Thursday, January 06, 2005

Essence of Essential 5: Diagnosis different

I am a marriage and family therapist. In my work I see a lot of couples who act like church factions fighting with each other over little, stupid (but oh so essential) things. What happens (a long time before they see me) is that each person has an idea of how things need to be in their marriage. Usually these things are different. Since there is a difference, they each develop a set of patterns meant to convert their spouse into their way of thinking, feeling, doing and so forth. When their plans fail to make the conversation, the pattern becomes either intensified or more nuanced. Either way it is more of the same.

As time passes, and initially without their knowledge, their efforts to convert the other result in an unintended consequence: their divergence. Then the problem of their diverging paths outruns their denial and then there is a crisis - the war begins. They thought they were solving a problem when in reality they were aggressively creating it. The problem was not what they thought was a problem, but in reality was the fact that their spouse was different and that difference was identified as a problem, labeled as a problem, and treated as a problem. When different is diagnosed as wrong, THAT IS A PROBLEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I believe this is the same process that has spun off so many denominations. The reasoning is this: since we are different we cannot be together. The result? Divorce, ecclesiastical divorce: church split, denominationalism , endless protest, reprotest and counterprotest etc.

In divorce, the people who suffer are the children. In church splitting, denominationalizing and protesting the people who suffer are the "lost, pre-Christian, unsaved, pagan, unchurched, whatever." (see link for Keith Brenton's call for a spiritual thesaurus).

Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church suggests dealing with difference (at least in worship preference) in church by starting new kind of worship service or planting a new church. Wise words, target-directed churches and church services are not a bad idea. At the same time it still leads to an inbred, mandated way of being. It gives social pressure to be one way - to reduce rather than increase limits and comfort zones. Doug Pagitt in Reimagining Spiritual Formation suggests an evolving community molded by who God's leads to the congregation. Brian McLaren makes a pitch for an inclusive rather than exclusive Christianity in A Generous Orthodoxy.

Most new churches are just as specific as the old churches, but they are merely specific about different things, thereby necessitating a new church. What a new kind of church would do is be less, not more specific. Difference would not be seen as a threat, but rather as an exciting opportunity to enrich the whole.

Perhaps the church of the future (and I hope the near future) is about remarriage and not about divorce. If we find loving God and loving people essential, and all of our differences a delightful benefit rather than a problematic liability, then there might be some hope for the "lost."


Keith Brenton said...

My sweet wife Angi is more familiar than I am with the Peacemaker Ministries, having recommended some of their material in her college courses in conflict management, but these folks do seem to have discovered some sound, scriptural principles!

(BTW, she was also instrumental in setting up ACU's Center for Conflict Resolution.)

Thanks for this terrific series of posts, Fajita!

David U said...

Mr. Fajita, keep on keeping on brother! I couldn't agree with you more! Why would a lost world want to be a part of a people who can't get along with each other? I think it's an abomination to the Father...and we have lots to confess. We won't do it though, until we get rid of our pride. When will that be?

Your brother,

weniki93 said...

Hey just found you flipping through blogs. Interesting writing. Now I see that you are from the Midwest, you are a deep thinking Christian therapist, Where did you go to school?

Fajita said...

I did my grad work at Abilene Christian University. Loved the school and the people as much as I hated the climate and geography. My wife is a native Michigander. Lake Orion.

weniki93 said...

Hey just found you flipping through blogs. Interesting writing. Now I see that you are from the Midwest, you are a deep thinking Christian therapist, Where did you go to school?