Monday, August 20, 2007

necessity of reconciliation: dependant upon community demographics?

I was chatting with a friend when he told me an interesting story of a daughter off to college for her freshman year. She will have 2 immediate roommates and 5 suite mates who are placed together at random. By sheer random chance—rare chance—I might add, the daughter is placed with a girl from her early teenage years, who was a bit of a terror to her life. The girl eventually moved out of the community of her childhood and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. She remembers. Her parents remember. And both had to be decided in their choice to not go on a preemptory “fix” of the “situation” which would have been to get another roommate.

I thought about how random such a situation is. How rare. By sheer chance this girl must face the past she had with another girl. But when I move to another category of my memory, I realize for others, this is not rare at all. This happens all the time in the Mennonite circles. The community is not big enough for estranged parties to loose one another in the crowd. One must face their past relationship or mis-relationship with the other sooner or later for life would cough up that person back into the present now and again. The community simply wouldn’t survive, if past situations weren’t worked through and people didn’t reconcile. Business exchanges, friendships, family relationships: issues arise but relationships must become priority. With dating even, one can’t simply perform a crash trial run for experience or fun. People in close community notice. They notice how people relate. Everyone is accustomed to being watched and remembered.

So, Mennonites, known for their reconciliation efforts, have incorporated this value because community demographics necessitate it or because they are called to emanate this aspect of the kingdom?
Further, what happens to the social group that has the capacity to “loose” all one’s enemies?

Although: (I would argue one can’t exactly loose his/her enemy. The movie “Babel” is a very poetic picture of how it is not possible to “loose” one’s enemy.) One may loose the face of an individual to the crowd, yet it returns in the face of another to haunt you. Wiccans and pagans always remember the law of threefold return, which states that whatever is done through your hand, whether good or bad, it will return to you threefold. Psychologists recognize the continued presence of the “lost” enemy in something they call transference.


Anonymous said...

To complicate the matter we could also discuss the Mennonite predisposition to split their congregations and conferences as a way of dealing with conflict... a way to "loose" your "enemy" even within close community demographics.

To your point I think that the move towards reconciliation has something to do with the Anabaptist doctrine(s) of community as well as the experience of community. Even in the small town of my youth there was a motive to "make nice" after a conflict since it would impact how you and yours viewed they and their's for decades, in some cases generations, to come. Not the same thing as reconciliation, but a poor imitation.

Guess I just don't know what I'm talking about since I've seen real reconciliation so rarely short of the that which often occurs as a person approaches death.

espíritu paz said...

Yes, there is a lot of splitting isn't there? er...I mean church plants.

I suppose you could call that loosing your enemy in close community demographics OR maybe it works itself out to managing what you're willing to fight about. As I have seen it, if you're in the same church you actually have to come to an understanding about issues you differ on. Sometimes it's easier to start a sister church and everyone splits along the top 3 issues. The community breathes a sigh of relief because now everyone has a break from arguing over sizes and makes of women's coverings and whether or not to use zippers on clothing here or there or where the cost ceiling on car purchases should be etc.

I've actually seen people lay it to rest after the split, because now they have a reason to. He's at that church and I'm here and we don't need to fight about it anymore! I've also seen my dad compartmentalize based on issues he differed on with a brother. He worked and did business well with the guy but church issues were another matter.

Is this a part of reconciliation, each positioning their quills so as not to scar another? Maybe it's just making nice. I suppose it depends a lot on character. One thing I'm certainly not claiming is the virtuousness of Mennonite communal behavior. Dissension happens and sometimes it gets pretty ugly.