Despite Jesus' prayer that all Christians "be one," divisions have been epidemic in the body of Christ from the beginning to the present. We cluster in theological groups, gender groups, age groups, ethnic groups, educational and economic groups. We criticize freely those who disagree with us, don't look like us, don't act like us and don't even like what we like. Though we may think we know why this happens, Christena Cleveland says we probably don't. In this eye-opening book, learn the hidden reasons behind conflict and divisions.
Learn: Why I think all my friends are unique but those in other groups are all the same Why little differences often become big sources of conflict Why categorizing others is often automatic and helpful but can also have sinister side effects Why we are so often victims of groupthink and how we can avoid it Why women think men are judging them more negatively than men actually are, and vice versa Why choices of language can actually affect unity
With a personal touch and the trained eye of a social psychologist, Cleveland brings to bear the latest studies and research on the unseen dynamics at work that tend to separate us from others. Learn why Christians who have a heart for unity have such a hard time actually uniting. The author provides real insight for ministry leaders who have attempted to build bridges across boundaries. Here are the tools we need to understand how we can overcome the hidden forces that divide us.
Christena Cleveland is a social psychologist with a hopeful passion for reconciling across cultural divisions. She is the first Associate Professor of the Practice of Reconciliation at Duke University’s Divinity School where she is also the faculty director of Duke’s Center for Reconciliation. Christena earned a B.A. from Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Her scholarly work includes integrating social psychological perspectives on intergroup and intercultural processes with current reconciliation dilemmas within the Christian church and the broader society. Her research examines how culture influences theological/ideological approaches to peacemaking and reconciliation; how social processes, such as identity and self-esteem, impede a group’s ability to reconcile with culturally-different groups; and how individual factors (e.g., professed theologies/ideologies) interact with social factors (e.g., the status of one’s social group) to allow certain individuals or groups to dominate others.
Christena has published her work in scholarly journals – such as Small Group Research for which she received a 2011 Best Article award – as well as magazines – such as Christianity Today, which named her as one of 33 millennials leading the next generation of Christian faith.
In her book, Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart (Intervarsity Press, 2013), she examines and offers research-based strategies to overcome the nonconscious cognitive, emotional, and identity processes that pull Christians into homogeneous groups, fuel inaccurate perceptions of culturally-different others, contribute to an “Us vs. Them” mentality, stimulate intergroup prejudice and hostility, and ultimately inhibit reconciliation. The book received a 2013 Leadership Journal Book Award. Christena is currently researching and writing The Priesthood of the Privileged, which investigates power and inequality in the church, and proposes methods for addressing and reducing this equality as a pathway to reconciliation.
A fifth generation minister, Christena comes from a long tradition of leadership in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) denomination, ranging from bishops to pastors to laypeople. She currently ministers in various ecumenical settings.
Christena is a lifelong Oakland A’s fan and holds a quality cup of tea in high regard. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.
This should be required reading. The trick is to focus on the ways YOU contribute to disunity in the church, instead of coming up with a list of other people who really should read it. We're all guilty of othering but we don't have to stay there. Cleveland offers personal stories, research, and well-reasoned theology to back up her points. She lovingly urges us to remove our blinders and become part of the solution to the division and vitriol that seems to be growing worse each year.
I was all set to hear about why "those" people or institutions don't get it, and what's wrong with them. After all, I've been reading about this stuff since college, so I didn't figure that would be anything new here. I was wrong. I was disarmed from page one, realizing that I am as guilty of "us/them" thinking as anyone, and this message is for me. With a combination of personal story-telling and academic research, Dr. Cleveland communicates in a spirit of humility and grace, while be unapologetically an expert in her field of social psychology. And most importantly, she offers hope for real change.
Writing from the perspective of the social psychologist, who also happens to be a woman and person of color, Christena Cleveland, addresses the problem of disunity within the body of Christ. While most ecumenical conversations focus on doctrine and polity, seeking to find pathways to unity amongst our diversity of church practices and theologies, Cleveland focuses on cultural and ethnic diversity and the dangers of homogeneity.
