This Week in Church: community, emergent oppression, and unity

Welcome to the series wherein I share my take-aways from church. The things that, I think, are beneficial to all of us to know or think about, whether or not we believe in any church-related things.

I think that church can teach things that are beneficial to everyone, whether or not we believe in church-related things.

This week in church, we talked about community.

"Community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives."
-Henri Nouwen

If we are going to be in any kind of real community, we need to be able to hang with people we really don't like, because a community that self-selects for total agreement is... well, there is always something to disagree about.

This week in church, we talked about emergent oppression.

When do we think we have the right to be cruel, mean, and teeter on the edge of oppression? When we feel we are defending something that is right, of course. If I am defending (for example) the right interpretation of scripture that could result in the loss or saving of other people's soul, I will default to more totalitarian-like behaviour. I will tell you what you can and can't do, forcefully. For your own good.

Westboro Baptist Church is an example. Parents also do this, to keep their kids from running into oceans or failing school.

This week in church, we talked about unity.

While the message was clearly about unity in the Christian faith, I couldn't stop thinking about how it applies to feminism. (Those thoughts are still filtering through my brain, but more on that to come!)

A framework was presented to help us maintain unity, even with the people who anger us or disagree with us: it's a simple 1, 2, 3.

Start with 1: these are the absolute core convictions. The root beliefs that everyone shares. For Christianity that would probably amount to something about Jesus dying to save people from their sins.

Jump to 3: these are the things that people who agree with and deeply care about the core convictions will disagree about. In Christianity that would include things like who to baptize and when, how to administer communion, birth control, gender roles, pacifism, use and pursuit of money, etc. These are not core, but they are the things that churches split over.

2 is unity. It is supposed to be more important than our views on the 3's. It allows us to be angry, fight, disagree, and stick together.

This model requires a lot of forgiveness. A lot of seeing things from someone else's perspective. A lot of allowing people to pursue a path that you deeply disagree with, because unity is more important.

So here are my questions:

How do you enact this in a way that doesn't just keep existing oppressor/oppressed dynamic in place? How do oppressors become equally invested in this kind of unity instead of the status quo? 

I think that those who have been oppressed are already forced into this model just by remaining a part of society. The 3's they/we forgive include everything from microaggressions from teachers, employers, partners, and friends to outright racist, sexist, homophobic, etc, policies from those same sources. Oppressors (also they/we), on the other hand, have little practical need to forgive or recognize other perspectives.

How does this work with someone who we not only disagree with, but who we perceive to be actively working against the 1 we share? Do we disentangle our 3's from our 1's and view them as separate? Is that possible? 

We tend to see our 1's and 3's as deeply interconnected. The 3's are not just extras, they are the way we live out, express, and work to advance the cause of our 1's. So while some 3's are things I can simply agree to disagree on, others I will see as actively harming or working against my core beliefs. That is a lot harder to let go.


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