Unity in Diversity

In my previous post I used the phrase “unity in diversity”.  I have personally experienced the bond of Christian brotherhood with believers from traditions very different from my own, and that is a wonderful experience.  However, this kind of Christian unity is far from the norm in the history of the church.

The most notable conflicts would be those that arose in the reformation period, between Catholics and Protestants.  These conflicts often went way beyond disagreement and argument.  Believers on both sides were put in jail, tortured and killed – all in the name of Christ.  The situation was particularly bad as Calvanism (Protestantism) spread into France.  Fierce religious wars broke out there.  Protestants destroyed Catholic churches and smashed images and crucifixes.  Some even wore strings of priests’ ears.  Catholics were responsible for the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew in which many Calvinists lost their lives at the hands of their neighbors.

During the 16th and 17th centuries the emerging Protestant denominations didn’t get along well with each other either.  The Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregational, Baptist, and Quaker churches were often in conflict.  Some of that enmity carried over into the American colonies as various groups sought to escape religious persecution by coming to the New World.

Conflict between various Christian groups continues today.  There is less bloodshed – at least in America – but there is still a significant degree of anger and hurtful argument.  It seems that a common attitude is “If you don’t worship the way I do, and hold to the same detailed doctrines that I do, and even hold the same political views that I have, then you are WRONG and unworthy of my fellowship”.

I sometimes consider the “isms” and schisms of today’s Christianity and think that this can’t possibly be what Jesus had in mind when He told Peter he was going to build His church.  I think Jesus envisioned unity in diversity.