It is a very good book, raising important questions and suggesting ways in which the gap can be bridged. Most of the suggested solutions focus on building relationships and common identities that bridge our diversity. She does, however, rightfully dispel the idea that "color-blindness" is the answer. Color-blindness rather than helping build bridges by eliminating cultural and ethnic differences fosters them by ignoring or missing those places where privilege suppresses minorities in the name of unity. Being more open and frank about our cultural differences can provide the opportunity to forge a common identity that includes those differences.
Writing as an evangelical Christian, Cleveland suggests that the key is to forge a common identity in Christ. We are, one body in Christ.
One concern or question that I find it necessary to raise is this: at what point do we find it too difficult to forge a common identity in one local body? I raise this question because I find that there are conservative Christian communities that are very diverse ethnically, but very narrow theologically. At the same time, I would say that a majority of liberal Protestant churches that allow for a wide diversity in theological and political views tend to be fairly homogeneous. I continue to wonder why this is -- and it's not a question that Cleveland raises in her book. Indeed, she skirts theology for the most part. That's understandable since she writes as a psychologist and not as a theologian, but it is a question that we need to pursue.
I found this book a mixed bag. On one hand, it presents many fascinating and thought-provoking arguments on our propensity, as humans, to band together with people who are like us and exclude those who aren't like us, prejudiced against everything about them often simply because of their skin colour, beliefs, cultural background, or the simple fact that they disagree with us. While this was presented with a great deal of evidence and in a convincing manner, I found that the case was almost overstated. I wish the author had spent a little less time establishing it and more on explaining how to overcome this tendency. However, it's still a worthwhile and eye-opening read.
Relevant and needed. If 10% of church leaders read this book, the church would look and act differently. This book is interesting, practical, challenging and funny. At first I wished the book was more theological, but then I realised that perhaps many of our "theological" differences that prevent unity with other Christians and churches are really shallow cover ups for the social psychological reasons that lie beneath. Very insightful cross-cultural helps that will aid reconciliation efforts for those willing to try. Furthermore, Cleveland practices what she preaches. Can you think of any other book that has endorsements from such varied Christians as Greg Boyd, Thabiti M. Anyabwile (of the Gospel Coalition), Sojourners and Rachel Held Evans?!
Really great book! I appreciated the way Christena unpacked this as a social psychologist. When we find our identity in Christ, our other identities are right-sized in comparison. I've heard this for the individual Christian, but it is powerful to realize *our* identity as the Church is found in Christ.
This may be the single most accessible book dealing with racial issues affecting the church that I have ever read. It is based in solid research by an expert author who knows her field but knows how to communicate with those who don’t. It is written in such an humble, approachable style that anyone can appreciate it. This would make a great book for leadership groups, reconciliation groups, or general classes for churches and organizations who want to grow in cross-cultural skills and practice. I’m very grateful to have found this resource. I will be recommending it widely and keeping copies around to give away.
It took me forever to finish this book because of the challenging truths it contais. As the liberal Christian I consider myself to be this read challenged me from page one. Even tough I don’t agree with everything the author says, because some opinions are harmful like in one she speaks about immigration and how we should respect all sides of the argument without taking into account how harmful a mindset of “bring them to Jesus and deport them” can be. It seems to come from a place of privilege, since the opinions the others might have will not affect her. That is one of the few issues I had with it. I’ll leave with the most impactful quote for me: “Not only is Jesus serious about crossing boundaries to pursue us, but he’s also equally serious about our crossing boundaries to pursue others. He has shown us how to do it”
Cleveland weaves her areas of expertise of sociology and theology to look at the underlying issues of disunity and self segregation. She explains the natural tendency to create in-groups and out-groups and then appeals to the reader the reasons we have to fight against these tendencies. She gives practical ways to counter this tendency backed up by sociological research. She closes with the appeal to whomever is in the seat of power and privilege to expect to have to give something up (time, expense, power) if they truly want to see change. Cleveland writes in such a way that her research is easy to understand and her logical conclusions from that research are easy to follow, leaving us with the challenge to put it into practice.
