The essay I wrote regarding the church's call to remain in community with one another is something I believe I'll always be able to look back on and be proud of. The idea of community and the struggle and joy integral to the pursuit of bringing diverse people together is something that over that last three or four years has continued to grow in importance to my personal philosophy and theology. Beginning in my sophomore year as a Resident Assistant, and through my roles as a Peer Minister, pastoral intern, and now Young Adult Volunteer, I have continued to learn how difficult, yet rewarding this struggle can be.
But the struggle is so much bigger than simply looking at faith communities. It extends from churches, mosques, temples, and synagogues to neighborhoods, towns, cities, and eventually our society as a whole. Because it is easier, we often shy away from genuine, diverse community as it often asks something of us: critical reflection of our beliefs. As a result of the privilege of choice that wealth offers, we are able to move through our lives carefully controlling whom we interact with. Simply put, Americans are talented escapists.
We move into neighborhoods, dine at restaurants, go to events, join churches, sleep in hotels, and shop at stores all in places that are frequented by those like us. This is often based on class and/or race. But no matter what factors influence these choices, it is those that we see as the "other," those that make us feel uncomfortable, that we subconsciously weed out of our lives. And once they have been successfully weeded out of our lives, we look around to find only those most like us.
All of this works to affirm our position, ideology, theology, and politics in life. We surround ourselves with our "Yes!" men and women because we are afraid that we may be challenged in our notions, and God-forbid, proven wrong. How can we grow if we weren't challenged? The status quo would simply remain. No Reformation, no Emancipation Proclamation, etc. Growth and critical reflection can only come to true fruition through placing ourselves in communities that are diverse in their views and challenge us to take a critical look at our own.