Written by Dalton Brenneman, Zachary Hany, Jeneen Watson, and Nate Wieland. Media by Cord Buchanan.
John Wesley has a sermon on the idea of Catholic spirit—the unification of Christians across differences and the ability to extend the hand of peace despite different circumstances and lifestyles. Christians have differences in doctrine—what we take to be the truth, and differences in practice, how we live that truth—that tend to stratify us into different denominations, communities, and sects. While these divides arise naturally, there are ways to pursue unity without enforcing uniformity. Baptism allows for us to focus on what we share in common because it washes away not our differences, but our animosity for our differences. It does so by grafting us into the same body, one in which we have more in common with those of that body than we do our nuclear or extended family. Baptismal water runs thicker than ancestral blood. Because this is the case, we cannot merely dismiss Christians who live lives completely opposite of our own.
Diversity should not be fought because of how completely natural it is to Creation. God creates by separation—night from day, man from woman, land from the sea—so differences are really a gift to us! In seeking to be the Mosaic Community we are called to, we find that the collective people are more beautiful than the sum of its different parts.
In Matthew 15, we see that Jesus came not just for the Jew but the Greek as well. His salvation is a radically inclusive one. Paul echoes this in 1 Corinthians 12 when he describes the different parts of the Body of Christ. In order for a people to fully embody Christ, they need to embrace their differences and celebrate what each brings to the whole. Typically, people have thought of this in really menial ways; like extrovert and introvert, leader and follower, blonde and brunette. What if Paul was talking large scale? His description of different parts of the body could be taken to mean nationalities, ethnicities, and socio-economic classes. If this is the case, then Christina Cleveland’s word on perichoresis (the mutual sharing of attributes within the Trinity) holds a special weight. If each of us brings to the body both our strengths and our struggles, then is it not the Christian responsibility to bear the struggles of even entire groups of people? If they are part of our body, then we have skin in the game! Issues we may never have considered our own are suddenly near and dear to our hearts.
How do we respond when over one-third of our black brothers and sisters in America are falling victim to the incarceration system? Do we assume a position of callousness?
It’s their problem to resolve, not mine.”
“I’ve never committed a crime.”
Does that seem to line up with our sense of Catholic unity? It is our job to seek understanding in the lives of our brothers and sisters where we have none. More than just understanding, what if we were to follow in the footsteps of Christ our liberator? If Jesus once set us free from captivity, shouldn’t captivity today still be on the forefront of our minds? We are free from the powers of sin and death but are still battling the consequences of those forces. Is it unreasonable to think that the forces of sin and death still manifest themselves in man-made structures and systems?