Big picture, this is a really good book. I loved the examples from sociological research. There was plenty to put into practice.
Two complaints. One minor. One major.
Minor: The book was a bit repetitive. It boiled down to a few big ideas and could’ve been shorter.
Major: She does not explain where we should draw the line between groups. Because sometimes we must.
Cleveland’s goal is obviously to promote unity between diverse groups within the body of Christ. Her main idea is to see others as part of “we” rather than “they.” She gave lots of different examples of the cultural divisions that can be overcome this way, including ethnicity, age, gender, marital status, political viewpoints, etc. This was mostly great, but there were times when she included things in the greater “we” that I thought should be excluded.
The main example that came up several times was people who are pro-life and people who are pro-choice. I can understand trying to unite people across viewpoints that are both acceptable under the big umbrella of Christianity. But there are boundaries. A pro-choice person may be a member of the body of Christ (i.e. saved, belonging to God and God’s people), but that doesn’t mean there viewpoint needs to be affirmed as a valid Christian option. It isn’t just a cultural barrier when one person says, “That’s murder,” and another person says it is not. That’s a massive gap in moral understanding with grave consequences.
My main point is not about abortion here. That example just highlighted for me the question that I wish she had addressed. How do you know when you must draw lines between groups and/or exclude certain views/behaviors from being acceptable within a group? I’m not talking about being hostile or unkind towards people, but not everyone/everything fits in the “in group.” There is an “out group” somewhere. How do I know who they are?
The apostles seemed to make these kinds of distinctions between who was in and out of the community. I think we divide over too many things (and I am in enthusiastic agreement with Cleveland’s project). But I think some division protects the church. So, I want to know how to think through when that makes sense to do.
I must note that one of the weakness of this book is that it does not give enough attention to the reality of theological differences. Cleveland presents wonderful research about our blind spots as humans that create unnecessary division between Christians. She also mentions that she does not diminish the importance of theological differences, but the amount of pages that she devotes to addressing this issues speaks of the opposite. Although the insight into our flaws that keep us apart sounds wonderful I am left with the impression that Cleveland thinks that if only Christians in the past two centuries would have read this book, there would be no divisions. Divisions in the church are more complex than emotional and spiritual immaturity. Something that could have been helpful to do in a book like this is to present the top arguments that Christians present in separating from other Christians and then refuting them. Another path would be to talk about why theological differences are not significant reason for division.
This book. 🙌🏼 This was one I read and studied with a church small group last fall, which I think is the way it should be read. The discussions we had (as Black, white, Hispanic, male/female, varied age believers) were challenging and rich and catalytic. I’m so grateful for the way we were able to use this wise and thoughtful book as a launching point into really honest, sometimes hard, incredibly helpful and hopeful conversations.
I could quote you dozens and dozens of lines and passages, but instead, I’ll recommend you read it yourself (with others!!) if you’re a person of faith wondering how we do this work of reconciliation and rebuilding as a body of Christ.
This book starts of strong, but the back half is pretty weak. The limited interaction with Scripture is frustrating, as our unity in Christ is built directly out of Scripture and God’s character. Much of the diagnosis is helpful, and even convicting (especially the first chapter), but the author’s analysis of certain issues falls woefully short of what it could have been. Psychology can be a helpful tool in our Christian walk, but it can’t become a crutch. This book leans almost entirely on secular psychology rather than God’s own Words.
Some good information here, and it was a good jumping off point for discussion in our small group. But the author appears to be a better researcher than writer. Very repetitive, and a bit dry at times, but worth reading.
For those looking to build sociological literacy but have no idea where to search or are too intimidated by dense articles, go here; Cleveland curates well.
