The Space Between

I’ve got some significant quirks. For instance, my reading list is intentionally varied. I have several books going at once, but generally I try a literary diet that is comprised of non-fiction, “books I should have read in High School/College but didn’t” and Candy. The latter generally takes the form of Science Fiction and Fantasy (I’m currently re-reading Harry Potter which is against my rule of never reading a book twice).

I just finished The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt. It’s going back in the reading pile to be read again… and soon. There was such a banquet of information that I know I’ve not begun to digest it all. I also have the sense that reading it a second time will help me to make some of the connections between his theory and my theology.

One of the central points to his thesis is that people’s beliefs are intuitively-based. It’s only after that initial gut reaction that we form reasoned rationale to substantiate what we’ve felt. Furthermore, much of that intuition is genetically based. We’re not hardwired to believe a certain way, but the science of DNA bears out that there are genetic preferences that are linked to evolutionary development. Liberals generally have the code that shows a preference for new experiences, whereas conservatives have a preference for stability. From an evolutionary perspective, there’s a need for both.

Ultimately, what does Haidt suggest will bridge the gap?

Relationships. For Haidt, what we need to pay attention to is not individuals, but rather, the space between individuals.

Conflicts bubble up in society, and often comes to a full boil within the church. We argue about critical things as well as spend time debating the color on paint chips. What if Haidt is right (I’ll admit, I’m persuaded!) and therefore much of what I believe about morality begins with my genetic code? Because if that is true for me, it’s also true for the person who I’d really rather not sit next to in choir rehearsal. Let’s not begin to talk about the Imago Dei – that we are all made in the image of God!

Church, we’ve become so good at debating, demonizing and distancing when what we need to do is to come together around the Table. I’m not suggesting we dial down the conversation but rather that we find ways of having difficult conversations that are embedded in meaningful relationships.

I’d love to hear what your church is doing to create these kinds of relationships within your congregation as well as outside the church walls. What kinds of relationship are you building? How might the Presbytery partner with you in creating space for all God’s people?

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