By Patrick Scriven | Director of Communications & Young People’s Ministry
[dropcap type=”1″]I[/dropcap]woke up this morning to a lovely email from a member of one of our Pacific Northwest Conference churches. The letter’s author was commenting on a recent blog post I wrote and mentioned that she often reads them. While we’ve never gotten into the nitty-gritty details, I suspect that we disagree on a good number of the issues that face the church today so her readership, and kind words, meant even more to me.
In our polarized United Methodist Church world, it is probably true that the Pacific Northwest Conference leans as heavily to the left as some other conferences do to the right; if we were forced to draw some crude theological spectrum anyway. Still in both cases, there are those amongst us who faithfully represent different positions outside of the majority. As a conference staff person, I have often been blessed to hear and learn from those with whom I disagree; and my generosity has been called into question as, on occasion, I’ve failed to consider all of the voices at the table.
As I was responding to my sister in Christ today, a metaphor came to mind that I wanted to share. Too often we talk about our theological diversity in ways that suggest competition, and subsequently, winners and losers. This way of talking ‘about’ each other, coupled with the legislative processes we put so much faith in, is well designed to increase frustration and polarization.
[pull_quote_right]The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. – Alan Watts[/pull_quote_right]Instead, what if we imagined ourselves as Junior High students at a school dance. As we approach one another for the first slow dance of the night we don’t know quite what to say. Our awkward attempts at conversation are matched only by our uncoordinated moves across the dance floor. We step on each other’s feet – often, and in our immaturity we stomp back at the other believing the pain will teach a lesson that neither of us is equipped to learn.
In our frustration with one another, we neglect to recognize that it is a much worse fate in Junior High when no one asks you to dance at all.
I’m sure that I am being naïve and that some would say it isn’t fair to equate different types of exclusion. I can accept that. Still, I hope that there are conservatives in other parts of the country who appreciate their progressives sisters and brothers for similar reasons and believe their church is better for the voices that challenge the majority.
Junior High students eventually become High Schoolers. High schoolers, after a few short years, graduate and begin to make lives of their own. Sometime down the road they get married and dance slowly again, this time with the one they love. They now dance in a union one would never believe possible if you only ever observed 7th graders. Only God can know what lies ahead for us.
No matter where we live, and no matter what we believe, let us pray to God for generosity. Perhaps someday we’ll dance together again without causing one another so much pain.
Photo Credit: “Dancing Ghost Feet“, some rights reserved by Flickr user Soffie Hicks.
* A Japanese proverb.