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(Sch)ists and (Sch)isms

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While hanging out with the gang last night, Person To My Left says, “I used to think I was a _____ –ist, but I’ve been reading the writings of _____, and now I think I’m a _____ –ist”, and went on to describe a little of what that meant, all of which was a bit-too-steep of an onramp to an unfamiliar way of thinking, which is why I can’t remember how to fill in the blanks above. But I was interested, so I made sure we would be able to hear a longer-than-2-minute story about what it means to be a _____ –ist. Then, the Person To My Right says, “I’m pretty sure I’m a _____ –ist“, which was different than the first –ism, regarding which you will just have to trust me, because I can’t remember what the second –ism was either. Into all of this I interjected, because I am a humor-ist, “Hey, our first split!”, by which I meant our first sch-ism. Ha. But Person To My Right, rightly, said what I believe anyway, which is, no, it’s got to be allright for us to have different ists and isms if we’re going to be in community. Yes, amen.

Homogeneity is unsustainable except in isolation. If I wanted to hang out only with people who saw the world just like I do, then I’d have to give up my dream of being a part of a functional community that could legitimately claim the name of Jesus Christ, who invites all kinds to come and empowers all kinds for the work. A homogeneous community can only grow by working to eliminate contrary perspectives, or by fracturing repeatedly. Of course there are ways that communities align naturally along certain lines, and a community that gathers around the life and leading of Jesus will necessarily come to be aligned in many ways, and choose certain important boundary lines.

But the way that people gather around Jesus has always been unique in the world: the idea is that we people are like parts of a body … hands, legs, ears, eyes, and we become powerful and functional only when we come together – like the way my hands are so much more useful connected to my eyes and feet, to pick a couple helpful others. Our place in the Body of Christ, is as parts which cannot survive alone and which are not very productive when in isolation. In this spiritual body, Jesus holds the honor of being the head and as such is the source from which we take life and leading. But while we have this relationship to the head in common, it’s good that we all have really different ways of engaging the world and different purposes in the body. This may seem a simple truth, but in fact it’s very difficult in practice. What holds the dipsarate parts together? Further, what gets them to work together? How do we learn to accept that people with whom we live might have an entirely different way of seeing and speaking into the world? Instead of seeing different as complimentary, we see it as a rebuke against what we are, and we fight.

I’m counting on the fact that the head has the key to alignment, and I can be somewhat ignorant of how it all works together. I figure one thing I can do is regard the other people in my community with the honor due to someone who is learning how to be loved and led by God. This is part of my current three-way attentiveness model (which I just realized I have): attentiveness to the head, attentive to others-in-my-community, and attentiveness to the surrounding world. Each of these could describe any healthy part of my physical body, and also my whole self, inasmuch as I am a part of the body of Christ.

In recent years I have come to appreciate (and depend on) the complimentary and sometimes contrasting perspectives of friends. If it weren’t for them I’d be more cozy in my perspective but less functional in the world. I am both wary of and excited about the twin facts that as the number of people in my community grows, there will be more complexity and, along with that, there will be more functionality.


Written by dmaddalena

2011/01/08 at 1:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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