This week marks my one year anniversary working for the Unitarian Universalist Association as the Program Associate for Peacemaking. Working with amazing theologians, peace activists and dedicated Unitarian Universalists, I have learned a lot about what UU peacemaking looks like. In the next few days, I will be sharing just a few of the many realizations I have made when it comes to UU Peacemaking.
• Monday: No Creed, No Peace Testament
• Tuesday: Unitarian*Universalists’ long and difficult relationship with peace
• Wednesday: Just War and Pacifism—A False Dichotomy
• Thursday: Theology of Conflict
• Friday: No Justice, No Peace
Today’s post is my first real foray into theology. As a religious studies student in college, I had to write a lot of theological papers. But this is the first theological theory I have come up with myself.
In our Western Worldviews, conflict is something we avoid like the plague. It makes us uneasy. It makes us feel emotions that are not pleasant. When conflict arises, we run the opposite direction. Especially for UU’s, who honor the “individual search for truth and meaning,” our need to express ourselves takes a back seat to making others comfortable.
But, I say we should acknowledge our conflicts as divine gifts. In traditional American Unitarian theology, we hold our abilities to discern, use logic, and self-determination as gifts endowed to us from the Universe/Creator. As we utilize these gifts, we are able to grow and learn and discern our hopes, fears, needs and desires.
Unfortunately, these needs and desires sometimes are different of those around us, causing strain on our relationships. This is conflict. If we recognize that our conflicts are not beyond us, but rather, are part of us, we look at our conflicts in a different light. Our conflicts are a result of our divinely endowed free will and self-determination.
Furthermore, in the traditional Universalist theology, our salvation comes with our community. By working with one another, we find ourselves saved through our interactions. As social creatures, we rely on each other to accomplish larger tasks. We also rely on one another to help us through difficult or trying times. Many today call this responsibility and salvation through community “accountability.”
This combination of our traditional theologies, divine guidance from within and salvation through community, shows us that we cannot be fully human without our–sometimes taxing–relationships with each other. We see that our conflicts, resulting from free will and community, are really divine gifts.
It may sound strange to say, “our conflicts are divine gifts.” Conflict gives us an opportunity to grow, learn and change from one another. Conflict is a way to step out of our day to day routine to address and reassess our presuppositions and ideals. It is also a time for us to call one another to accountability to ourselves and each other.
By ignoring or avoiding our conflicts, we deny the divinity of our humanity in community. Instead of avoidance, we must recognize our conflicts as opportunities to be in communion with our divine community. We must treat each other with compassion and respect. We must be open minded to the needs and desires of other people–especially when their needs are different from our own. This does not mean abandoning our own needs, but being open to the liberatory nature of conflict.
So, next time you find yourself in conflict, be thankful for this opportunity to learn from it. Be open and compassionate. And saved once again by the liberation of conflict.