Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bogus Familiarity

The other day I got a phone call from a man working for one of the police-related charities. I should have known right away that the call was from a telemarketer because there was no immediate response when I said, "Hello." I might have hung then, but I didn't and I heard a cheery voice say, "Dan, this is...."


I'd never met the man before and, had he actually been a police officer, he would have addressed me as "Mr. Weir." My friends call me "Dan" or "Daniel" or, if they have known me since childhood, "Danny," and I, conservative on this issue at least, expect strangers to address me more formally.

The world seems to be awash in this kind of bogus familiarity. Some of it I find silly - the news anchor who ending the broadcast with, "I hope we'll see you back here tomorrow." Some of it I find offensive - the telemarketer using my first name. And some of it I find sinister - the advance fee fraud attempt that begins "Dear Friend."

Whether I see these instances as silly or offensive or sinister, it seems to me that they are all attempts to establish a familiarity, a friendship that isn't there, and to get me, because I have bought into the illusion, to do something that I might not otherwise have done. Do I tune in the following day because of the illusion of friendship? Do I contribute or buy something because the telemarketer has made me feel that he's my friend? Do I believe the unbelievable - that someone wants to give me millions of dollars - because the thieves have called me "friend"?

No, I don't do any of those things. I tune in the news because I think the reporting is good. I never give to or buy anything from telemarketers. I never fall for the fraud attempts, although I do find some of them amusing. I do, however, grieve for a world in which friendship is debased and bogus familiarity is a ready tool for the networks, telemarketers and thieves.

Some may think that I'm a crank, a curmudgeon, for being concerned about something so seemingly insignificant. But is it really insignificant? Isn't friendship one of God's most precious gifts? Friendship with one another and friendship with God. It was Jesus who told his disciples. "I have called you friends," and then went to Cross that all might be drawn into friendship with him. Friendship is a costly gift and one which I will not see cheapened by those who presume to be my friends without any willingness to bear the cost.

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