There it was on the big screen. What were they thinking? It was our purview to buttress our own sense of importance by making sport of other Christian denominations. After a few minutes I discovered the video rolling in the room was an equal opportunity offender. And, it really was not offensive in the very deep sense but in the sort of mildly humorous poking fun sort of way. I had told the same jokes but with the Methodists or Catholics or some other group in mind. Never, though, had I heard my tribe made the brunt of the same jokes. All at a National Pastor’s Convention.
In retrospect I was very good at making a case for why someone should practice their Christian faith in our branded way. But, I also suffered from the dissonance created when what you become good at seems to violate a growing internal sensibility. But in that day I did not know what dissonance was, much less how to spell it. I was in high school after all. It would better be described as an awareness that it sounded a bit arrogant to argue with classmates about how my tribe was “better than your tribe.” When the truth is I had only learned about “their tribe” from some “expert” in “my tribe.”
Silos tend to be re-enforced by our continued practices. They would surely be disassembled if we would find other, more subversive practices. But, as ASBO Jesus points out in the accompanying bristly cartoon, our problem is often that we have already decided where the other person is wrong.
Venturing outside our silos is limited to finding someone in another silo with whom I bear an extremely close resemblance. For instance Wade Burleson pointed out how an attempt at unity among silo’d parties sometimes is really unity by affinity rather than across more formidable divides. (Yes, there are countless illustrations but those that pertain to my tribe seem better to use than pointing out how another group illustrates the same thing.)
As I continue to think through this growing series under the banner of “Subverting the Norm,” I am increasingly aware of a number of “norms” in need of subversive practices. The late Leslie Newbigin borrowed Berger’s phrase “plausibility structures” to highlight the ways in which the Western Church had indeed found comfort in its contextual “container.” He noted the reality of coercive structures, language games of power, and practices creating a church unaware of its captivity.
One possible practice that would subvert the norm may be the intentional, humble conversations we could engage across those divides that seem to keep us silo’d. But, that is for the fourth part.