This is an audience-centered read, especially if the audience is new to formal learning on the sociological dynamics of contemporary Christian communities. For that audience, this is a thoroughly accessible and readable intro. It is accessible because it establishes a sociological foundation via basic vocabulary, categories, and studies. It is readable because it uses a clear and whimsically-edgy style for story-telling and statistics-citing alike. Even the repetition in latter chapters proves useful for readers that are just beginning to think sociologically.
I'm giving this 4.5 stars because it quite was a fantastic read. I want to meet Christena and be friends with her! Her book sheds light on the social, and sometimes clinical, reasons we separate ourselves from others that don't think like us. Because I'm all about psychology I truly appreciated the perspective she gave and her approach to this issue. I wish there'd been a bit more relating to faith and the church, but at the same time I think she addressed it so well that it worked in her favor.
That being said, I highly recommend this to anyone in the church - members, elders, bishops, pastors, youth leaders, etc., and everyone struggling to reconcile these issues that the church faces today.
Disarming, insightful, and immensely helpful. Cleveland pastors us through stages of potentially difficult self- and communal reflection about our overriding impulses to divide the body of Christ into "us" and "them." With compassion and directness she exposes our ecclesiology for what it is - not for what we want to believe it is. Her work as a social psychologist melds perfectly with the ecclesiological frame and sheds light on the ramifications of the way we treat one another. A great example of practical theology!
I found this to be a helpful, thought-provoking, convicting, and hopeful book. It took me a while to get used to the frequent references to different studies and experiments, but it grew on me and I appreciated the intersection she brings between social psychology and theology. It seems like even since she wrote this book, people are treating each other worse than ever. But I feel convicted to guard my language (both in “real life” and online) especially in regard to other believers, even if I perceive there to be big differences between us. These concepts feel really important for our current cultural climate!
3.5 stars. Removed half a star because it did feel a bit repetitive. This was a good, quick read and I did really enjoy it. It was fascinating reading about research from social psychology on how humans interact as group, why we tend to seek out community with people who are similar to us, and how this manifests in Christianity and how we view churches and other Christian’s with different viewpoints from us. There was definitely some good things to think on especially with all the divisiveness happening these days.
This is an important book that approaches the divides in the church from a psychological standpoint, showing just how prejudice and bias infect our congregations through seemingly benign actions. Dr. Cleveland's insights are a useful and unique addition to the conversation about diversity in the church. She has convicting words for people from both ends of the political and theological spectrum, and I appreciated the thoroughness and thoughtfulness with which she laid out the evidence.
This book gave me new categories for explaining ingroups and outgroups. I have often felt distant from "other" Christians and didn't recognize my own biases and tendencies to have a us/then distinction. Cleveland paints a hard but rewarding picture of what until will take and actually looks like. I hope I can begin to step outside my comfort zone and take her words to heart.
I didn't find out until I was almost done this book that Cleveland has "decolonized" (apostatized?) her faith since publishing this book. That surely changed how I read the ending. Her analysis of the psychological motivations that fuel division were very insightful, but I found her solutions to be self-defeating in most cases.
Insights: - The research about the superiority of diverse leadership teams to homogeneous ones was very compelling. - The research concerning the bidirectional effects of prejudice and separation was eye-opening! - Her description of the outgroup homogeneity effect was really helpful to give words to why "we" treat "them" with so little grace. - Her analysis of BIRGing (basking in reflected glory) and CORFing (cutting off reflected failure) gave sociological terminology to a very prevalent phenomenon in all social relationships.
Problems: Cleveland moves fluidly across a variety of divisions we see in the church (race, class, political affiliation, theological view). However, her analysis and application does not change when the topic changes. I found most problematic when she shifted to divisions over theology. She argues that we should not be dividing over beliefs, but pressing into our unity as the body of Christ. I find this self-defeating since the doctrine of the body of Christ IS a Christian doctrine that must be properly defined. She chastises for calling each other 'heretics' (I agree this term is often overused over minor doctrinal points), when we are part of the one body. And yet this term is a technical one designed to describe those who have departed from definitional Christian doctrine. Rather than pursuing doctrinal unity by more careful study of Scripture where we move closer to Christ and truth, and a firm understanding of the creeds and confessions where we can distinguish between primary, secondary, and tertiary doctrines, it seems that Cleveland would rather us call everyone "us" regardless of what the Lord has said through his Word.
