Imagine yourself at a table with others. (I’m not talking about dinner.) Who is at the table? Now here’s the big question: Is your normal time at table with others a time when you are with folks just like yourself or are you often with others who are quite unlike you? I’ve got an idea and I’d like your feedback about the “circle of the same”.
I’m not thinking here about dinner or lunch, but about your discussion and conversation partners — those with whom we find ourselves in dialogue. To be sure, there are things that work against the “circle of diversity.” Some people are hard to converse with because they insist on arguing about everything, or because they seem to dominate each conversation. Sometimes we have to excuse ourselves or excuse others. But, I think it is good to sit at table with folks who are unlike us. (One of the privileges of being a professor is spending about 75% of my time reading those with whom I differ.)
But, let’s turn to the circle of the same.
What happens when we sit at table all the time with those who are just like us? What happens when we are at church, at breakfast and lunch, in committees and at work with folks just like us? Christians and social justice workers and business folks each have this tendency — it is natural and easy for this to happen. But what happens to us when we spend all our time with the same kinds of people? I’ve got a few suggestions for those of us who find ourselves in the “circle of the same.” What do you observe about what happens if we are always in the circle of the same?
1. It creates a situation where an ideology — political or theological or social — rules instead of one in which the gospel rules, the gospel that routinely reminds us that we don’t have it right yet.
2. The circle of the same builds, reinforces, and thickens walls between people instead of building bridges between peoples.
3. The circle of the same tends to lead us to spend our time thinking about the past and how to preserve it instead of pondering the present-future and how we can change it.
4. The circle of the same leads to fights with one another. Why? Because we fight to maintain our own identity with those who are most like us and with whom we barely differ. This leads us to magnify our minor differences … all this instead of fighting the real enemies of this world.