Conversations about diversity, inclusion, and group dynamics require group members to come to a shared understanding of what community does and doesn’t mean.
Religious groups that have in-built doctrine or philosophy about being one can start out aiming for community and settling for uniformity. Rather than training ourselves how to be together with others without manipulation or coercion, we use social pressure and social structure to demean differences or restrict variances.
Groups stuck in the pseudocommunity life-cycle stage, a stage where groups discourage the expression of overt difference or disagreement, are especially prone to this:
What is diagnostic of pseudocommunity is the minimization, the lack of acknowledgment, or the ignoring of individual differences… It is easy to see how [rules of social politeness] make for a smoothly functioning group. But they also crush individuality, intimacy, and honesty, and the longer it lasts, the duller it gets.” —M. Scott Peck, The Different Drum, pp. 88-89
Nothing organic is identical. We’re all made of a few kinds of subatomic particles, and the particles in each kind are exactly the same. Yet when those particles combine to form the larger-than-quantum world we perceive and participate in, everything is different: every snowflake, every leaf, every human. Everything that lives varies from everything else that lives, and that’s design, not defect.
Repressing difference at the social level consistently leads us to violence; of course genocide is the ultimate example.
But being one need not mean becoming uniform. We need to practice this truth: we can honor our connections with others without them becoming like us or us transforming into bad imitations of them.
Managers driven to measure; partners, relatives, and friends driven to judge; religious and political leaders driven to regulate; ordinary folks driven to compare themselves to others—all of us need to brave the conflict and chaos that comes from openly addressing differences of opinion and experience.
There’s no other way to build real community.