Unity or Harmony?

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As we inch closer to a polarized and contentious election, I would like to share an excerpt from my book Crossing the Lines We Draw (Judson Press 2020).  

In a polarized and politicized culture, knowing where to go and how to get there remains a challenge. Where do people of faith want to go? Unity. A place where all people matter. But, what does unity look like? Does unity mean everyone agrees on everything all the time? That sounds boring. Does unity only come with a shared enemy, as in World War II? That sounds violent. E pluribus unum is the unifying motto of the U.S.—out of many, one. The motto is the opposite of violence. People come together. Through their differences, they grow stronger. They learn from one another, not in an idealized utopia, but through growth.

Is achieving unity possible? What about harmony? Harmony is the pleasing combination of different notes, sounding simultaneously. Harmony produces chords and chord progressions that makes music sound good. Harmony requires different notes. In a polarized society, individual people can remain true to their own convictions while coming together. Differences can create something beautiful. Perhaps harmony is a better goal than unity.

Harmony allows people to have a dialogue while disagreeing with one another…

If we want to get to a place where all people matter, or a place where we can have dialogue, then we can explore shared experiences. Our quest is finding common ground with others. The “other” includes people with whom we disagree. This quest is not isolated, but in communion with others and in communion with God. The quest functions in the new cosmos and includes transcendent presence of God. God understands humanity. Humanity never fully understands God because God is beyond human comprehension…

Instead of limiting overcoming polarization to Democrats getting along with Republicans, we realize that nature and the cosmos surround everything. Overcoming political differences is meaningless if we destroy the planet. Harmony means working with nature, not subduing it…

Faith involves risk and risk-in-Christ. The quest is harmony. Harmony is not unity, because each person retains her or his individuality. Together, people can be greater than the sum of their individual parts. To achieve harmony in Christ, people reconcile with God. And, each faith step involves risk. Addressing divisions is a risk. Confronting evil is a risk. Speaking truth to power is a risk. These risks are worthy steps in faith toward the quest.

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