Friday, March 4, 2016

The Fire that Melts Us Together

Among the Christian progressives with whom I make fellowship, there's a common refrain:  America is not a melting pot.  I hear this online.  I heard it, again and again, in my very progressive seminary.

You remember the melting pot.  It was, in its day, a profoundly progressive vision, one set against the fixed and demonic boundaries of modern-era racism that had defined our life together for centuries.  Against that lie of segregationist racism was placed the image of the melting pot.  Here in America, every culture blends and merges and blurs.  The flavors all blend together, and from that comes a richer and more complex flavor.

We can, or so the Melting Pot image goes, have families and communities that are rich and fluid admixtures of culture and color and language.  The boundaries are meaningless and everchanging, as the culture changes and grows.  The flavors of salsa and sriracha are stronger now than they were when I was a kid, and that's really...yummy.

But now?  Now apparently that's a bad thing.

It is the enemy of diversity, we are told, and there is truth in that.  You can't be segregated out by category in a melting pot.

Better to have everything neatly separated out.  Like, say, as one earnest and well-meaning soul recently put it, in a salad.  In a salad, where the croutons and the spinach and the organic kale and the tofucheez and the vegetarian bacobits and the tomatoes and the carrot slivers are all neatly distinct from one another.  There, everything is together, but separate and clearly itself.

Of course, you can't put any dressing on that salad.  That would ruin the metaphor of separateness.  Nor can you eat it, because the chewing would blend the flavors.

But you can look at the salad, and talk about the salad, and contemplate how healthy it would be for you if you actually ate the salad, which you won't, because you can't.  It is the Platonic Recipe for Salad, whose purpose has nothing to do with nourishment.

I obviously have beef with the boho academic left socio-politically on this.

But I have a deeper beef spiritually.

Because love destroys categories.  Love shatters boundaries.  Love, the consuming fire love that every mystic of every faith tradition knows God to be?   Love is the fire that melts us all together.

If I love you, I am changed by that love.  The boundaries between you and I are blurred.   And if you love me, you are changed by that relation.  We are still separate, and still ourselves.  But the lines between us are not neat and clean and categorical.

That is the essence of the faith my Teacher taught, the fundamental nature of God, and the highest gift of the Way.

In love, our flavors blend.  They become fluid and alive in the warmth of love's transforming fire.

Either that, or we do not love.