My original post idea for this prompt (Cooperation) was joint discipleship, so it is ironic that I am scrambling to post this late on the 2nd day of the Word on Fire Digital Summit, while I catch up with the videos for Day 1 still, and my old friend Prof Stephen talking about ex-Catholics as the topic of the conference is evangelising the unaffiliated. Joint discipleship is a concept that spans across denominations, but in the Catholic Church it’s usually seen as part of what marriage is: apart from the prayer partners in the Blessed is She prayer pledges, you usually hear about walking the walk together as a couple. The person you marry is responsible to help you and not hinder you from getting to heaven. I’m not the only Catholic who has often felt the lack of an emphasis on fellowship beyond religious communities and small groups at retreats. There is a heavy emphasis on individual piety, and often a Catholic prayer group ends up being people doing individual devotions (like the rosary or a novena) together as a group. There is little emphasis on walking together when you are not a family, despite the Bible being a story of journeying together. It came as no surprise that a point that makes people leave the Church is the lack of fellowship, and one reason why I am invested in ecumenism and in particular receptive ecumenism (which is about what we can learn from other churches). Our parishes really should consider learning the concept of life groups, and the offer of ministries started by converts is already there ready to be dived into.
In 2018 I have been reading the Bible minus the Deuterocanonical books (which I’m reading now) in a year through the She Reads Truth app, alongside my Anglican boyfriend using the men’s version. It wasn’t just a walk together as a couple, as in fact we rarely did it together, and we even less discussed much of what we read, but the app had accumulated comments over the years which contained prayer requests, questions, and resources in response. While theologically not Catholic, this small thing is a beautiful way to see a Catholic understanding of the Church, as being outside of time. Thanks to technology, I was reading the same passage and praying that the prayers of someone who was in a tricky situation 3 years prior had been answered. It was like having a small group on my iPhone. Cooperation is “the action or process of working together to the same end”, and the Church as the Body of Christ is made of different organs which cooperate for the health and wellbeing of the body. While I rarely felt like I was cooperating, especially when I saw them struggling to understand passages that are obvious in Catholic teachings but did not add a comment, I still felt a sense of walking together. How much more powerful would we be if we took the race we are running not as a marathon where maybe we don’t compete with one another, but still do our own thing and focus on the goal, and instead see it as a race run in a team, where no matter how long it takes to end it, you only win if the whole team gets to the finish line?
Anyway, as the deadline for this post approached, the importance of cooperation became evident in other aspects of life. I haven’t written much about politics lately, but I am slowly recovering from the burnout of the 2017-2018 period and I’ve followed with great interest the events that lead to the creation of the Independent Group. It is a peculiar instance of cooperation on one side and lack of cooperation on another. As 3 Tory MPs have (at time of writing) resigned the whip to join the group, it is a clear example of cooperation in the centre-ground over a non-party-political issue (namely the EU referendum). However, if one looks at the other side of the isle where the majority of member MPs came from, it becomes apparent that there was a lack of cooperation, or perhaps cooperation to the wrong end. Many people felt strongly enough that there is a problem with antisemitism in the Labour Party, and the leadership did not responded adequately, that they left the party. Still, a lot of the issues faced on the government side have to do with lack of cooperation, and the PM’s understandable but misguided attempt to find a compromise that would make the different factions cooperate for the good of the country, although nobody can really agree on what that good actually is.
While people more and more try to push Christians away from public life, it becomes apparent to me that we are the people best placed to revive the much needed culture of cooperation: we may disagree on how to achieve our goals on earth, but we are united by our faith and its imperative that our end goal is not what policies we can implement, but furthering the coming of the Kingdom of God. This end goal acts as the north on the compass when deciding about policy, and how to achieve a common ground between parties that emphasise different, often opposing, things. At a time when everything seems to boil down to winning the argument, tribalism rules the day, and accusation of treason are thrown around to those who try to bridge the gap, it is as needed as it is countercultural. As Christians are already swimming against the current, maybe it’s time to double down our efforts to clean up the poisoned waters of politics.
Today’s post is part of the Love Blog Challenge on the topic of Cooperation.
Meet your hosts
Brita of Belle Brita
Brita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. On her blog and social media, you’ll discover more than authentic storytelling–she’s brutally honest about pursuing a fulfilling and joyful life even with Crohn’s Disease and depression.
Charlene of Enduring All Things
Charlene is a 20 something wife and fur-mama living in Portland, Oregon. She’s a follower of Christ, watcher of SciFi, reader of fantasy, singer of show tunes, and lover of her husband! She uses her blog, Enduring All Things to help couples build a marriage that will endure whatever comes their way.