Reconciliation – Toward a Shared Narrative

How do we fully include ALL God’s children in our community of people seeking to grow in love of God and love of neighbor?

YES! magazine recently featured an interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Rev. Mpho Tutu.  The focus, of which, was the recent explosion of tension in our country over persistent racial inequities between blacks and whites.Who else would you go to seeking wisdom about race and reconciliation?

I’ve been thinking a lot about reconciliation not only in relationships between police and young black men, but also how important it is in building a community that is diverse ethnically, economically, generationally, and with people of various sexual orientations and sexual identities.  What I am reminded consistently is that in our community of multi-ness, we also have differences of opinions on pretty much everything. The interview with Desmond Tutu and Mph Tutu offered an insight that struck me as deeply truthful.

The YES! interviewer had raised a question about the importance of coming to a common understanding of history when considering the foundations of reconciliation. According to the interviewer, for South Africa and North America with histories of slavery and Aparteid, some semblance of common understanding might put diverse people on a similar path leading to reconciliation.  Rev. Mpho Tutu’s response was illuminating. “It is more important to have a shared narrative than a common understanding.”

Shared narrative sprouts from the garden of “there are always two sides to every story.”  You can argue with me over our opinions. You can disagree with my ideology, my research or my biblical scholarship. But you can’t argue with my experience. I can’t argue with you about your experience. Our stories stand complete in themselves, simply to be received and honored. If we are to reconcile our task is first and foremost to simply receive one another and make room for the other’s story. Shared narrative is about creating space. Together, our shared narrative creates a new community story.

I have many friends. A few are gay. A few are  in lesbian relationships. One is transgender. A couple are bi-sexual. I have many experiences that form the foundation of my opinions on this and most other subjects. (And I have opinions on most everything – You probably knew that!) One early experience was with my dad. I grew up with the best parents ever! My mom and dad, both gone from this life, were politically and socially conservative. (I’m really not sure how in the world they were able to raise 4 flaming liberals.) They attended a small Episcopal Church in Idaho where they lived for a while. There were two women in this small congregation who were in a long-time love relationship. Stirring the pot as I sometimes do I asked my dad one time how he felt about these women in his congregation. His response was predictable and had something to do with keeping their sexuality to themselves. But then my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Mom was a powerful and brave woman and fought a good fight. During this period the two women from their congregation cared for my mom in her decline and cared for my dad in his struggle. They were a powerful witness of faith. This is my experience/story. This is one of the many experiences that have shaped who I am and how I relate to the world around me.

Not everyone has that experience. Others may have significant discomfort with relationships that are different than theirs. Some may have experienced hurt, or even abuse. Others may have experienced family breakups because a family member came out as gay or lesbian. We all have stories that shape ourselves, our opinions, theology, and ideology.

Shared narrative, in relationships in community, is about making room for the story/experience of others. If we can set aside judgment, differences of opinions, biblical scholarship, and simply  honor each other as complete human beings, we might just be able to find reconciliation.

“Ubuntu” is a South African word that speaks about how we need each other. God, quite deliberately, has made us beings that are incomplete without the other. No one is self-sufficient.” Desmond Tutu

Peace – Bill