The Divine Unity of Humanity
We are looking forward to our parish’s Town Hall Meeting this Sunday, when our community will get a chance to hear from some members of our leadership about the things happening within our parish, as well a chance to ask questions on the happenings in our parish community. As I joked on Sunday, I’m thankful it’ll be peaceful instead of the raucous town hall meeting I attended a few weeks back by our own Justin Amash. He patiently endured all manner of angry insults and assumptions, not only about his political views but also about his faith, his compassion and even his humanity (or in the view of some, the lack thereof). These verbal assaults were fired at him from red-faced, fist-waving people who passionately expressed their personal anger with him, in spite of the fact that they had probably never met him. It was sad to see the depth of disrespect to which so many have sunk, all in the name of “political dialogue.”
Honest dialogue is a good thing, even if we engage our emotions. We can passionately disagree with each other without increasing the level of division between us. But in the politically polarized environment in which we find ourselves in our country these days, coupled with the societal level reduction in manners and proper decorum, dialogue progresses too often beyond debate and quickly moves into discord. The senseless shooting of Congressmen and their staff last week ignited a debate in our country about the real damage done by the personal hatred shown toward political leaders these days.
But as hurtful as political debate has become, there is a deeper damage that goes unnoticed. This damage is not limited to political disagreements, but is seen in our work environments, in our marriages, and even sometimes in our church communities. This particular damage will go on unnoticed unless we have an understanding of just who and what we are, based on our knowledge of just who and what God is.
The book of Genesis describes our divine origins in no uncertain terms. We are said to have been designed by God to be like Him (Genesis 1:27), formed by Him and brought to life by His Breath being breathed into our lungs (Genesis 2:7). A bit later in Genesis, we learn that our race has been infused with such divine capability that God, seeing the Tower of Babel being built, says of us, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6).
All this tells us that each of us does not only reflect God personally, but that our connections with each other modeled after the connection between the Persons of the Holy Trinity. We are most human not only when we live the virtuous life that God lives, but when we do so in concert with each other. Just as personal sin takes us further from our divinely-designed nature, any discord between us does the same thing. We were created to be united with each other just as closely as the Father is united with the Son, the Son with the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit with the Father. This level of harmony and interconnectedness is so fundamental, that one Christian writer wrote that God is not merely the sum of the persons of the Holy Trinity, but He is the “dance of love” between Them.
We cannot change the face of political debate in our country, but we can certainly change how we see ourselves in relation to EVERYONE else: our spouses, co-workers, neighbors, and yes, even those who espouse very different political views. It’s easy to build up anger and even hatred if we see someone with whom we have a conflict as “the other,” separate from ourselves. It’s a very different thing to see them not just as like us but another part of us. Disagreements don’t disappear, only the distancing that both precedes and follows the assumption that we are not intrinsically a part of each other.
Perhaps the greatest image of our united, divinely-instituted Humanity is our participation in Holy Communion. The very Body of Christ, broken for us, and the very Blood of Christ, shed and taken from Him for us, are symbolized by the Clergy as they take the Lamb (the “bread of Holy Communion”) off the Diskos (the elevated plate which holds it, placed next to the Chalice on the Altar). They cut or tear it apart, piece by piece, to be consumed by the Faithful. But then another miracle happens—we line up and consume these “separated” particles, only to find that they are not truly separated. They remain united, only now they bring us into their Communion. We are united to each other by them—or more properly by HIM. Christ is the One we receive, and to Whom we each are united. Just as we are united to Him, we are all united by Him.
This Communion was never intended to be limited to the members of our parish. Our unity with each other in God is our calling to “Go forth in peace” and work to bring the whole world into that Communion, and to see everyone and everything as another part of us.
The damage of hateful politics goes deeper than just angry division. It denies the fundamental unity that God Himself designed us to share. Imagine how understanding our true unity with all of our fellow humans will change the tenor of political discourse in our land. Imagine how it will change how we relate to our spouses, children, and parents. Imagine what our relationships could be like with our co-workers and neighbors, even the guy that cuts us off on the highway or takes “our” parking spot. And now that we know it, now that we’ve imagined it, let’s live it.