Monoculture Church

Monoculture - the agricultural saying of producing or growing one single crop over a wide area. It is widely used in modern industrial agriculture and its implementation has allowed for large harvests from minimal labor. However, monocultures can lead to the quicker spread of bitd diseases, where a uniform crop is susceptible to a pathogen. 'Crop monoculture' is the practice of growing the same crop year after year. (Wikipedia)

For as long as I can remember, it has been shared to me that unity is see as the goal. Unity is the ideal. Unity is a characteristic of the Kingdom of God. We are the united body of Christ. We talk about the great divisions within the Church such as the East Church and the West Church, Protestant and Catholics, the Great Schism and the continuing fracturing of Protestantism. I have been told the dream of God is a unity of people who believe, act and live in harmony.

The problem is the concept of unity has been hijacked in many ways. Unity has come to mean ‘exactly the same’. So the Church is not united because we are not the same. We not only have different beliefs but also divergent teachings and practices. Because we are not the same we are not “united”, as it were.

This is crazy to me. Unity as ‘sameness’ is something that I think seems to be a value of Modernity. The clearest example of what I am talking about is the way the American food system produces food. Most of the food comes in these monoculture farms where there are only cows or pigs of sheep. It is great because these farms have animals that all behave the same way and are ‘processed’ the same way. It is efficient and productive. It is easy to manage and highly controllable. There are few variables which are not able to be dealt with accordingly. These farms are fantastic at producing fuel, but they are not that great at producing food.

As a result we are told that unity as sameness is a high value. It works. It is efficient and productive. It creates things that look life giving. The fact of the matter is, and we are learning more and more about this, monoculture farms are highly susceptible to disease. Monoculture farms create things that look life giving but in fact create things that slowly keep us unhealthy and contribute to unhealthy lifestyles.

This is my fear with a Church that places a premium on “unity”. If God through nature has taught us anything is that diversity is the only way to survive and live a long healthy life. Diversity is the key to longevity and diversity is the key to growth. There is not one type of frog or spider. There is not one type of human. There is diversity around us. Nature rejects monoculture. Could it be that God rejects unity as sameness?

If this is the case, then we should embrace diversity in the Church. We should rejoice there are so many different incarnations of Christianity. We should encourage new developments and explore with alternate ways of living the Christian life. When we do we create polyculture. This polyculture ‘vaccinates’ us from disease. Polyculture actually, paradoxically, is true Unity.