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I spent two years at a small Christian college…
…before I had to get out. I transferred to a state school to finish my art degree.
The first reason was because a Christian college isn’t really the place to learn art.
But honestly, those two years at Christian college was one of the spiritually darkest times in my life.
Now, how could a small town Christian college, with its chapel sermons and curfews and the guys playing exactly three guitar chords all over the quad, be one of the darkest places for my spirit?
It was because of how a place like that defined Christian unity.
And the further I get away from college, the more I realize how many Christians define unity in the same way – a definition that actually creates disunity. I have realized our desperate need to change how we think of Christian unity.
Everyone Has to Get Along
What appalled and troubled me the most at college – more than the guys who pretended to play guitar, more than the cheesy praise band with its fifteen tambourines and electric drums, was the emphasis on unity.
And when I say unity, I mean agreement.
For an institute of higher learning, the emphasis was not on tough questions, critical thinking, or deep learning. It was assuming everyone agreed. It was assumed that everyone was the same kind of Christian (i.e. the right kind.) There were students who wanted to cleanse the library of all non-Christian literature, I presume because they thought they were at church camp and not at college. Even a professor lambasted us students on how little we questioned, preferring to “get along.”
It was a spirit of group-think that made me rebel.
It is this same emphasis on agreement that permeates churches everywhere. Agreement becomes another legalism, enforced by silencing questions, discouraging honest dissenters. And pretty soon, a church becomes just another dysfunctional organization, where no one speaks up, out of fear of the group’s judgment.
I even see this same agreement enforced here at times in the supposedly open world of blogging. We all claim to be open-minded, inclusive, welcoming of questions and deep thought. But behind the anonymous mask of our keyboards, we have no problem angrily putting someone in his place when a blog post steps on our toes.
And thus, even bloggers have to watch what they say, for fear of how the community of other anonymous bloggers will enforce agreement.
“Unity” Is Not “Agreement”
Let’s get this straight once and for all.
Unity is not the same as agreement.
Agreement does not produce unity, and you can have unity without agreement.
How is this possible?
It’s called love.
Love is what unifies people, even when they do not agree.
Love binds spouses, even when they vehemently disagree. Love is what binds Christians together. Without love, they burn one another at the stake (or flame them online.)
We have to redefine unity to not be a synonym for agreement. Because unity is so much better than mere agreement. When we are unified, everyone is heard, accepted, validated and loved, despite our disagreement.
The greatest gift we can give each other is not our agreement, but our unity.
Promoting Real Unity – Despite Disagreement
Let me list, off the top of my head, a few ways that we as bloggers, as Christians brothers and sisters can be unified.
Make a Choice. Unity is a choice we make or break. There are plenty of bloggers I don’t agree with, some I never agree with. But I acknowledge them as brothers and sisters, and I pray for our blogging community, that the questions we ask and the words we write would be edifying to people.
Assume the Best. This is Christian Charity 101. I know the news makes it look like most Christians are hateful monsters. Let’s not believe what the news wants everyone else to believe. Even when I wholeheartedly disagree with a Christian or blogger, I give them the benefit of the doubt. I assume their heart is in the right place and their motivations are pure. Once we start impugning each others’ motivations, the conversation is over, because we are attacking each other ad hominem.
Matthew 18:15. In this little passage, Jesus talks about confronting brothers and sisters. The key for Jesus is to confront people discreetly, privately. Is that blogger spewing “hate” and “lies?” Why not try emailing them privately, to see if you can come to an understanding, rather than flaming them on Twitter? You’ll give the other the chance to clarify what may have been unintentionally provocative, and you might make a friend rather than an enemy in the name of “unity.”
What do you think? Have we mis-defined “unity?” How can we promote unity in our churches and online even in disagreement?