Bless me with someone to disagree with

17/05/2019 9:57:36 AM | Zoe Boyle
Zoe Boyle is a recent graduate of a Bachelor of International Studies and a creative writer. She lives on the east of Melbourne and enjoys pretending that cafés and libraries are her living room.

This blog is written in response to The Justice Conference Australia Podcast Ep1: Don't Go Left, Don't Go Right, Go Deeper by Tim Costello. Available here or via your preferred podcast app.

 
    I’m sitting in the State Library of Victoria on my day off from work. I arrived just five minutes before the doors opened and joined the mob of students, local and international, gathering in the frost. I’ve spent quite a lot of my, albeit short, life studying at a university in the centre of this great multicultural city. Growing up in a town that awkwardly held a tension between suburbia and country Victoria, I was warned many times by disgusted voices that Melbourne is not Australia. A small town deeply suspicious of ‘the other’ seems to be the origin story of so many of us.
 
    Strangely enough, I’ve always loved the world, and even though my idea of the world has changed immensely, I’ve loved it all the same. Psychologists collect brain mugs and buy bottles of wine with brain labels, but my symbols has always been the spinning-top melting-pot that is this world. With the term ‘identity politics’ peppered through our discourse, today has me thinking, What is the pot? What holds this rapidly changing world together?
 
    I walk through the renovated back end of the library and beeline for a desk upstairs which overlooks the large, magnificent reading room. Within a few minutes, every single desk upstairs is taken by satisfied smirks like mine. I slide out my laptop from my red felt case and wedge it as a pillow between my back and my chair. I’ve done this many times. I glance around the room, comforted by the array of different ethnicities and religious dress. I warm to the term cosmopolitan, a ‘citizen of the world.’ I invite myself to see each person sitting around me with artist eyes. As Andy Warhol once wrote, “I have never met a person that I couldn’t call a beauty.”
 
    Just down the road at The Justice Conference in late 2018, I was sitting on the right-hand side of the crowd in the dark of the room when Tim Costello said, “I want you to go neither left nor right, but to go deeper. I want you to pray that the Christian tribe can unite over being salt and light. Not over political divisions.”
 
    I’m suddenly visited by a new thought: How is it that I can feel a sense of solidarity with someone a continent of emotional and cultural familiarity away, and yet struggle to value the differing views of my Christian brothers and sisters? To be a Christian is to belong to a long, long list of different tribes.
 
    I'm reminded of when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. Samaria being the capital of one half of separated Israel, Jews considered Samaritans to be outside of God’s inheritance, even though the Samaritan woman expressed that her and her people were also awaiting the Messiah. “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us” (John 4:24 NLT).
 
    What is it about the human condition that is so chronically divisive? We all live inside our own echo chambers. My Facebook newsfeed is my own teacher’s pet; my Google search results a carefully selected buffet of everything I would want to serve onto my plate. We’re encouraged to cut out our own opinions and identities and we end up just hanging out with people just like us. Thoughts carry me away…
 
    My eyes refocus and I realise where I am. I pick up my cold, stainless steel drink bottle and sit it gently back onto the desk.
 
I open my journal and write a prayer:
 
To dear the God of the stranger,
Bless me with someone to disagree with
Someone who I will care enough for to let disorientate me
Bless me with someone who reveals the sharp edges of my proud mind
Someone who will help clarify the lines of your face
Bless me with a chance to see that I am a part of the whole
That they are also a part of the whole
You hold everything altogether in ways I won’t ever understand
Our differences
Our contradictions
Only reveal further that we are in need of you to hold it all
 
A quiet, sweet moment settles around me.
 
    My thoughts carry me away again. I begin to wonder about salt and light. Mark and Luke also talk about salt but without light. Matthew is the only gospel to pair them together. Costello refers to salt as the metaphor used commonly by people who might consider themselves on the right, or conservative. Those who are preserving salt remind us of the bedrock of our tradition, they remind the world that the Declaration of Human Rights never sprung from some secular source. They are an invisible force of roots keeping our faith stable. Costello refers to light as the metaphor used commonly by people who might consider themselves on the left, or progressive. Those who risk pushing into chaos for the sake of participating more fully in the reign of God. They desire for unseen injustice to be revealed for the first time. They are activists, they write letters to politicians demanding change.
 
    Right and left.
 
    Evangelism and social justice
 
    Jesus says to the disciplines in Matthew 5: You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the earth. A common element of both salt and light is that they don't exist for the sake of themselves. They exist to embolden and bring forth something else.
 
    I pack my things into my brown canvas backpack and head home. On the train I’m again surrounded by my diverse city. It’s as if I’ve travelled the world by the time I get off at Richmond station. I take pensive steps in the direction of my house and I think of my upbringing filled with conservative, faithful Christians. I think of philosopher and theologian Peter Rollins when he says that throughout history we’ve never needed to agree with someone in order to deeply love them. He says that all you need to do is look at your family in order to know the weight of that.
 
    If Paul illustrates that the Church is like the body, then half the reason that it is crowned with a capital ‘C’ is because it manages to stay alive. Any first year science student can tell you wide-eyed, the miracle of what it is to be alive. Balance, sight, digestion, relationships, birth, the brain (there is a reason why psychologists want them on their coffee cups). The Church is a masterpiece in the same way that the body is.
 
    We need all of the parts of us, both sides of politics, in order to stand up straight.
 
    I arrive at the edge of my house and rather than walking the extra two metres to the driveway, step over the short fence and onto a patch of naked dirt, ploughed by my habit. I arrive home in the same fashion that I do every single day. Back to my tribe.
 
To dear the God of the stranger,
Remind me that I am a part of the whole.
 


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