Living in Diverse Community- Part 1

This post offers beginning reflection for a 3-part series pondering what being in community means with people we disagree.

Looking back

An open church door
An open church door

This past fall, friend and pastor Kent Shane and I went back and forth imagining what it might mean to really claim all are welcome, all are sought, and to have a community and practice of accompaniment as part of this.  It was our conversation which really sparked a series of posts that appeared on this blog in September and October.  These posts included the aforementioned ones, as well as some collective thoughts on what those pieces have to do together within and regarding the congregation.  And then in light of another piece I found entitled, “Hello My Name is Church,” I offered a response that continued this series and conversation.

Since the middle of the fall this conversation had quieted down on my blog, until a recent post of mine.  My friend Carrie Gubsch, a great writer and thinker in her own right, had helped me edit and refine this post prior to its publishing.  In her comments regarding the post she wrote, “As a follow up I would love to see a blog post on living in diverse community with people we deeply disagree with.”  That is the impetus for this post.  Carrie, I hope you appreciate the thoughts that follow.

So, together with that extended introduction, let’s pick up the conversation and see where it takes us.

Pondering Community with People we Disagree

On the surface, I imagine that we would all love to live in the world where we always agree with one another.  In this world, we would effectively always be right.  We would coexist in our agreement and unity.  We would be of one mind… You can see where this logic leads.  It’s not too much of a stretch to think of the horrors of a one-mind society like portrayed in George Orwell’s 1984.  No, there is a beautiful thing about diversity. We are richer for it. Our conversations, communities and relationships are deeper because of it.  But needless to say, it isn’t easy. In fact, its quite hard. 

It is especially difficult to live in diverse community with people we deeply disagree with. If anything, the events of this past week with World Vision confirm that.  But that is not to say that it is impossible to live in diverse community with people we deeply disagree with.  If it were impossible, we would have given up on this notion long ago.

This post has really been about laying the groundwork for the conversation.  Tomorrow, we will pick up the conversation by considering how to live in diverse community.  My pondering to come is not going to be about families or systems necessarily.  I am going to focus specifically on congregations, but hopefully my thoughts to come will be applicable to other communities and quite possibly even families.

What are your initial thoughts? How do you live in community with people you disagree with?

Check out the next post in the series where I dig deeper into this topic by talking directly about how to live in diverse community, and then the third post in the series which considers some theological ideas related to the conversation.

Image Credits: Open Church Door

10 thoughts on “Living in Diverse Community- Part 1

  1. We need to focus on what we have in common, and what we do agree on, versus what we disagree on. Maybe that’s an obvious cliche, but it’s a start maybe. In a church setting, our unity is in Jesus. From there, we can branch out to other common building blocks… feeding the hungry, caring for the elderly, and for those with illness, depression, times of crisis, etc.

    1. Trip, thanks for the comment! I very much agree that we need to focus on what we share in common. I am going to say much more about this in the third post in this series when I look at some of the theological identity pieces which we share in common.

      I am curious for you, how would you describe the relationship between each person’s uniqueness and individuality with what they share in common? (Also, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the next two posts in the series.)

      1. I think the key is the ability to develop tolerance for the individuality of others, but this can be a hard skill to learn and an even harder skill to teach. Each person has to choose for themselves what incentives (for lack of a better word) they have to stay in a community, versus leaving to find community elsewhere. We can look at this from a macro level (race, sexual orientation, class), but I think we instinctively make decisions like this every day in work, social settings, and places in between.

  2. I am thinking about this a lot both locally and with the news about World Vision in the past week. In church we are doing “Making Sense of the Cross” and sort of took a side trip into “God and the devil” and some people said they believed in both, some “only God, not the devil”, and then there was a discussion about whether Adam and Eve were real historical characters (or, had to be). I realize that some people take the Genesis 1-3 stories literally, but there are plenty of Christians who don’t, but who still think they are true. But that was a tough view for this one person. Is the tent big enough? We want it to be so, but people draw the line in different places.

    1. Diane, thanks for the comment! That’s a great question, “is the tent big enough?” I certainly hope so. But its not easy. It kind of reminds me of some of the Letters to the Editor I saw in the latest “Lutheran” magazine. There seems to have been thoughts all of the board (good, bad, and ugly) about Peter Marty’s recent column. Anyway, yes, people draw the line in different places. I guess the question that raises though, does there have to be a line? Does Jesus ever really draw a line? I guess that could be answered any number of ways.

      Also, I am glad you are doing “Making Sense of the Cross.” I think that’s a great curriculum to use, especially during Lent.

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