VOICES OF DAVIDSON
Harmony or Who Can Play the Loudest? (Is there any hope for our lack of civil discourse?)
In the book Quietly Courageous, Gil Rendle lifts up the changing concept of “harmony.” In generations past in a time of cultural consensus, the word harmony meant “agreement.” We no longer live in a culture of consensus. Rendle states that, “Where harmony use to mean being alike, harmony now means being respectfully different.”
Is there any hope of this kind of harmony in a cultural and political climate where competing causes simply try to play the loudest in order to be heard, while not even attempting to listen to other “tunes?”
Rendle uses the work by Peter Block in his study of what community means to point out the difference between being a citizen and being a consumer. According to Block, “A consumer is one who believes that his or her own needs can best be satisfied by the actions of others, while a citizen is one who willingly takes responsibility and is willing to be accountable for the greater well-being of the whole. Citizens make communities, consumers don’t.”
Ah, so that’s it. Have we become a nation of consumers who do not care about harmony but only care about our individual melodies? The Faith that offers to shape me challenges me to be a citizen rather than a consumer.
Being “right” has become the tune and “my cause” has become more important than people. I am reminded of a poem that defines our dilemma:
“The Place Where We Are Right”
by Yehuda Amichai
From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.
Lack of harmony is now challenging the denomination I have served as a pastor for over 47 years. Again, we are struggling with issue of human sexuality. We often act like religious consumers rather than citizens of a very large Kingdom of God. We are now facing a kind of political divide since we can’t seem to find any kind of harmony because we can’t convince the “others” that our tune is right. We need a definition of harmony that reminds us that we can be “respectfully different” rather than “right.”
So, in our nation and even in church, we need a keen sense of citizenship that focuses on the “greater well-being of the whole” rather than the loud melody of “I am right and you are wrong.” In the midst of the loud melody I pray that “a whisper will be heard where the ruined house once stood.”
Dr. Jody Seymour
Jody Seymour retired after serving Davidson United Methodist Church as Senior Pastor for 13 years and being a pastor for forty-six years in the Western North Carolina Conference. He is the author of six books and resides just outside of Davidson with his wife, Betsy.