Here’s a line from a song we sang yesterday: “When tyrants tremble sick with fear and hear their death-knell ringing…”
I think that’s what we’re really seeing in all these cries for secession in the aftermath of the 2012 election. Tyrants trembling, sick, fearful, acutely aware of their own pending (political) demise. Bill O’Reilly put it best: “The white establishment is now the minority.” To them, no longer being able to lord power over everyone else amounts to their own oppression. The fact that the face of power in the US is (still) brown, maybe because, by God, a majority of people WANT it that way, just reinforces that – and is utterly terrifying to them.
Obamacare and raising taxes on the rich ain’t the issue. The real issue is those faint death-knells ringing in the background, growing steadily louder as time marches on, signifying that the myth of white, middle-class normalcy is ending, and America is evolving into something other than a monolithic, assimilationist blob of red, white, and blue ca. 1950. We just may have to find a way to live together across difference, rather than (a) forcing sameness upon all, (b) excommunicating those who don’t agree, or (c) withdrawing, like unpatriotic cowards.
In my humble opinion. 🙂 On a related note, read on for the sermon I preached yesterday…
Most of you have probably seen the bumpersticker that says, “COEXIST.” It is a simple-yet-seemingly-profound message, all the moreso because the letters of the word are comprised of different religious symbols. When I saw first this, my response was, wow…yeah, I get it. There’s something compelling about seeing the star and crescent of Islam, the star of David, and the cross of Christ, all up there together inside the broader message, coexist! Members of these religions in particular have perpetuated murder, enslavement, even genocide upon others and among ourselves for thousands of years. For the seekers of the highest sort of truth to fall into the sin of violence again and again in the name of God is perhaps explainable to human nature. But it is not faithful. Given all the division and conflict between us, and meted out by us, past and present, it’s perfectly understandable why someone would want to tell religious folks to “coexist!”
Now clearly, coexisting across difference does not come easily, as evidenced by all the religious and political conflict and division. I don’t want to minimize the goodness – or the difficulty – of what we’re doing here, enacting peaceful coexistence. But as followers of Jesus, the one who taught us to love one another, because God first loved us, coexistence is the starting point, the baseline. It is not the goal. We are called to something beyond coexistence, to cooperation.
When Paul uses the metaphor that different elements of the church comprise one human body, this is a call to radical cooperation. Paul wrote these words in response to the division and conflicts of the church community of Corinth. There was much disagreement between members on matters theological and practical ranging from how to celebrate the Lord’s supper, to also whether women should cover their heads while officiating worship. The division in this community had fragmented the body, and some had reached out to Paul for clarification. Who’s right here? Who’s wrong? What should we do?
Notice what he does not do: Paul does not advocate withdrawal, or excommunication, or distill everyone into sameness. He does not say, the church is like a body, and individually, you are all distinct and separate from the whole. He doesn’t say, the church is like a body, and individually, you should all be the same body part.
Here’s the incredible thing that happens when we learn how to cooperate as members of Christ’s body: the Body moves better.
It is amazing to watch Ellie learn how to move better over time. This kid loves to dance. From before she could walk, whenever a song came on the radio that she liked, we would be holding her and she would shake her legs in excitement! Then, as she became able to stand, she started doing this thing where she’d shake one hand while the knees are going, all while doing the ‘baby rock.’ She has been learning how to use this body of hers, and she’s getting stronger and better at it every day.
It kind of reminds me of how we operate as the body of Christ sometimes. We don’t always move in the most coordinated of ways. Sometimes we’ve got a lot of energy out here, and our hand people are going crazy, ready to move, but the leg people aren’t really in the same frequency. Hey, sometimes I dance like that, sometimes I live like that, sometimes I’m a Christian like that too, off on my own island somewhere, as if I’m not connected to the broader whole.
But sometimes, things line up better, and the inner rhythm of the heart reverberates to the extremities of the body, so that the feet feel it, and the hands feel it, and the hips feel it, and the ankle-bone connects to the knee-bone, and however we come into this world, wherever we reside in this body, no matter how we look doing it, we find ourselves moving together, gracefully – and I don’t mean smoothly or aesthetically-pleasingly, but grace-fully, as in the grace of Jesus Christ filling each of us, moving through us, top of our heads to the bottoms of our feet.
Coexistence is not enough. It is only through coordination and cooperation that the Body of Christ can move. May it be so. Amen.