Monday, June 22, 2009


I have this dark, pessimistic theory:
When someone starts promoting 'unity', they really mean "Why can't everybody else see things my way?"
When someone says "Why can't we all just get along?", what they are really saying is "If you saw things the way I do, we wouldn't have any reason to fight."

While the basic logic of those statements could well be true, that doesn't mean the world would actually be a better place.
If I say that 2 times 2 equals 5, and everyone else decides to follow suit, we wouldn't be on the right track--even though we would be in unity.

Globally, I could promote a particular system of government, say democratic capitalism (Hmmm sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it?). Having the rest of the world switch to the same system and philosophy of life wouldn't necessarily make the world a better place.
Nationally, I could promote unity by telling everyone to become a Liberal (or Conservative, NDP or Green) supporter. We might have unity, but I doubt if we would have utopia.
Religiously, it is even worse. Within Christianity (let alone other faiths) we have people and isms of every stripe claiming to be biblical. Their dream of unity is probably for everyone else to interpret the Bible the way they do.
Dangerous idea, actually. It can, and has, so easily lead to arrogance, pomposity, and even violence. We have an incredible amount of disunity as people write their books, preach from their pulpits and TV screens, and march against all manner of things, just because that is how they understand the Bible. Meanwhile, the little guy gets swallowed up in the politics of the system. Variety and creativity are stifled as being 'unbiblical'. Honest questions are quashed, and discussion and learning are replaced by bombast and brainwashing.
I admit, it's pretty easy to believe I am right, and everyone else needs to see things like I see them. Even this bit of musing about unity is trying to persuade you to see it like I do.
But I can guarantee you: I am out to lunch on some things (If only I knew which ones!), and on other things, there is definitely more than one way to look at the question at hand.
I don't think unity means being a bunch of clones of one particular leader. And don't try to tell me that trying to be the same as Jesus is the whole answer. That is what so many of us are indeed trying to do, but we are seeing different parts of His character, and none of us has come even close to seeing the whole picture.
That brings me back to my theory--it's way too easy to pretend that 'My way is the right way', and that unity will only come if you become like me.
I believe unity is the desire to walk together, even though we walk differently. It is a willingness to see the strengths in the other guy's position, and being ready to change your own position if appropriate. But sometimes, it is just as right to have different ideas of what 'truth' is, and to walk together anyway.
I think that is what true unity is.


Peter said...

Well said, as usual, Al. I've always said, I'd MUCH rather be friends with an "on-fire" Muslim, or a "radical" Buddhist, rather than an easy-going agnostic, or a bored Universalist (no offense to either persuasion). The fact is, I am excited, stretched and energized FAR MORE by people who are passionate about their faith! I don't want someone who could be easily converted to Christianity. Actually, I've had that happen before. I've had people "convert" with me. I've even led them through the "Sinners Prayer." But it didn't "stick." Why? Because they weren't any more passionate about Christianity than any of the other belief systems they found "adequate" but perhaps unremarkable.

"UNITY" can mean a whole lot of different things. But I'd take a room full of passionate people, celebrating the mysteries of life, with little in common beyond a sense of goodness and hope - over uniformed opinion or life-sucking apathy (acclimation, accommodation) any day of the week.

Al said...

I agree, Peter. Some of my most inspiring and spiritually stimulating conversations have been with a passionate anarchist, and I have some activist friends who encourage me to action with their zeal.
And then there are some of my Christian friends.... What passion they have is quite ethereal and heavenly, but not very world changing.
I think I know where I feel a greater unity of purpose.


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