We seem to have lost our appreciation of diversity. We seem less and less these days to think of diversity as a strength that enriches us. We want everyone to be like us and it is to our detriment.
Last night, I was sitting in a second church board meeting in two days. I chair the board (we call them Sesssions in the Presbyterian Church) of the church I serve and another that does not have a pastor. The elders there mentioned they might be considering calling a part-time pastor. I mentioned to them that I know of another church down the road from them that also will likely be looking for a part-time pastor in the near future but that it is a more liberal congregation whereas they are more conservative. One of the elders looked perplexed and asked, “Couldn’t a pastor handle that?” My answer was, “Of course, both congregations and a potential pastor should be able to handle that. Nowadays though, we aren’t so good at that.”
We used to be so much better. In the World War II generation, it was not unusual at all for a Presbyterian congregation to have a more liberal pastor with more conservative parishioners in the pews. Most congregations and pastors handled this well. Outside of the church, many left and right politicians were good friends. For example, Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil famously advocated for very different politics at work but were good friends off of the job. As time has gone on, we have had more and more difficultly doing this. We see people who have differing theology or politics as our enemies. This is also true on a personal level. How many people do you know that are good friends but who disagree on gun control, abortion, or on gay rights? How many libertarians do you know that like to hang out with liberal Democrats? We seem to just want to congregate with people who see the world the exact same way we do. How do we grow sequestering ourselves off like that?
The Presbyterian Church (USA) has been particularly bad about this all through my adulthood. There are publications and websites whose whole purpose seems to be to lambaste people and policies which they differ with theologically and politically, almost never saying a kind word or complementing the denomination. We form new denominations so we can gather just with Presbyterians who are just like us. We don’t want to be around people who differ from us. We vilify them. We think we are stronger without them. But really the opposite is true.
And I pray for my United Methodist sisters and brothers who are trying to figure out their way currently regarding gay rights/inclusion in their communion. I again are reading voices talking of separating if things don’t go their way. I surely hope they continue to set a good example.
I am grateful that Parkway (the church I serve) seems much more “old school” than many churches today. People have opinions but they don’t let that divide them. But I think we need to perpetually be on guard because it is all too easy for smaller groups to go the way of larger ones. And overall, somehow, as a society, we have to find anew an appreciation for one another. That doesn’t mean that we don’t try to stand up for what we believe in but we let go of the idea that our relationship with people is less important than the issues over which we might disagree.
Jesus Christ came to reconcile the world to God. In Christ, there is no Jew or Greek, male or female (and to modernize it – no Democrat or Republican, gay or straight, pro-gun control or gun rights). There also aren’t denominations in the Kingdom of God.
Stand up for what you believe. But we need to find anew that our relationship with God and with one another should transcend temporal issues of the day. And we just might learn and grow more if we talked more with people of different perspectives than with the same ones as us.
What has been lost can be found, if we want it to.
What do you think?
Until next time,