Tuesday, 30 April 2013

of loving our differences

It seems there is much to cause a hopeful heart to despair, and my heart occasionally despairs at our inability to love – deeply and authentically – those who differ from ourselves. Love with a love that allows their differences to be differences – not barriers to relationship, not ‘wrongs’ in contrast to our ‘rights’.

The latest volume of Weavings has been a conversation partner for me in recent weeks, with its theme of ‘diversity’, as has been the Biblical story (as it so often is). Others blog and post comments on facebook, at various times, also speaking into my wonderings (for example, linking to this story, of my friend Geoff at Oasis, Flinders University).

If the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each (1 Cor12:17)– is the Spirit only understood as being given to those of Christian faith, or is the Spirit actually manifest in each and every human being?

If Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) – is Christian faith the only way into renewing relationship with God, or are there many paths into the heart of the Infinite Holy Presence?

I have been pondering the diversity of humanity, and in particular, of our faith traditions, the ways we express of experiences of the Sacred, and order life in communities of people of experience. As humans have lived and experienced the Sacred mystery of life, and the breadth of human beauty and ugliness, we have developed stories and rituals, behaviours and songs, that help us make meaning of those experiences. And community forms around those practices, as people gather together with others who share experience or expression, stories and songs that are meaningful and helpful for them.

Why is it that we then look at others who express their experience of the Sacred differently to us and decide that our stories are the ‘right’ stories, our practices the ‘true’ practices, and everyone else is ‘wrong’?
In part it is that in order to know who ‘we’ are over here, we observe that ‘we’ are not ‘you’. We naturally look at the differences between us in order to define our identity. We are who we are because of what we are not.
And naturally, we seek to know who we are. But what happens when we stop there, when we focus on the differences between us, is that we begin to fear what is not us, feel threatened when it comes too close that it might change who we have discovered we are, when difference is perceived to be more than simply difference
When we are sure enough of our identity not to view difference as a threat, we can look beyond the layers of difference, and see to the core of similarity: at our heart, we are all human.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said ‘Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realise our need of one another’ (in Eric FH Law, ‘Discerning the truth in a diverse and changing world’, Weavings 28(3) 2013, 31).

We are different to show that we need each other.

And so we return to Paul’s beautiful image of the body, in his letter to the Corinthian church, which remains for me one of the most profoundly meaningful passages of the Biblical Story. If we are all eyes, how will the body hear? If we are all ears, how will we smell?
Paul is particularly talking about Christian community, to whom the letter is addressed.
But what if this image of the body can be applied to all of humanity – and I don’t see how the life and teaching of Christ can ask for it to be otherwise – can we see that we not only must tolerate or respect the differences in expression of experience of the Sacred, but that we need them, for the wholeness of the body?

Look at the points of connection between faiths – Andrew Dutney observes that the ‘golden rule’ is present in many of the world’s faith / philosophical traditions; in another article in the latest Weavings – ‘Beads of Prayer, beads of peace’ by Kristen E Vincent – a group of students share the use of prayer beads in their various faith traditions and discover that numbers are commonly held as important, not to mention the common practice of holding beads (or knots) and repeating simple phrases in order to allow the mind and heart to open to the Sacred.
Peace is a common value, a common goal, of the world’s various religions – why is it that we have so much difficulty connecting through this deep human yearning to achieve our common goal?

Too often we are letting fear override love – but love casts out fear (1 John); love saves Harry Potter again and again; love endures.
And so I must hope, though I find much to cause me to despair, that fear will not have the last word. Love will. And God is Love.

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