Schism -- a split or division between strongly opposed sections or parties, caused by differences in opinion or belief.
Binding -- the action of fastening or holding together.
Before I sat in meeting this Sunday I took the time to prepare my mind with a query: "What, Great Sprit, would you have me look at today?"
For a long time the burning question of how to deal with schisms, splits and differences of opinion has been on my mind; especially inside of the very intimate relationships we hold dear. Siblings. Married couples. Old friends. Dealing with this question is at the very root of peace in our lives but also central to how we generate peace in the world.
We see schisms and splits all around us these days. They seem very deep, but hopefully these chasms will never again be as wide as they once were when the country came to civil war. And no institution seems to be immune from schisms. Not politics. Not families. Not friends. Not even Quakers.
One one occasion a very volatile Quaker, Elias Hicks even went so far as to call for the murder of an Orthodox Quaker who refused to acknowledge that the Bible might not be the only source of truth. A split over what has become the idea of continuing revelation.
Two people I know are dealing with big splits in their family life. People are hurt and no one is talking. Being vulnerable seems very dangerous. The wounds are still open and raw. No one wants salt rubbed in them.
So how do we come together?
One way is to simply suspend knowing. I am reminded of that quote by Mark Twain: “It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”
How many times have we been absolutely certain of something only later to discover we had it all wrong. We jumped to judgment. We misunderstood the facts. We made assumptions that turned out to be wrong.
One thing I've always appreciated about Quaker process is waiting. It wasn't always that way. I can recall in my first clearness committee there were long and uncomfortable silences where someone said something or listened to something I'd said and really just allowed it to sink in -- choosing instead to hold it instead of reacting to it. That's a good thing, I think.
Which brings up the idea of binding. In the old days, when a person was injured they'd "bind up the wound" so that it would "knit itself back together." In listening without talking. In hearing without judging we might find ways of binding what has been rent apart.
As I listen to the impeachment trial now going on in the US Senate, I can hear many un-listened to complaints that have now become a pus filled boil. We must start the work of healing and step back from the precipice we are upon. The words of Lincoln's second inaugural address come to mind: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
There is work to be done. Let us get to it.
Queries on Schisms and Binding:
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