Yesterday, Mary spoke of the hopeful steps toward unity between the CRC and RCA that have come out of the joint synod the past few weeks. It’s not that I disagree with Mary, and it’s not that I’m opposed to increased cooperation between the CRC and RCA, I’m just not sure “unity” is always what it claims to be. Like Mary I grew up oblivious to the tension between the RCA and CRC – heck, I was oblivious to the CRC and RCA. I was a Lutheran kid who happened to go to a Christian school. I knew my grandparents, good Lutherans that they were, thought it was stupid. My cousins all thought it was weird. I was oblivious. Even when we moved and began attending a CRC church I had no clue. It wasn’t until I began to teach in a Christian school that the differences became apparent – usually because I was in trouble.
I sometimes refer to my church background as “mutt” like. I grew up Lutheran, with a brief stint in the Evangelical Free Church, attended a CRC church that consisted of mostly RCA transplants, and went to a Roman Catholic high school. Funny how you don’t realize at the time how these seemingly arbitrary experiences leave a hefty imprint. I’m solidly Reformed at the center, with some Lutheran edges, but crave the high liturgy. (I tell people the priests and nuns brainwashed me… they usually look at my funny.) So what’s my point? I’ve come to believe that we engage each other, not out of what we hold in common, but out of our differences. Our differences make each of us unique… they make conversation rich… they make life interesting. This past semester my classroom was filled with all kinds of students. Reformed, Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Pentecostal – it was a blast. We had some heated disagreements, but these discussions broke through the banal blah blah of the classroom routine. There was passion… belief… doubt… anger. These days we’re too quick to avoid any form of confrontation, any form of heated debate. Everything seems to be about finding “common ground” or “unity” – which in many cases becomes the foundation for mediocrity and oversimplification. I’m ok that we have separate churches and denominations. I like to argue about Christian education and Public education – I do it all the time with a good friend new to the Christian education world. Should we be able to talk to each other? Should there be a place for civil dialogue? Are there issues upon which we agree and in the spirit of Christian love find ways to work together? Absolutely. But I’m convinced these things happen best when we are open and honest about our differences. After all, if everyone looked and acted the same, and if everyone believed the same things, what a boring world it would be.