Disunity in Christ is a must-read book for any Christian leader in today’s USA. Christena Cleveland shows, chapter after chapter, the ways we divide ourselves from each other and then presents solutions to these divisions. She has research, clinical studies, and great sources in each chapter. Once read, this book can also serve as a wonderful bibliography for further research. She quotes some of my favorite authors, Soong-Chan Rah, Scot McKnight, and Miroslav Volf all in the same chapter, so that’s also a plus. Cleveland teaches various psychological theories and ideas of exclusion and disunity. She does so with humor, relatability, and scripture. This book dips into academia in a very warm, welcoming, and easy to read way. I have never read a book both as studious and as easy to read. Cleveland is a master. Most of Dr. Cleveland’s solutions are variations on the same crucial theme: followers of Jesus need to develop a common identity rather than dividing over our lesser identities. We must see each other as members of the same family rather than as opposing smaller identities. Christians need not divide over ethnic, political, or even theological boundary lines, but rather, see each other as family members because of the reconciling work Jesus has done and because of the in dwelling Holy Spirit. I deeply appreciate and resonate with the work Cleveland has done here and am so grateful to put much of her teaching to practice in my community. A few quotes:
“Focusing on shared characteristics and taking the perspective of the other are small but powerful steps that will lead us toward unity.” 77
“When we categorize, not only do we draw a very clear line between those who are like us and those who are not like us, but we also tend to think that all of the people who are not like us are the same. It’s not just that they are all different from us; they are all different in the same way.” 51
“Rather than perceiving the body of Christ as one large group, we often perceive numerous distinct groups within the body of Christ... by focusing on smaller, distinct categories for church groups, we erect and fixate on divisions that are far less important than the larger, diverse group of members of the body of Christ.” 49
“If we want to know how to embody the household of God, we need look no further than to Jesus. While on earth, Jesus modeled this new reality by connecting with every type of person around— conservative theologians, liberal theologians, prostitutes, divorcees, children’s, politicians, people who party hard, military servicemen, women, lepers, ethnic minorities, celebrities and so forth— and inviting them to be part of his group and to work together to bring wholeness to their cracked and crumbling world.” 37
“Jesus pursues is despite theological differences, his theology is more comprehensive and accurate than any of ours. He also pursued us despite cultural differences; he’s holy, we’re sinful— that’s a pretty significant ‘cultural’ difference. Finally, the incarnation is evidence that he pursues us despite physical differences. His actions and words suggest that he is serious about our connecting, in spite of physical, cultural, and theological differences.” 36
“To the extend that I accept the work of the cross as my invitation to participate in the self-giving intimacy of the Trinity, I must be prepared to embrace self-giving intimacy with the ‘other.’ To partake in the sacrificial love with all others, not just the ones who are part of my homogenous Christian group.” 35
On group polarization, “In the absence of diverse influences, homogenous group members tend to adopt more extreme and narrow-minded thinking as time passes.” 27
“People can meet God within their cultural context but in order to follow God, they must cross into other cultures because that’s what Jesus did in the incarnation and on the cross. Discipleship is cross-cultural.” 21
“Rather than using his power to distance himself from us, Jesus uses it to approach us. ” 16
“Jesus doesn’t distance himself from me even though, let’s face it, I’m not always good for PR. I can do the same for other Christians.” 17
On social identity theory, “when it comes to group membership, we do four things to maintain positive self-esteem: (1) we tend to gravitate toward and form groups with similar others; (2) once the group is formed we engage in group-serving biases that defend the group’s positive identity; (3) we try to increase our status by associating with higher-status groups and distancing ourselves from lower-status groups; and (4) if all else fails we literally disparage other groups because in doing so, we elevate our own group.” 84-85
“I think that this picture of a healthy marriage is a great model of how the body of Christ should work. Theoretically, married people can’t quit a marriage. In the same way, theoretically, Christians can’t quit the body of Christ. Our commitment to the other members of the body of Christ should grump our desire to CORF (cut off reflected failure) when the going gets tough and it would be better for our self-esteem if we just walked away— like when we disagree on an important issue or when the other group’s heart isn’t in the right place and they hurt us, or when the other group speaks a different language. Our submission to God, irrevocable commitment to each other, and interdependence should hold us together when we want to distance ourselves from Christians who fail to live us to our gold standards or who complicate our lives.” 95
