I am headed to Dresden, Germany this fall. I am invited to speak at the Synod gathering of the Union Evangelischer Kirchen in der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland. They are a reform partner that is very close to us here in the United Church of Christ.
This morning, I opened an email from Albrecht Philips who works with the UEK. He has been sending me detailed messages about my time there. In the email this morning, he asked me to speak about the dermergers that are happening in the church and in the society. A demerger is exactly what it sounds like – the opposite of a merger. A merger brings two disparate things together. A demerger takes something that is whole and divides or separates it – splits it apart.
In recent days I have been talking about the power of love to bring us back together. It is a calculated strategy on my part. Like my German friend Albrecht, I am not only watching us tear ourselves apart over differing points of view on theology, politics, and morals, but also seemingly enjoying it.
The human community cannot long survive such contempt and hatred and animosity.
Rather than working to build bridges between differing factions, we are tearing the bridges that do exist apart.
In an article called Our Culture of Contempt and printed as an Op-Ed in the New York Times, Arthur Brooks mentions what he calls the outrage industrial complex. He describes a media culture that feeds off of and fuels our anger. Either by creating facts that don’t exist, or selecting only facts that support a given point of view, and watched only by those who are predisposed to their political orientation, the outrage industrial complex leaves us feeling angry every night. Whether you orient to the left and watch MSNBC or the right and watch Fox News, you are being fed by an outrage industrial complex that just wants you to be angry. Its working.
How do we get out of this cycle? How do we stop the demergers that are happening everywhere? Friendships today are being restructured based on political beliefs that have been given more value than the relationship. Family systems are being threatened by theological opinions on matters of human sexuality that now are more important that the blood that flows through our veins.
Churches are walking a very fine line between supporting a common belief and voting to end a long treasured relationship with other members or a denomination.
Pastors have to negotiate the now treacherous proposition of either speaking a prophetic word or holding together a congregation thirsty for an excuse to go to battle with someone over differences of opinion.
Our spirits are beleaguered and battered not only from without, but from within:
within family and friend and church from whence once came our comfort and solace but within which now we too often find deep division and contention.
How do we stop this madness? How do we stem the tide of deepening rage and contempt?
Well, we slow down.
In 1965, Jackie Deshannon sang “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. That’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”
Remember that? She’s right. So, let’s all just slow it down; breath; and remember what love is, has been, and can do on this – our journey Into the Mystic.