There are two kinds of people: people who divide others into two kinds of people, and people who don’t. Sometimes it’s wise to distinguish between others, but often not. Usually it’s helpful to remember that any one of us has it in us to be several things at once.
Which brings me to Bishop Stephen Cottrell’s great sermon at yesterday’s Racial Justice Sunday celebration in Oxford. St James tells us about pure wisdom, and that the harvest of true righteousness is sown in peace, for/by those who make peace. So he roots our divisions in our pride, frustrations and faithlessness, and calls on us, double-minded people, to wash our hands and cleanse our hearts.
Jesus told the story of two boys, one of whom refused to do as his father asked, but ended up doing it anyway, as against his brother, who said he would obey but never did, nor even really intended to. We will be surprised in heaven by all sorts of people getting there ahead of us.
Classic bourgeois hypocrisy is all about striving officiously to appear respectable, but another, possibly more pernicious form of double-mindedness is dividing up and compartmentalising the whole world, in ways that tend put ourselves perpetually in the right.
Looking at our grasp of St Paul’s great revelation of unity in Christ in Galatians 3 — all One in Christ, neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female — is not entirely encouraging. It took the best part of 100 years of bitter disputes to bring words and public deeds into alignment over Greeks and Jews, 1800 over slaves and free, and among Anglicans, we still seem to be a tad confused over male and female...
I notice, myself, another intrguing way of indulging this ugly side of human nature; making up novel denominational, racial or religious reasons not to engage with others, producing a technical but narrow conformity to our own particular interpretion of Galatians 3, or whatever.
Who’s driving the narrowness? God, or the limited way we see ourselves and others, and our reluctance to engage?
This all leads me to surmise that if ever we do decide to give practical Christanity a go, there are all sorts of people out there who would love to see it put into practice, much more than they can bear all the fear, excuses, bickering and other symptoms of doublemindedness they are picking up now.