Once the religious leaders had determined to destroy Jesus, and Jesus had determined to protect his followers by demonstrating his spiritual superiority over every intellectual and physical challenge they could bring to bear, the stage was set in Jerusalem. Presenting a list of grievances and redefining identity, Jesus’ declaration of independence announced a break with implications for community. Jesus was speaking to a crowd that included enemies, followers, and some who identified with neither camp. He redefined identity when told them, “You have one Father, one teacher, and you are all brothers.” This new identity takes precedence over the identities of family and religion. Someday religious identity will be based, not on “what makes us unique,” but upon universal truth.
Jesus taught the kingdom of God, the Father’s spiritual family, as the community of spirit-born believers. At first, his followers defined themselves in terms of the new and better way that Jesus lived and revealed and taught; only later did his followers identify themselves as Christians. Jesus’ great hope for the world was for the Jews to embrace the gospel of the universal family and carry the message to all humankind, even as Martin Buber, Viktor Frankl, Elie Wiesel, and countless other Jews do today.
What communities will evolve with the loyalty to truth required to carry forward the hope that the truths of the universal family will prevail in our world? One factor in effective community is accountability, and the number one dimension of accountability is to truth, which implies that the community’s self-definition must facilitate rather than impede the spread of the universal values it professes to follow. It will not march about flying the flag of its own difference, which will become a stumbling block to most of the people who need that truth.
The new communities will cultivate the experience of spiritual unity, not a unity predicated on what makes them unique, special, superior, and bearing awesome gifts for those who are ready for their program. Rather their experience of spiritual unity will be based upon the recognition of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man (not as a slogan set in stone but as realities expressed in linguistic liberty) plus growth, personal transformation, in living that truth. Since the core truths of the universal family include and imply service, there is no question that service is essential to the unity of these communities within themselves and with one another. For example, the communities of those who profess to follow Jesus should unite in loving service (without waiting to agree on a formulated list of particular statements of belief).
Particular networks with agendas for social transformation may experience unity on the basis of sharing highly specific values and particular interpretations of the meanings of those values; such social-psychological factors in the feeling of belonging in the group represent a dimension of human functioning that plays a legitimate role in the mosaic of teams that serve on the planet. But the forward-looking leaders of emerging religious communities that choose primarily to celebrate and activate the universal family will protect the inclusive, big-tent function of their groups by not fixing their identity in terms of such specific values and interpretations. No one group should try to perform too many functions. Each task comes with project specifics; if these specifics are blurred and blended in the mind, the result will lack the quality of wisdom that is needed now.
These suggestions are not only brimming with religious idealism. They are also brimming with implications for scientific realism. Truth-coordinated living is based on integrating these two sides of the life of truth. The human mind begins with facts. It is easy to leap into action based on the facts that we most immediately associate with passionate enthusiasm about values. It is hard to be industrious in deliberation. We aspire to love in a way that is intelligent and wise, but if we skip the scientific and philosophical steps, we take serious risks as we form communities. Once again, lessons will be learned the hard way rather than from what study can teach us by drawing upon great heritages that are available and so neglected in contemporary education.
One more comment about identity. An exciting trend in the past couple of generations has been is a new emphasis on diversity and a critique of universalizing theories, institutions, and practices that did not respect the many aspects of our identity as human beings. Sometimes I recall the thought that God must be not only unity but also diversity. Today discussions of diversity revolve around gender, race, and class. In religious circles, they revolve around identifiable religions, denominations, and sects. Too much emphasis on such aspects of our identity can create a new kind of sexism, racism, classism, and so on, with the result that we see ourselves and others so much through the lens of demographic categories that we compromise our affirmation of our common humanity and our recognition of the unique personality of each individual we meet.
Our concept of group solidarity will take years of struggle before it becomes clear. The outworking requires divine guidance progressively discovered through the sustained focus of the powers of mind, soul, and body.
One great aid in the work to be done comes from the artistic side of life. The true quality of the calm and happy laborer that we critically need is accessible through the emerging symbolism of the universal family. One way to access symbolic creativity is to begin, as the mind normally does, with problems, facts, and ideas like the proposals presented here. We find or construct a sequence, and then we have a slide show: the quote, image, or teaching shows up one at a time. After plumbing the depth in each one, we seek to comprehend the sequence until the mind can flow freely through the sequence. At this point the slide show becomes a movie. The flow transforms the static character of the initial ideas. It is as though the ideas we began with link up together, and the mind flies in fast-forward, like the reel at the cinema, where individual photos are no longer visible on the screen, only the motion picture. The acceleration can become so great that it becomes impossible to identify components or grasp anything which could be narrated. Or the acceleration can adjust to interaction in community, as a spiritually attuned speaker expresses herself smoothly. Discoveries can come when our purpose is clear and our mind flows freely.
How can we dare to design community without short-circuiting the unconscious process of evolution that adds essential stability from superconscious and human sources? Another dimension of study is important: We learn from best work of others of great achievement, and we learn also from failures.
With a prayer for your factual realism, philosophical care, and spiritual attunement as you participate in the intertwined leadership and teamwork of your communities.
By World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland – World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2003, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3581251