful: they make you larger–more fully human, more of your best self, than ever before. You can feel it when you meet someone new who you disagree with and your heart opens and your mind leads with “Wow, you believe that? How interesting. Tell me more.” Imagine how much larger, how much more expansive, that feels than the hostility and defensiveness we carry around every day in America.
  • Treasonous friendships also make you freer to move through the world with a light heart and curious mind.
  • And treasonous friendships are not easy. In fact, they’re not what you think they are. This is not about holding hands and feeling groovy and learning to agree on every issue. A good treasonous friendship can involve serious disagreement, pushing hard sometimes to help the other understand her own truth better (and for you to understand yours), doing your level best to listen openheartedly while the other person says things you’d never want to hear in any universe.
  • Not everyone will want to do this. That’s understandable. But for those who do, treasonous friendships can take you on an adventure.
  • It’s not just people of faith (like each of us) that care in the importance of inner transformation.  We believe that perhaps the most powerful path to lasting change for any of us – and certainly for our society – starts with looking inside at needed adjustments (and sometimes even whole-sale transformations) that ripple out into changing relationships with each other.

The time-space continuum to consider: John is in New York, and Heather in Indiana.

What the pair would need to come to your school: John and Heather’s rates are flexible and available on request.

Contact them.

READ LESS

John Backman | Author
Huffington Post Religion
Heather Schmiedicke
"Passionate about Reconciliation"