One night, in the midst of the CRC’s Synod, I awoke with a word in my head. Vivisection. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this early morning revelation. Some folks dream lucidly, others sweat through nightmares. Me? Apparently I receive ten-dollar words.
It might be just the peculiarity of my own gray matter arrangement, though I’m leaving open the possibility that it also might be (literally) a word from the Lord, who, I suspect, has become quite annoyed at the way his people keep carving up his body.
Vivisection means to cut apart a living thing. It would seem the word has met the moment. Like most folks who are paying attention to Synodical deliberations about human sexuality, I don’t know what the months and years to come will bring. That said, it wouldn’t be foolish to place a bet in favour of a schism.
I wish it were not so. I don’t think I’m alone in that.
Yet I’ve heard some folks make an attempt to spin an impending schism as something positive. They tell me a loving separation is possible, and the two sides can wish each other well, and then go about their separate business. Others say they don’t have the wherewithal for another extended quarrel, and so, in an effort to avoid further pain, argue that we should make the break now.
How can we sanctify schisms?
If only it were so simple. For one, “two sides” assumes a tidy binary that just isn’t there. Even in my own reflection on the complexities of human sexuality, I feel pulled in many directions at once, finding rest in one conclusion one day, and in another the next. So many others feel the same. And of course, a hastier move toward a schism might initially seem better in a pulling-a-bandaid-off kind of way, yet the pain still creates fissures through families and friendships, and will trickle down through the generations, too.
It is understandable, though, that we might think this way in an effort to sanctify our schismatic tendencies, as a way to paint over the shame and guilt we might feel about standing on this precipice yet again. Generally, I’m loathe to recommend wading around in shame and guilt, but on this score, I don’t think we feel them as intensely as we should.
The dictionary tells me that the noun form of my early morning word is vivisectionist. I didn’t know that until now, but I’m grateful to receive it, too, as now I have another name for our tribe. It’s who we are, isn’t it? The history of our little communion in the broader church catholic is lousy with schism after schism after schism. It seems every forty or sixty years we decide that we just can’t live with each other any longer, and that it’s time to cut this body into ever smaller parcels. Somehow we think this shows how deep and serious is our love for God and his word.
And so we stand here again, holding the scalpel over this living body. How conventional. How callous. How pitiable.
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