In the short book of two Harvard Divinity School lectures, From Brokenness to Community, Jean Vanier explores community as a space of conflict. He gives four moments of conflict. I’ve experienced, seen, and alas, perpetrated, these over the years. He devotes about a paragraph, in turn, to these:
- Values of the world vs community values: In the Church context, one could easily interpret this as sacred versus secular, but it’s not limited to that.
- Being open versus being closed. The author suggests this is found more than the others in poorer countries and cultures, especially in the phenomenon of extended families where young persons’ aspirations–their “becoming”–are snuffed out by an overriding imposition of “belonging.”
- Caring for others versus caring for oneself.
The one I found I wanted to explore is close to the last one. Jean Vanier tells it:
… learning to give space to others so that they may grow, rather than competing with them and lording over them. Our world is a world of competition. We all have been taught to live in a competitive world and to win, to be a success, and to move up the ladder of promotion and to get ahead. It is hard then in community to stand back in order to help others grow and exercise their gifts. There is then in community a loss of aggressive competition cultivated in our societies.
The latest political cycle seems to be partly about the old party standard-bearers versus the young turks on the way up. I don’t know that folks like AOC or the Indiana mayor won’t slam the door on young adults when they hit the 2040s. But it sure seems the federal legislative branches are packed with seventy, eighty-somethings who, in other fields, would be happily retired by now. Why do they stay put? I mean other than the obvious perks of power and influence.
As for the Church itself, I’ve seen a few articles like this one cited by my younger social media friends. A few of those reasons align with Mr Vanier’s point on lording it over others and essentially sending them to the back of the line. My colleagues in ministry look very much like the US Congress these days. I’m happy to note that among the students I mentored in my last assignment, one is now a diocesan director of Hispanic young adult ministry, two (I think) youth ministers, and a campus minister. Scattered to the winds, naturally.
As I reflect on the calendar turning me into my sixties, I do check myself now and then. Will I be able to gracefully hand it over to someone new, younger, and more energetic? Will that person even be there? Will I have the wisdom to step to the back?