Last week, I got into an argument with a stranger on a Greyhound bus. Despite the confrontational issues I’ve addressed in some of my blog posts, I’m still a Midwestern girl who’s been socialized to be “nice.” I’m still uncomfortable with confrontation. So usually I don’t bother arguing with a stranger. Usually I smile and nod unless what’s being said is so odious that I cannot, in good conscience, stay silent. That’s what happened on the bus last week.
My conversation with the middle-aged man was amiable enough as we talked about science and psychology and even Biblical interpretation. But then he started talking about immigration, and how “Mexican immigrants are corrupting our country.” He went on to say that “incorporating diversity never works,” and that, “the only way we can ever have peace is to maintain borders between different cultures.”
I told him I couldn’t agree with anything that made immigrants out to be a “them” rather than the individual human beings that they are; I told him that I couldn’t agree with his philosophy about “borders” because diversity has always existed and will always exist; the wonder of God’s creation is that no two of us are alike; the wonder of God’s creation is that it favors diversity, with the most biologically diverse species being the ones most likely to survive. And any time you think you’ve discovered a homogenous group of people, what you’ve really discovered is a culture in which people are afraid to speak their own truth. Because believe me, I have been and continue to find myself in company with whom I disagree, but also with whom I don’t feel safe voicing that disagreement. This silent dissent exists everywhere.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this man’s supposed solution of “maintaining boundaries.” When the lines are drawn, does a bisexual woman like me end up on the “gay” side or the “straight” side of the line? (I know which side the institutional Church prefers to put me on). Does one of my best friends, who happens to be biracial, have to stand on the European-descent or Asian-descent side of the line? Do the children of divorced parents stand on Dad’s or Mom’s side of the line? I know you can think of examples from your own lives. Drawing lines to keep people separate from one another also ends up slicing our perfect, God-created souls into pieces, because none of us fits neatly into only “one” culture. If diversity can coexist within us as individuals, why can’t it coexist within our world, as well?
Yet, it’s disturbing to me how often organized religion echoes these thoughts about drawing the borders and sticking to them. Kristy Calaway just wrote a heart-wrenching post about a priest who drew a pretty clear line between Catholic Christians and Evangelical Christians. I once heard a priest say that “whoever isn’t in complete agreement with the Church should leave the Church. Because even if it were a smaller Church, at least it would be a pure one.” Too many of us have felt the pain of being accused of not “really” being Catholic. As a Catholic, I’m probably not the only one among us who has been accused of not “really” being Christian; once I even found a book in a Christian bookstore arguing that the Catholic Church is the “whore of Babylon.” Needless to say, I never visited that store again.
What ever happened to prayers for Christian Unity? And why do we insist that unity in spirit must be unity in every thought, deed, and practice? St. Paul has shown us the way by insisting Jesus came for all people, not just the Jewish people. Can we be united, at the very least, in our respect for one another as caring, thinking, feeling, spiritual human beings, regardless of whether we always agree with or understand one another? Can we accept that a unifying God can also be a God who glories in our diversity?