Wednesday, March 21, 2012


There are certain things that cannot be engineered. Like a tomato plant; they can be nourished, but they cannot be built from scratch. You get a tomato by gardening – not by inventing a tomato.

You cannot create community. Community happens when people experience something together. What makes for a strong community is a group of people having gone through something in which they come to know and admire (or tolerate) each other. Artificially constructed communities tend not to be as strong because they based on exchanges of information or getting to know each other alone. Communities springing up from a common cause are based on building something together in which they came to know and appreciate one another. This caused one pastor who was trying to build up his community to say that he wished he could burn down his church so they could come together in the building of a new one. “We did this together” goes further than the lone, “We know each other.”

You cannot create diversity. Diversity can be nourished but it cannot be artificially mandated. Diversity means I do my thing in my house and you do your thing in your house and we don’t shoot each other over the fence. Once diversity is mandated it is no longer diversity but a unified and codified way of living. Now everyone must enjoy or tolerate everyone and regional music, art, customs, architecture, etc. disappear leading us away from diversity to a new unified nationalism.

You cannot create tolerance. Once tolerance is mandated it is no longer tolerance but conformity. There are certain things total tolerance will not tolerate. Tolerance can be nourished but in cannot be forced – because then it is not tolerance.

For each of these things to be what they really are they must first of all be free – a free choice for those who wish to live them. Interestingly enough for them truly to exist there must also be an element or at least room for their opposite. If you want community there must be some who are not part of the community. If you want diversity, there must be room for those who step away and cultivate a culture that it out of step. If you want true tolerance, there must be room for those who disagree – or else you do not have tolerance.

Sometimes I think the more we strive for these things (the way we are) the further from community, diversity, and tolerance we get. It is becoming a less free, more mandated (or politically correct) more restrictive and narrow choice. It is like receiving an invitation for a wedding with the instruction of what kind of gift to give the bride and groom. At that point it is no longer an expression of your love and joy but a tax – hardly what a present is supposed to be though it be in pretty paper with a ribbon around it.

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