Conflict and community are not mutually exclusive. Violence and community are mutually exclusive.
Rachel Simons is a member of a Word Made Flesh team serving God by working with children in Moldova. In her May 2102 newsletter, she suggests that conflict is in fact “a starting point for community, rather than the ingredient that destroys it,” quoting an excerpt from a blog written by psychologist, Kelly Flanagan:
I think we assume communities are comprised of like-minded people, so we believe in order to preserve community — a marriage, a friendship, a collegiality, a church — we must be like putty, changing our beliefs to match the beliefs of others, or conversely, convincing everyone to believe what we believe. But perhaps an authentic community is a group of people with a vast array of opinions and differences that range from semantics to fundamental incompatibilities in worldview. Yet they are a people commmited to living in the tension, refusing the tempation to do violence to the other’s philosophy or worldview. They have decided they will value people and the stories those people are telling, above feeling perfectly at ease, or right, or validated.
We need to hear such words in a world where we so easily divide into camps and where hostility has become the norm in any kind of dialogue between camps. We must choose another way. We must live another way.
We live with each other, refusing to do violence to each other. We choose to value people, to value each other’s stories, not at the expense of our own stories, but alongside our own stories. We are validated not by common consent, but by Christ. Christ brings us together. Christ holds us together. Nothing else. Nothing else can!