“We need to adopt the belief that to be a follower of Christ means to care deeply about and pursue other followers of Christ, including the ones that we don’t instinctively value or like. We need to adopt the belief that to be a follower of Christmeans to allow our identity as members of the body of Christ to trump all other identities. We need to adopt the belief that to be a follower of Chris means to put our commitment to the body of Christ above our own identity and self-esteem needs. We’ve coped with our divisions long enough. It’s time for us to discover our true identities as members of the family of God. It’s time for us to rally around this identity, overcome our divisions, and change the world. In sum, it’s time for us to change the way we see ourselves.” 97-98
“When my identity is rooted in the right place, I’m able to listen to opposing viewpoints as a member of the body of Christ: with humility, with an eagerness to learn from a different point of view, with a desire to connect across cultural lines, with confidence in my identity and without fear.” 115
“Within the context of the larger body of Christ, when we interact with fellow Christians who possess a different cultural viewpoint or tradition, we are often interacting with what we perceive to be black sheep. Due to the gold standard effect, we believe that our culturally influenced beliefs and practices are the best ones and that our cultural group should be the standard against which all other cultural groups should be measured. As a result of this thinking, anyone who disagrees with us is perceived as someone who is failing to live up to the cultural group’s standards— a black sheep. The mere existence of these so-called black sheep threatens to blur what we perceive to be the important beliefs and practices that differentiate Christians from everyone else. Rather than remaining cognitively open to our culturally different fellow followers of Christ who might offer a much-needed perspective, we dig out heels in and seek cognitive closure. In doing so, we tell ourselves that these people are black sheep who deserve the black sheep treatment— and we are happy to oblige by calling them heretics.” 131
“As we begin to change the way we see ourselves— through adopting more inclusive language, doing self-affirmation exercises that remind us of common membership in the body of Christ, and overriding the effects of natural categorizing— we will begin to see that they are part of us. Once they become us, they will no longer be threatening... we will be able to set aside our fear of ambiguity, relax our competitive stance, and adopt a promotion orientation that enables us to lean in to hear from a culturally different viewpoint, rather than recoil in fear.” 136-137
“Without (crosscultural) contact, our errors continue to go unchallenged and often begin to take on lives of their own. As a bonus, contact reduces the anxiety that people might have about interacting with other groups... cross cultural contact works it’s magic by (1) requiring people to see different group members as individuals, rather than nameless, faceless members of a cultural group, and (2) creating a context in which the two different groups are encouraged to form a common identity... individuals who engage in cross-cultural contact are much more likely to see members of different cultural groups in accurate, cognitively generous ways and to expand their category of us to include those whom they used to consider outgroup members.” 154-55
“I will lose my will to stay in the fight if I lose sight of the painful cost that Christ endured in order to reconcile himself to me. I will lose my will to stay in the fight if I lose sight of the face that even the most seemingly ineffective reconciliation work lives on in the power of the resurrection and will one day have its intended impact. If our work is not rooted in the power of the cross, we will inevitably quit.” 156-157
“Four elements are needed for positive cross-cultural interaction: (1) working toward a larger goal, (2) creating equal status, (3) engaging in personal interaction and (4) providing leadership.” 158
“When we enter crosscultural situations with the belief that our cultural group is holding one piece to the puzzle, we can confidently make our own contribution while also looking for and valuing the contributions that other groups make, and as a result, the barriers between us and them begin to fall down.” 162
“Before two groups can enjoy renewed, healthy friendship, past wrongs must be made right through repentance, forgiveness, and the return of stolen commodities (such as power, land, status, money). This might be the most difficult element to successfully pull off because it requires that both groups (especially the higher-status group) recognize any power or status differences that exist between them, repent for them and make a unified, concerted effort to erase them in the context of the crosscultural situation and beyond.” 166
“Mattering and marginality cost on opposite ends of a continuum, such that the more an individual feels like she matters and is empowered, the less she feels marginalized and disempowered, and vice versa.” 168
I feel like this is a must-read for anyone who wants to engage in reconciliation work. Love the way Cleveland combines sociology, theology, and personal stories to lay out clear, simple but challenging steps to work toward unity. I also just found the studies she discussed fascinating.
