Reconciliation: Theory or Practice?

Date: June 4, 2012
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Reconciliation matters in the context of this blog, because even though the majority of farmers in the United States are of European descent the majority of the world’s farmers are people of color. In addition, we might need to consider what else besides racial injustice is involved in reconciliation. There are also gender, sexual orientation and economic relationships that are broken and in need of reconciliation. Reconciliation in Christ concerns the kosmos, or whole world (2 Cor 5:19) and ultimately involves the redemption of creation including non-human animals (Ro 8:19-23).

Our little community has spent some time recently wrestling with reconciliation and how to deal with conflict. We began by looking at some of the principles of Non-Violent Communication pioneered by Marshall Rosenberg which I can’t recommend enough (but won’t cover here). We’ve also been using some resources from John Paul Lederach to talk about what reconciliation means. I have been wrestling in particular with what these things mean, not in theory, but in the every day practice of our community. As an introduction to this topic which will certainly take several posts, let me give you some of the context of our community.

History and Context
You can read some more background about our community here. I will be primarily concerned with our efforts to be bi-lingual and multi-cultural. Our community is diverse in terms of language, ethincity, socioeconomics and education. We also have a mixture of married couples, young families, singles and older members. We are not as diverse as other communities of which I am aware, but the diversity we do have presents more than enough challenges for us.

For example, we made a conscious decision to be bi-lingual. This means that we often translate during worship, sing songs in both Spanish and English and have a mix of monolinguals (both Spanish and English) and multi-lingual people of varying backgrounds. We have been successful to varying degrees over the years at being bi-lingual. There are those that have formed close relationships across ethnic, socioeconomic and linguistic barriers. Others have pointed out where we have failed. Some within our community have even suggested that we shouldn’t call ourselves bi-lingual, because it was more something we said and believed in theory than really practiced.

The important thing to realize is that these things are all interwoven and interconnected. In our community language is also tied up with ethnicity and socioeconomics and everyone does not fit into neat categories. One Latino in our community has a PhD. So, in many ways he fits with the other Latinos in our community, but he is more educated than many of the Anglos, myself included. Many of the native Spanish speakers in our community came from Mexico, but others came from Peru or Cuba. We have some Latinos that speak very little English and others who don’t speak much Spanish. We have both documented and undocumented immigrants.

Our community continues to be predominantly Anglo like our culture (though that is certainly changing). Among Anglos there are also monolinguals and bi-linguals. Some Anglo Spanish speakers learned Spanish at a very young age as a child of missionaries and consider it their heart language. Others have worked in various countries in Latin America and learned it there. Others studied Spanish at the graduate level and now teach it. Others learned it in school and use it in the work they do in our community.

Reconciliation in our community is not theoretical. There are real relationships that have been and continue to be broken over issues related to language, racism, power, culture, etc. These are people I know and love. I wanted to first give you some sense of the context in which these conversations have been happening among us. We continue to experience division and brokenness in our relationships, particularly across the language and ethnic barriers.

The question, I hope to explore here and in our community is why these divisions persist among us and how we can embody reconciliation in our life together.

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