Friday, February 05, 2010

Diversity? Community?

A big part of my job is creating community from disparate groups of people. While I’m not utopian with regards to how well we can build those important connections (people can be mean, petty, selfish, as well as kind, generous, and gracious. All at the same time), I still think that the greatest human longing is intimate relationships with others. And through others, with God. We’re disconnected, savagely independent, and appear to like it that way.

But when people experience authentic community, you can almost feel their frozen souls begin to melt. People long to be known. Like in Avatar, the Na’vi’s greeting was at the core of their life together: “I see you.” I recognize your existence. It’s personal and communal. In fact, one of the myths we have as a culture is thinking we can exist, have being outside of our relationships. My relationships MAKE me ME. For better or worse. I can’t escape that.

So, for Christians, I think we are shaped by the One who knows us, but comes among us as one UNknown. That’s why we struggle so deeply as a people trying to discern what God wants from us. The invisible God can be so utterly absent at times, leaving us to discuss, bicker, and debate God’s heart and mind. All that’s left is speculation.

Sometimes I wonder if the absence of community among Christians is because we feel an absence of God. The Word may have become flesh, but I often worry if that Word is spoken so softly that we can’t hear it. We have scripture, through which we confess that God is revealed. But no two people agree in what the bible says. We all have our own modes of interpretation.

Bishop Ron ruminated about how few pastors came to this week’s study conference. I wish he would have spoken to those who chose to be away, rather than spanking those present. I think people don’t come to study conference because they feel disconnected - amputated - from the Body of Christ. So they choose to disengage rather than re-attach.

To me, it feels like the breakdown in community among our pastors is a result of a breakdown in discerning God’s vision for us. Or maybe it’s assuming that God has a common vision, one goal for us that we all must share and affirm. If God is incarnate in the Body of Christ, then that incarnation looks different wherever God is revealed in and through us.

So, maybe diversity is the friend and enemy (frenemy?) of the church. We’re so used to being homogenous that we don’t know what to do with disagreement or difference.

But maybe the gospel challenge is for the Body of Christ to salve our disagreements. This is not our challenge, but God’s. It is the God who raised Jesus from the dead who decided to bring widely divergent people together and asked them to play nice.

So, perhaps what we’re supposed to do now is to pray for healing of division, for eyes to see God’s vision, and for strength to do God’s will. I think we’ve reached the final impasse. We need to stop yelling at each other and direct our voices to God.

The next move is up to God.

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