Utopian idealism makes utopias impossible. The impure, those who don’t measure up to the utopian ideals, eventually must be cleansed from the ranks through dystopian violence. This has proven true throughout history by tribes, governments and religions alike.
The divisions continue in my own faith tradition, if not through physical violence then through severed communion in the name of doctrinal purity. This from a body of believers who claim the name of the one who prayed that we, “may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
So, what to do, separate from those who refuse to acknowledge the unity of all believers? Are we to eventually be one by forming new denominations of one within which we are the only true believer left? It sounds silly, but that’s what utopian idealism gets you… isolation and loneliness.
What if we stop trying to answer Jesus’ prayer and instead realize that our Father already has? We are one. It is finished. None of our efforts to purify ourselves and our communities can add anything to our union, they only serve to lessen our experience of a gift freely given by an unconditionally loving God.
God in us and us in God, union with the one who is Love, what a beautiful reality. We have to stumble within it and dare to hope it is true, every day, every minute, if we are to dwell with each other in greater degrees of peace and love.
Now, you may not give a shit about what religious people suffer because of our religion, but everyone wants better relationships. We all suffer from a lonely thirst that is only quenched by the living water all around us… even within us. This is the way to healing for both a broken church and for our broken relationships. The alternative is more pain and division.
Check out this extended quote from Henri Nouwen about the futility of burdening those we love with “divine expectations.” I hope seeing the problem clearly helps point you to more love and unity in the coming year.
“When our loneliness drives us away from ourselves into the arms of our companions in life, we are, in fact, driving ourselves into excruciating relationships, tiring friendships and suffocating embraces.
No friend or lover, no husband or wife, no community or commune will be able to put to rest our deepest cravings for unity and wholeness. And by burdening others with these divine expectations, of which we ourselves are often only partially aware, we might inhibit the expression of free friendship and love and evoke instead feelings of inadequacy and weakness. Friendship and love cannot develop in the form of an anxious clinging to each other. They ask for gentle fearless space in which we can move to and from each other. As long as our loneliness brings us together with the hope that together we no longer will be alone, we castigate each other with our unfulfilled and unrealistic desires for oneness, inner tranquility and the uninterrupted experience of communion.
Indeed, it seems that the desire for ‘final solutions’ often forms the basis for the destructive violence that enters into the intimacy of human encounters. Mostly this violence is a violence of thoughts, violating the mind with suspicion, inner gossip or revengeful fantasies. Sometimes it is a violence of words disturbing the peace with reproaches and complaints, and once in a while it takes the dangerous form of harmful actions. Violence in human relationship is so utterly destructive because it not only harms the other but also drives the self into a vicious circle asking for more and more when less and less is received.”
- Henri Nouwen (Reaching Out)