Monday, January 26, 2009

Unity in Diversity

“Multiplicity without unity is chaos; unity without multiplicity is tyranny.” Blaise Pascal

Everybody loves unity. How could you not? But what do we mean by unity, and do we seek unity at any cost? Unity can sometimes be a justification for uniformity. That is a dull form of unity that sucks the humanity and creative freedom out of life.

Unity can sometimes be a justification for conflict avoidance. I sometimes felt in the Anglican Church that unity was code for “lets not rock the boat.” As Bishop Spong says, “the church may die from boredom, but it won’t die from controversy.” Unity that compromises principles and core values is unity that will eventually destroy vision.

The third danger with unity is fragmentation. If unity is legislated, it can fragment groups who are unable to toe the line. Even “minorities of one” can be marginalized by this form of unity. Unity needs to hold in balance personal freedom and social order.

Unity in diversity is the healthiest form of unity. It looks something like this.
Unity in diversity- Unity without uniformity
Unity with truth- Unity without defensiveness
Unity with dialogue- Unity without fragmentation

In my sermon on unity, I attempted to outline the case for unity in diversity. Unity begins with a healthy sense of self, and proceeds to a sense of self in comm-unity with all that is. I used the example of Gandhi as the greatest example of unity in diversity. Last week’s Inauguration was a beautiful symbol of unity in diversity, and a call to the work of unity that all of us need to take responsibility for.

I didn’t include this quote in the sermon, but find it quite a beautiful expression of unity in diversity-
“…the individual effort to compose a life, framed by birth and death and carefully pieced together from disparate elements, becomes a statement on the unity of living. These works of art, still incomplete, are parables in process, the living metaphors with which we describe the world.” Composing a Life, by Mary Catherine Bateson

1 comment:

Jerry Brooks said...

I ran into your "stuff" while you were writing from the other hemisphere. Your writing is an inspiration that has affected my preaching. Awesome.
It was Bishop Spong's book, "Why Christianity Must Change or Die, A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile," that brought me back to the active priesthood after a 40-year hiatus. That's who I was: a believer in exile. Not any more. Call me the "New York Heretic."
jerry brooks, vicar
the episcopal church in marlboro