Unity is Hard

Mick Bradley Unity is Hard… and over the past couple of days, it seems to have gotten even harder.

“We must allow for the possibility that God hates those who commit horrific sin, or the cross makes no sense.” – @mayog

“We must believe that God would rather die than kill or the cross makes no sense.” – @TwoFriars

“Choose your enemies carefully, ’cause they will define you.
Make them interesting ’cause in some ways they will mind you.
They’re not there in the beginning but when your story ends
Gonna last with you longer than your friends” – U2, ‘Cedars of Lebanon’

Sunday night, as I was working on the post that was intended for today’s Motley Musing – and also my first entry in the Rally to Restore Unity – I had no idea what was going on in Pakistan. In fact, I didn’t find out about the death of Osama bin Laden until Monday morning, where I discovered my Twitter and Facebook streams overflowing with a cacophony of feelings, quotes, links, and … arguments.

Arguments on the Internets? Sparring via social media? Who ever heard of such a thing? :/

Honestly, as the chaos begins to settle a bit and I sort through my own reactions and the muddy stew of thoughts that were bouncing around in my head as the streams and posts flowed across my screen yesterday, I think that what sticks with me is the surprise.

Not surprise that bin Laden was found and killed – well, sort of, but that wasn’t the biggest shock. Not surprise that the occasion would birth a massive online outpouring of divergent thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Not surprise in the overwhelming sense from the media that this was unquestionably and unilaterally a really good thing worthy of celebration. Nope.

My big surprise came in the form of watching as arguments and hurt feelings started flying back and forth between people who, one day earlier, I would have considered to all be part of the same “camp”.

Yeah. My friends in the postmodern/progressive/emergent/postevangelical Jesus-loving “camp” were fighting with one another.

Maybe I’m a bit overdramatic at times. (Maybe? heh.) But reading all of that stuff not only surprised me, it hurt. Like the way you feel when your parents are arguing in front of you, or two of your best friends who are a couple start bickering in public.

I didn’t really know how to engage in most of it, because – for once – I didn’t feel much desire to exacerbate the situation by stirring pots and poking wounds. Oh, I tossed out a few rather lame bon mots and ended up doing some poking after all. But nothing nearly as overt as I might have.

I actually was in a pretty bad mood because I really wasn’t sure what to write or how to respond, but my ego is big enough that I felt like I SHOULD write something, because how could the world possibly get through this kind of day without Mick Bradley to listen to?

Then, I read Rachel Held Evans’ post from yesterday, “What Our Enemy Brings Out in Us”, and I discovered that she’d nailed several of the things that I think I wanted to communicate but didn’t know quite how. Good writers like Rachel tend to step up when they’re most needed. I’m not there yet, apparently. :)

Now, as to how this whole mess affects my take on Unity … well. As I was planning to say in my original pre-Osama’s Dead blog post, I’ve always found it pretty hard to  maintain a desire for unity with others. In fact, without allies and mentors to urge me out by providing important perspectives on the importance of unity, I think my instinct would usually be to either walk away with some sort of passive-aggressive flourish or to just duck my head and try to avoid conflict at all costs.

Neither of those tactics helps build unity. Especially, in my experience, the latter option. We can’t pretend that Unity is the default state of being. We can’t shrink ourselves and remain on the sidelines passively hoping that stuff will just hold together.

Things fall apart. The Center CANNOT hold.

Unity is not a state, it’s a choice – an ongoing choice that takes work, patience, love, forbearance, and most of all a desire to stop thinking of and treating others as “OTHER”.

Why can’t we all just get along? Well, because we simply can’t “just” get along. We have to work at it and keep working at it and it is HARD. And in my experience, not recognizing that it’s hard but doing it anyway is one of the biggest impediments to unity, community, relationships, and, well Kingdom-building.

Jesus came to right a wrong. We went actively spinning off on a wrong trajectory and he came to show us the trajectory God intended for us, and showed us how to get back on it, and how to help one another stay on it, and move forward. And Jesus never once pretended it was easy,  never tried to fool us into thinking it was. Jesus challenged the hell out of us. And then he went and put the exclamation point on it all by showing just how far someone committed to Unity would have to go for the cause.

So yeah. Unity is hard. Enemy-loving is hard. Breaking through the walls of Othering is hard. Carrying our crosses and helping people carry theirs is hard.

Let’s do it anyway.


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