Here is a truth. We live in tension. Here is another truth. That tension doesn't exist in a black and white, 2-D world. Truth is a technicolor, 3-D experience. This is why connection and hearing other opinions becomes vitally important to knowing the whole story. Community adds depth and color to our 2-D perspective. At the same time our perspective, as an individual, becomes an important piece to the overall story. While there are many tensions in life, our communal and individual perspectives is probably the easiest tension to point out. Think about it. In Christianity what is the biggest argument (other than biblical inerrancy) we are having right now? I submit, when we look at the root of our disagreements, our biggest argument has been between whether we should be communally or individually motivated as Christians. I also submit, this has been the most foolish argument to date we have chosen to engage in.
I want to take a moment and go to the bible. In particular, I want to look at Jesus' baptism story. I put them all together and you can find the different Gospel accounts here. There is something very specific I want to point out:
In Mark and Luke the words of God are for Jesus:
"You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22
In Matthew the words of God are for the community watching:
"This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
Some of you might be reading this and already prepared to click your cursor somewhere else. Some might see this as Matthew's misinterpretation. Some might be offended I am even suggesting such a thing. I personally believe God spoke to both Jesus and the crowd at the same time. Even if you believe God didn't do that, I think there is something inspired about two slightly different versions existing.
Our existence is both communal and individualistic. Our creation is dependant on two people coming together as one. A person is not made by an individual, but through the union of two. Two families become one. Two communities are united through the blood of a child. At the same time, we will always be an individual. We incubate alone for nine months before we enter the world. No matter how hard we try, our perspective will always be through our eyes because our eyes are the only eyes we can see out of.
Baptism, being a symbolic rebirth, will always be a community and individual act. This isn't something where we choose one side over the other. This is something where we hold both in tension. On one side, an individual joins the community, aka the Body of Christ. On the other side a community is welcoming an individual into the Body. The individual doesn't lose their individual nature just because they join the community. The community also remains a group. In fact, when Paul talks about the Body of Christ, he does so pointing out that the body is many in one. There is that tension again.
I bring this up to begin talking about the tensions in the Christian tradition. There is a sneaky little devil on the internet telling us page hits and book deals only come from being scandalous. If we can pit ourselves against someone we can get the people to our site. Maybe they are right. Maybe we have already sold our souls for a fiddle made of gold. I'm here to say, maybe it's time for a "yes-and" dialogue. Over the next month or two I will use scripture to talk about how we are not dealing with an "either-or" discussion, but a "yes-and" solution. We will always find differences. We can always find something to wedge between one another and separate us. It is much more difficult to let go of those wedges and begin reconnecting.
So I guess that's the point. We are working with unique individuals, who each have their own unique view of the world. Collectively, we take those views and put them together to help us understand the big picture. Let's put down the exacto knife and pick up some bandaids. For God calls each and everyone of us: "For these are my sons and daughters; with you I am well pleased."