Saturday, April 30, 2011

On the Differences that Unite

By Christoph Michels (Own work)
 [GFDL , CC-BY-SA-3.0
or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0
 via Wikimedia Commons
Today, Rod over at Political Jesus gave this blog a much appreciated shout out. In the course of that post, Rod said something that got me thinking. See, he mentioned the post I wrote a few weeks back on etiquette. The post, as you may recall, was about the moral core of etiquette, but I also talked about how etiquette can become oppressive.

Or at least, that's how I saw it.

For Rod, it was a post about "how sometimes being polite can be oppressive." What for me was a post about how etiquette relates to morality was for him a post about oppression. This isn't to say that either of our readings were off of the text, all of it was there. Still, we approached the very same text and came away with two different  readings.

And that's a good thing.

Our world is filled with people from all sorts of backgrounds, with all kinds of values. Inevitably we will bring our own lives to any text (including the world). This might be seen as something that divides us, putting a wall of separation between us and those around us, but it doesn't have to be. In this world of differing values, the text mediates. Rod's and my reading of my earlier post were different, but they were both grounded in the text. Any reading, so long as it's actually a reading (and not an imposing, let's say) will ultimately be anchored in the word that stands between us.

This is an especially salient point for those of us trying to understand church catholicity. As Christians we are bound by scripture, creeds and traditions, but all too often we read them in widely varying ways. Too easily, these differences can divide us, but that central text is the bond of unity between us.

We all interpret differently, because we are all (thank God) different people, but that we interpret means there is a thing interpreted. There is a text, and it unites us.