Posted by: edsohn | July 10, 2008

Everything’s Not Supposed To Be Okay

Recently, I’ve been confronted with a lot of discussion regarding the cultural tensions between the first- and second-generation Korean-American ways of doing church.  I’m not sure if this is inherently an Asian value, but it seems like cultural clashes are approached with a perspective to “repair” things, to “work together” and reconcile differences.

Jadanzzy has been on a big Peter Rollins kick, who promotes ideas of wrestling with Scripture and letting things be in tension.  Rollins condemns the idolatry of nailing down concepts and notes that God is and should continue to be described with infinitely varying descriptions.  This is the very nature of truth sometimes, and the heart of the post-modern shift in the way people think about God and the church.  As I consider Rollins-styled postmodern Christian thought, as well as the influences of John Franke on my ecclesiological viewpoint, I come to the unspectacular conclusion that unity in diversity will inevitably give rise to tension.

So what does this all mean?  I think that it may mean that when we set goals for reconciliation across culturally clashing lines, the end results we imagine might include tension in no small amount.  It seems counter-intuitive, as a prominent value growing up has been problem-solving, but solutions may include dynamics that do not look clean and smooth.  In the Korean-American church, for instance, the second generation ministries have encountered substantial resistance largely due to the cultural domination of the first generation Korean immigrants.  This has resulted in a paralysis, a bondage of the second generation ministries.  Total autonomy may not be the answer, but neither is the imposition of one culture over the other.  It may be that a “healthy” second generation immigrant ministry has a relationship where both sides acknowledge cultural tension and agree that it need not be cleaned up or resolved in every circumstance.

This might also apply to how we are with our parents, how we manage people in the workplace, and our dating relationships.  We’ve said many times, and even been comforted by hearing it from others, that “everything’s going to be okay”.

Maybe everything’s not always supposed to be okay, and maybe that’s really what IS okay.

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Responses

  1. Very interesting conclusion. I’m just wondering what could happen to this idea if gotten into the wrong hands. Couldn’t it lead to 1. laziness; 2. apathy; 3. despair; 4. acceptance of tension to the point where wrongs are not rightfully righted?

    I think you’re right to say that a superficial peace is never the answer, and that, in fact, it is through tension that real issues are brought up… but I think always striving towards a higher level of reconciliation, understanding and peace–between generations, the sexes, cultural groups, etc.–is always the goal, and even the smallest amount of tension, felt by any one person, should be resolved.

  2. I see a slightly different perspective here. Rather than problem-solve with the concession that there will always be tension, or the effort to put out any flames of tension that can arise, the 1st generation and 2nd generation churches need to understand that they serve the same God and thus live for the same purpose.

    If the 1st generation church cannot step outside of its own cultural agendas and stigmas to let God move in the way God sees fit for the 2nd generation, then the 1st generation is sinning. If the 2nd generation cannot see that God will continue to work in the way God has in the 1st generation, then the 2nd generation church is sinning.

    Rather than having to force reconciliation, or concede to tension, I believe a higher–albeit more difficult–goal would be to see the beauty in each other’s unique expression. We always fail before God.

    And this is coming from this-or-that me.

  3. I think I was imprecise with my words and definitely didn’t offer a balanced, qualified view (I’m trying to just write more concisely).

    1. Where there are clashes that can be resolved, yes, of course we should. Living with tension also does not mean that tension should be ignored. But I think my point is that there are many clashes that cannot be resolved. In my opinion, sometimes our focus should not be in “resolving” the tensions in the first place, because they are not clashes of right versus wrong but rather culture versus culture or perspective versus perspective. The tensions themselves are a sign of co-existing diversity, so we ought not be afraid of tension or seek to rid ourselves of it.

    2. When we explore the history of theology, we see that the battles have been extremely fierce between different schools of thought. REALLY fierce. I mean, we’re talking burning-at-the-stake and wage-violent-wars fierce. Such ferocity has arisen simply because one school of thought, in its very existence, stands at odds with ultimate truths with another school of thought.

    How can we reconcile these types of conflicts? This is not a matter of just interpreting things better or figuring it out so that the differences can be explained, packaged and communicated better (doctrines have been explained, packaged, and communicated ad nauseum). This is a matter of convincing both sides that the other side’s existence is a tension they have to live with. I really feel like the answer isn’t, “We can resolve all of the differences that cause you to feel that tension”, but rather, “Listen, things are going to be at odds when differing perspectives clash sides.. live with it, don’t kill people over it”

    3. John Piper (a hardcore credobaptist) once said that if any pedobaptists comes to his church, he’ll do his darndest to convince them that they are wrong and he is right. But he also said that he would never have wanted A.W. Tozer (a pedobaptist) to NOT worship at his church because of their doctrinal differences. He does not put those differences aside or compromise his belief even one whit, but he would have welcomed him as a brother in Christ. I find this to be a refreshing approach that looks to the interest of unity in diversity.

    4. Unity in diversity is not unity in uniformity, nor is it even unity where there happen to be similar intersections, but unity in total diversity means that sometimes, the diverse views will be at total odds with each other and therefore create a natural tension.

    If we can learn to LIVE with and EXPECT tension, not constantly be focused on resolving or alleviating it, I think our unity will be more authentic and instincts of confrontation or rejection will be muted.


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