Have you noticed the unity agenda? I’d be surprised if you said no, because it is a popular idea in secular and non-secular circles. Unfortunately, the term is a bit ambiguous like all other widely popular terms, so I’d like to describe the unity movement. Then, I want to discuss the dangers and benefits of prioritizing unity within Christianity.
What immediately comes to mind when you hear the word unity? I think of marriage. I think of ethnic groups working side-by-side, equal and loving. Your responses may be vastly different than mine, for the word “unity” can be applied to many contexts: politics, legislation, friendships, discrimination, family, work, performance, macro/microcosms, trade, diplomacy, and medicine. I’m sure there are others.
It also seems that unity can be separated into physical, intellectual, and spiritual aspects—the manifold contexts were complicated enough! For physical unity I think of a sports team or ice skating duo. Intellectual unity could be an agreement on political legislation or work between a software development team. Then, there is a spiritual unity that religion supposedly teaches, above which is the spiritual unity with God through the works of Jesus Christ.
How much unity do you experience on a regular basis? How much disunity do you experience?
Isn’t disunity easier to notice than unity? The pain and rejection registers quick and sharp. Also, we measure unity within a binary: disunity is measured against the unity we perceive, and unity is measured against the disunity we perceive.Even our speech about it is somewhat confined within this binary, so no wonder we struggle to have definitive conversations about unity.
Merriam-Webster defines unity as, “the quality or state of not being multiple,” and “a condition of harmony.” This definition does a good job of describing our culture’s objective for unity, which is conformity to a single principle, ideal, perspective, ethic, morality; notice the focus on intellectual aspects, the disregard for the physical and spiritual aspects. However, the definition isn’t helpful because it uses oneness and harmony to define unity. What is oneness? How do you define harmony? Can you appropriately apply those definitions to our broad spectrum of contexts?
Regardless, our culture’s drive for equality between men and women, between ethnic groups is assimilated with unity. Culture beckons us to unify and seek legislative, ethical, and moral equality for our greater good. That’s all nice in theory, but in practice it seems much more like ideological warfare, conquest, moral grandstanding and shaming than mutual, loving growth.
I’ve refrained from giving examples because there are too many. I believe that you will find ample evidence for this within social media, news outlets, and within your personal relationships. I believe it is sufficient to ask again, how much unity do you experience on a regular basis? How much disunity?
Unfortunately, many Christian organizations, churches, men and women use the same tactics in the name of unity, doing much harm in the pursuit of it. And why? How is it that God-rejecting people and supposedly God-fearing people pursue unity in the same divisive ways? What must they have in common to mirror one another?
People severely misunderstand God, those who follow and disregard Him alike. They misunderstand His creation of people, His creation of communities, and His wisdom. Both are acting outside of God’s will, that humans would love Him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves. Instead, they are loving themselves at the expense of their neighbors, fulfilling their own agenda, and enslaving others all in the name of unity.
That’s the opposite of unity. My heart is heavy knowing that all of us have done this and been a victim to this. Why has unity become a large club for beating others into submission?
What might true unity look like? What would true unity feel like?