plurals for singlular

I am tired of plural things being made singular.

Let me explain.

Dana Roberts, in her book Christian Mission, talks about the false understanding of ‘Christianity’ and instead argues for the language of ‘Christianities’. I find this to be incredibly interesting. Think about it. If we stopped assuming there is one definition for any social classification or grouping, we might save ourselves some serious headaches.

Besides, who determines what it means to be a ‘christian’ anyway? Who determines what it means to be an American or a Mexican or a Canadian? I am, of course, speaking in some broad generalizations and there are clear boundary markers for all of those populations. There is doctrine and citizenship, legalities and birthrights. I am not denying that. However, I am wondering about emotional identification.

In Christianity, this is fairly easy to imagine. The faith system is and has been more than simply an abstract concept for a long time. It’s a faith based on incarnational event which has then demanded incarnations ever since. It looks different in every village, every church, every house, every soul it inhabits and that is simply fantastic. It means that if someone is representing my faith in a way I find abhorrent, I can smile sadly and remind myself that we practice different versions of the faith. I am not held accountable for their crazy, nor are they held accountable for mine. It means the faith can be as big as the humanity it is meant to encompass; as large as the reality of the risen Savior it proclaims.

In my experience, we often draw boundaries around our definitions, only allowing few others into our definition and creating strong dividers between the different definitions. I know the myriad of reasons why we do this, it’s little more than basic human psychology. Fear, comfort, the notion of ‘rightness’, all of this comes into play. However, I wish we could hold onto some things more loosely in order to walk alongside others who hold contradictory things tightly.

All of this comes back to my wee beloved nation, of course. I sat in a lecture the other day on the ‘peace process’ in Northern Ireland and I couldn’t help but notice there was still an understanding in the literature that Northern Ireland is divided between two distinct and cohesive communities. Little could be further from the truth and to not acknowledge the plurality within this country is largely to its detriment. I want to change the words we use – add plurality and make room for difference.

Of course, I’m not quite sure what that looks like. I can push for us to use more words, to include more people. I don’t know how we go about changing the vernacular of a culture. Any ideas?

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Author: kristen

msw, mdiv (baylor university): phd (queens university belfast) : researcher, social worker, human resource director: focus on intersection of gender and religion: wife, daughter, friend, banyan tree

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