This guest post was written by Alex Camire.
I hear people throw the word, “divisive,” around a lot these days.
This person is divisive.
That person is divisive.
Stop being so divisive.
It sounds bad, doesn’t it? It sounds like a bad word that produces discord. In the Christian realm, I often hear a paraphrase of Mark 3:25, “a house divided cannot stand.” The implication being that if you create discord, swim against the current, ruffle too many feathers, etc., you’ll produce some evil in the form of disunity.
When did we decide that division was an intrinsically bad thing and, conversely, that unity was intrinsically good? Sure, the words carry bad and good connotations, but I don’t believe this should be the case.
In the world of partisanship, in-group/out-group social structures, and either/or, all or nothing thinking, it’s difficult to stay centered and very easy to fall into the pit of restrictive dichotomies.
As I continue to reevaluate my faith, I sometimes find that my core values as a Christian are more defined by the things I don’t believe in, rather than by the things I do. I can even look at Christianity itself and, instead of seeing what it can be, I notice the things it shouldn’t.
And so, on the surface, I feel like a contrarian when it comes fundamentalism. I tend to lean the opposite of the conservative evangelical worldview I grew up with. In order to be a part of that group, you had to speak and act a particular way:
- You voted Republican, held a firm pro-life stance, and opposed equal rights for LGBT citizens.
- You took the Bible literally.
- You were more skeptical of scientific claims than religious anecdotes.
- You were patriotic and nationalistic, believing America was a “Christian nation” and so we were blessed above all others.
- You opposed Islam and supported wars against Muslim nations with little question.
- You always took the side of Israel in geopolitical matters, no matter what.
- You held a certain image, a degree of piety, so to speak.
- And you boycotted or made known your disapproval of any movies, books, businesses, or institutions that went against any of the above.
But the problem is that none of this has any bearing on what it means to have faith in the first place. None of this is helpful when it comes to pursuing God and following after Christ. None of it will help you love your neighbor, and that is our greatest commandment. To the contrary, much of this hinders our ability to love because it’s exclusionary.I am no Biblical scholar, but shouldn’t loving one’s neighbor be the way in which we interpret everything else, especially if love for our neighbor is the greatest commandment? Shouldn’t finding room at the table for all be our main mission?
And, if not, then please explain to me how a belief in unconditional love and grace for all is more divisive than the exclusionary views of those who place stipulations and limitations on the power of grace and love?
The significance of division and unity are dependent on what one is divided or united over. Jesus, for example, was crucified by a united mob. You don’t read anywhere in the gospels about a member of the crowd standing up and stating, “hey everyone wait; this is wrong; Jesus is innocent!” But if that had happened, would someone else have told that person, “hey, quit being so divisive, we’re united here!”? No. I’d imagine not, but then again, who knows…
I don’t want to be contrary just for the sake of being contrary. That’s not who I am or my motivation. I simply believe that there is room at the table for everyone. And yet, there are some people, particularly prominent religious leaders, who mar the faith that I hold so dear. At times it doesn’t seem worth clinging to the Christian label that’s been hijacked by those who, I believe, don’t properly represent its meaning.
So, I find it necessary to stand against those whose tenets prohibit or hinder others from accessing the table when I believe there is room for all. I will not feel ashamed when called divisive for this. It is unacceptable for people to appoint themselves as gatekeepers to the faith, insisting that their stance is the only correct one. This is fundamentalism at its core, and it’s toxic.
It is better to be divisive and stand on the other side of what is wrong than to stand with someone in a false unity.
Photo via Unsplash.
About Alex Camire