“World unity is the wish of the hopeful, the goal of the idealist and the dream of the romantic. Yet it is folly to the realist and a lie to the innocent.”
– Don Williams, Jr.
Last week, I wrote about how when we push for diversity, we end up erasing it. I believe a similar thing occurs when we speak of unity. Even as we talk about our desire for unity, we divide ourselves.
Historically, just about every nation has experienced racial and cultural divides. Often, these have turned into bloody affairs with injustices and atrocities committed by those in power on both sides.
In the United States today, we claim that we want racial unity, however the evidence shows otherwise. Are you a Mexican-American? An African-American? Italian-American? Irish-American?
If different ethnic groups wanted unity, then they wouldn’t label themselves by their race or nationality. In doing so, they automatically segregate themselves from the rest of society, creating an “us” versus “them” mentality.
We see this in religion as well. As a church we want unity… kind of. One of my all-time favorite jokes was told by the comedian Emo Philips:
“Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!”
He said, “Nobody loves me.”
I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”
He said, “Yes.”
I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?”
He said, “A Christian.”
I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?”
He said, “Protestant.”
I said, “Me, too! What franchise?”
He said, “Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”
I said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”
I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.”
I believe the problem comes from our inability to define who we are as individuals. We are desperate to find some meaningful way by which we can be identified. Somehow, we have to matter because in our hearts, we need to matter. So, we pick something about ourselves, and cling to it for dear life.
We then surround ourselves with people who identify themselves as we do, thereby validating our choice in selecting what it is that makes us important. If we lose that one thing – our religion, our nationality, our skin color… our favorite team, for that matter – we lose our identity, and with it, our value.
It’s seems that we want unity, but only within our own separate little groups.