"Jesus talked sheep to shepherds, fish to fishermen, and bookish theology to bookish theologians. He was all things to all people. I think that our differences enable us to speak richly and directly to the hearts of all types of people...We often fail to make a distinction between evangelism and discipleship. People can MEET God within their cultural context but in order to FOLLOW God, they must cross into other cultures because that's what Jesus did in the incarnation and on the cross. Discipleship is crosscultural" (p. 20-21).
"We must relentlessly attack inaccurate perceptions in everyday interactions, weekly sermons, denominational meetings and dinner table conversations...We need to turn off autopilot and take time to honestly examine our polluted perceptions...We must take active steps to expand our category of 'us' so that 'they' are now included in 'us'" (p. 61-62).
"Everyone wants diversity, but no one wants to actually be diverse...Churches and Christian organizations want participants from diverse cultures but are too obsessed with their own culture to allow diverse people to influence it. Rather, they require diverse people to assimilate and bow down to the dominant culture" (p. 184).
In times of broad church conflict, returning to Jesus' command to love one another seems right. I've been dwelling on what holds us together. That and Paul's frequent, overflowing descriptions of the unity of the body.
A friend recommended Christena Cleveland's Disunity in Christ to help me think through what drives us to break that unity. I'm glad I read it, and I walk away with my understanding of group identity dynamics confirmed and even strengthened.
Cleveland opens DIC with a cleverly written chapter. Unfortunately the quality of writing declines in the middle of the book. DIC references many social psychology studies (with the strangest endnote citation format I've ever encountered!). These kind of studies make clever writing difficult, and Cleveland's writing in these chs reflects this challenge. It's readable and understandable, but not delightful.
The very best part of DIC is the penultimate ch. Building on all of the social psychology of the chs 2-8, Cleveland offers strategic how-to instruction for overcoming the forces that drive us apart. The book is worth the read if only for ch 9.
A useful book I'll page through again in coming days.
This isn't nearly as negative as the title implies. In fact it is quite a positive and wonderful little book which will make you laugh out loud at times and cringe at others when you see yourself having made some of the typical mistakes we employ to exclude and put down others. The author is very easy to read and hard to put down. She applies some of the latest sociological research to explaining the factors that separate us and provides hopeful steps forward in changing that dynamic. A must read. I enjoyed having our new employees read and discuss it. In addition it is a pocket book of cross-cultural and emotional IQ lessons as well. Very good discussion questions at the end of each chapter along with clear and humble examples.
Probably the most important book I've read this year. Especially as a Christian blogger, this was an absolutely vital reminder loaded with brilliant insight from the world of social psychology. Christians have divided excessively and often look down on each other as inferior and maybe not really Christians at all. Cleveland goes through a variety of psychological factors which contribute to this divisiveness. Most importantly, she offers concrete advice - backed by research - on how to best overcome these obstacles so we can be the united body of Christ that God wants.