I am still reading the excellent book, Paradoxy: Creating Christian Community Beyond Us and Them by Ken Howard. Being more disenfranchised with the whole disunity thing in the Church, I value Ken’s insights and commentary on this subject.
I have been guilty far too often of creating division rather than bringing unity, of drawing the line between two views rather than seeking common ground on which to unite.
Ken speaks about the paradigm of both conservatives and progressives and shows how, for both ‘sides’ of the Faith, problems arise.
. . . If the paradigm has become your reality, what do you do when the cracks become too noticeable to ignore? If you can’t abandon the dominant paradigm (or maybe even recognize that you are in one) in favor of a more complete and encompassing one, what are your choices? There seem to be three:
1. To the Ramparts! Rally around the purist position with increasing defensiveness and increasingly elaborate rationalizations.
2. Compromise and Adapt! Adopt compromises that soften the position or attempt to prop up confidence in it by means other than facts.
3. Create a “Them”! Focus all of your attention on what seem to you to be the greater inconsistencies (and the “unlikeablilities”) of the other side.
Being a natural ‘right-seeker,’ I immediately say ‘Amen’ to all three as I see all of these positions alive and well in those who seem to enjoy harassing me with their version of truth.
But, looking deeper, I realise that I also, at times, defend my ‘more reasonable’ position by rallying support amongst my friends who embrace a similar paradigm to my own, compromise when around those on the ‘other side’ just to be seen to be acting with civility, or encouraging taking sides and fighting the other side with my weapon of choice: words.
As Doug Pagitt has said:
Our biggest challenges come when we assume that those who hold worldviews or values different than ours lack knowledge or values.
Too often I’ve mocked the beliefs of people unlike me (in time past when I had a more fundamentalist mindset, and now as more of a progressive Christian). What I have assumed is that they had to be uninformed, ignorant, or living in a cocoon to believe as they do. I’m beginning to see this is not so. They have simply started with a different framework for their thinking, a different bias. And in the light that we all have incomplete knowledge and limited ability to understand life’s mysteries, their worldview may be just as valid as mine.
If we are ever to live together in community–and I believe it is the only way to be true followers of Jesus–we must learn to accept (not just tolerate) one another fully, in spite of our disagreements. This doesn’t mean we won’t hold our convictions firmly, but when we do say or do something that flows from those convictions, we know we will be fully loved and fully accepted, regardless.
One of our staff members said something in morning prayer recently (sorry, I can’t recall who it was) that is relevant to this post. Essentially, they said that God chose us as a collective body, not merely as individuals. God chose that you would live in community with me–that is not either your or my choice. If God, who we claim is all-wise and all-knowing put us together in the same body, there must be a good reason for it. Rather than try to figure it all out, why don’t we just accept it and live together in harmony? Rather than fighting and arguing and stirring up each other to debate and discord, why don’t we simply clothe ourselves with love which, as the apostle writes, is the bond of perfection?
(Easy to say–damn hard to do!)
On that note, I realise I have much to learn, and I’m looking forward to what else I discover as I continue reading Paradoxy.