Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One heart and one mind (part 1)

There's a lot in the scriptures about unity. Evidently, as joint-followers of Christ, we are expected to achieve it, and as a church, we cannot be accepted of God without it.

But the trouble is, I don't see how we're ever going to get there. I just don't. Of course there are the small disunities, the differences of personality and opinion. I read a blog post (and a few hundred concurring comments) about how one mother can't go 2 minutes without wanting to check on her sleeping child, and I thought, "Wow, I close my bedroom door on purpose so I won't have to hear the boys if they groan in the night." Well, fine. We're different, but we can "all get along," we can "stop judging others," we can "allow everyone the right to their own opinion." Some people can't do that much, but most of us can. Mutual respect, making allowance. Sure.

The real problem is much deeper, it seems. The defensiveness, the entitlement, the deep-down conviction that really, truly, our way is right. And of course we think so! That's why we chose that way of thinking in the first place! How could we carry on if we didn't feel that? Sure, I understand that some people disagree with me---I even see why they might disagree---I may even respect that they come honestly and earnestly to their viewpoints---but fundamentally, I still think they're wrong! So, yes, I can avoid the subject to avoid argument. I can pretend to agree. I can say, "We agree to disagree!" But am I truly, then, UNIFIED with that person? Unified, as those in Zion were, "of one heart and one mind"? I am afraid not.

Everyone sees themself as a "moderate," a "centrist," a "reasonable person." No one views themself as "on the fringe." Yet we classify others as such all the time! And in so doing, our very language invalidates their opinions. I can't tell you how often I hear someone say, "Of course everyone's entitled to their opinion, and I respect that, BUT . . . " Well? What is the 'but'? It is unity if there's a 'but'? And sure, I include myself in this group. It drives me crazy when someone assumes my beliefs are come by easily, flippantly, or by default. Or when they arrogantly see themselves as the lone iconoclast, courageously "daring to be different" while everyone else is obviously just following the flow. Disagree with me, fine, but at least do me the courtesy of believing that I am just as thoughtful and careful and well-read when I form my opinions as you are when forming yours! But wait---by allowing myself to be driven crazy by that behavior, I too am categorizing and stereotyping those "dare-to-be-different"ers---and perhaps unfairly. Agree to disagree, an uneasy peace. Okay. But unity? Hardly.

It seems like we all like to think we are unusually tolerant. We say we just want others to be as tolerant of us as we are of them! But again, deep down, we are usually scornful of some groups or some views. Maybe it's "those who aren't tolerant!" But isn't that just as bad?

As you can see, my thoughts on the subject are not fully developed---and thus maybe not that helpful---but this is interesting for me, and I have more to say. But this post is getting long, so I'll end here, and resume later. Your thoughts and ideas are welcome, in the meantime!

4 comments:

  1. Well, I think my comments will be far shallow-er (as evidenced by my use of the word shallow-er) than this thoughtful, passionate post, but I'll share them just the same because that's a freedom I'm allowed in the "comments" section.
    This resonated with me, and here's an example of how I've tried to feel peace about it in a way that applies to me:
    My family's crazy, complex, dysfunctional and ulcer-inducing. I can't stand to be around some of my siblings, literally, without walking away, even after one minute of interaction with them, with a stomachache. I think, "Why is our family like this? Why can't we be better people? More unified? More of the same mind? How come s/he doesn't view the gospel and how you're supposed to live it the same as I do? Do we even go to the same church?"
    But then the last time I was at the temple I thought about all these different people: some crazy-looking, some grouchy-looking, some environmentalists, some Constitutionalists, some neighborhood watch freaks, and on and on (I was there with some ward members). I thought about how we're all bumbling along in our different ways, so often wrong in our assumptions and prideful and stupid and immature (me included). But as long as we're all looking toward the same prize, we're all okay. I have so many lessons to learn and so do you and so does everybody else. For now, we're good enough as long as we're trying to learn how to know God. We might all eventually come to know the same God, but we'll all take different paths to get there, namely, I won't make my decisions in the same order as the next guy will.
    But, maybe I'm missing your point altogether, which would further prove my shallower-ness.

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  2. (thanks for the piano help--we're going to run out and find those books and get started!)

    So you make me think Marilyn. I like that. And I was thinking about what you said last night, when after I woke up to visit the bathroom, I made my obligatory max check. Yeah, I'm one of those crazy checkers. And if my door was closed at night I'd probably go nuts thinking he was going to choke to death and I wouldn't hear it.
    Derrr.
    But like Beth says, I don't think it's the fact that we have different opinions or different views on things that is a problem. It's a unity of purpose. Like she says "eye on the same prize." I actually think one of the cool things about the gospel and our church is that we're encouraged (at least in theory) to develop our talents and celebrate our differences. That each different personality enriches the church as a whole, and the other lives that it touches. And we can all learn from each other. Maybe I can learn from what you said that I CAN be a little less worried about my kid when he sleeps (hello, he's FOUR) and ease up a bit. Not sure what you might learn from me, but there might be something. :)
    Anyway, did all that rambling make sense?
    What I hate to see is when differences and interestingness gets squelched in the church--I WANT to hear people play their accordian and their soprano sax in sacrament meeting. Who cares that it's not a piano or a violin. You know?

    Anyway, I haven't gotten to part 2 yet, so forgive me if I've gone off topic or something like that.

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  3. Yeah, I think your point is good, too Ginna: that many of our differences are really good and interesting and fun. (I love soprano sax in church too!) :) So if we could see MORE of our differences as fun, (could we think, "hey, he's a militant vegan--FUN!" rather than "he's a militant vegan--weird!"?) instead of seeing them as threatening us or invalidating us or whatever, we'd be better off.

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  4. or can we at least appreciate those differences for the things they teach us, even if we don't agree at all. And you made me laugh--militant vegancy does NOT sound fun, but I guess if we could get ourselves to think it was we'd be better off! :)

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