Friday, September 12, 2003

Orthodoxy’s Call for a More Radical Diversity, Inclusion, Tolerance, and Empathy

The modern idea of diversity is less diverse than the ancient ecumenical idea of eccumene. The classic concept of eccumene. (universal, the whole world) spans many generations—even milleninia—while the modern idea of diversity spans but a single century (or more likely only a slice of that – one generation, or one subset of on generation, such as a particular coterie of youth culture). Because modern diversity has no time to listen to other generations it risks a massive loss of wisdom.

Likewise, the modern idea of inclusion is less inclusive than the classic Christian understanding of inclusion. The classic understanding rises from the more radical inclusiveness of God’s mercy toward all, as creator of all, redeemer of all, and consummator of all history. God’s work in creation is given to all, even if some refuse the gift. God’s action on the cross is offered for all, even if only some accept it. God’s promise for the futre of history encompasses all, even if some will voluntarily reject grace. The modern version typically focuses on only one particular disenfranchised interest group.

The contrast continues: the modern conceit of tolerance is less tolerant than the ancient ecumenical ethic of long-suffering forbearance. Modern tolerance depends on a relativism that gives up on the search for truth before it begins, whereas classic Christian forebearance seeks the highest common denominator: our human participation in the divine-human covenant (as represented in repentance, humility, and cross-bearing). Out of this call for participation comes a higher-level energy for social reconstruction unburdened by illusions.

The modern version of absolute equality embodies less empathy than the ancient ecumenical idea of compassion, which puts a neighbor’s need above one’s own. The modern idea of absolute equality survives on the thinness of passing human sypathies, whereas the classic Christian understanding of compassion radiates the full depth of God’s own compassion for all humanity, as shown in God’s willingness to become flesh and die for our sins. Classic Christianity is not a substitute for democracy; it is the leading progenitor of it.

-Thomas C. Oden, The Rebirth of Orthodoxy, p. 115. Courtesy of KC Burke

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