Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

partisanship and the Church


Partisanship involves more than simple difference of opinion. It derives from how we react to those differences. Differences are inevitable and must be addressed within our concept of unity and community, if we are to enjoy either.

Partisanship is the use of our differences as a means to indentify worthiness and societal acceptability. Seen through a partisan lens, those who align with one opinion or worldview are good and those who align differently are bad. Partisanship by its nature is disunifying and cannot form the basis for a civil society.

Within a civil society of differing opinions we have to seek after those beliefs which are largely held in common and then try to build our communities around those common elements. I suspect at the most basic we could agree that we all seek to treat one another properly by some common measure. Within that basic goal we hope to establish and maintain systems and institutions which aid in that proper treatment. In other words we would like for our commercial enterprises, our religious groups, our educational systems, and our governmental entities to operate in ways that make us feel good about how others are treated because these institutions are an extension of moral ourselves.

Within our religious heritage we find two aspects of how we should treat others properly. One element defines how we should treat God, how to properly respond to His needs and desires. The other element is how to treat one another. In Christian tradition some conclude that once we treat God properly, i.e. in accordance with right doctrine, the proper treatment of one another will then follow naturally. Others see the proper treatment of both God and man as happening simultaneously. As we establish and maintain a proper relationship with one another we do the same with God.

The problem with our traditional religion is that Orthodox Christianity is by nature highly partisan. It creates a barrier to any attempt to treat one another properly because it defines the proper treatment of God as requiring that we mistreat one another by assigning worthiness labels, like saved/lost, good/bad, saint/sinner. To compound the partisan negativity the church definition assigns the vast majority of us to unworthiness, making only church members the righteous elites or eminently worthy. In fact, church doctrine reduces most citizens to such a lowly state that they actually deserve the worst possible treatment.

One would hope that our spiritual institutions and communities would be foremost in steering us into a state of benevolent unity; but, in fact, the opposite is happening. Responding in accordance with its longstanding doctrinal beliefs, the  orthodox church lends the most raucous and strident voice to the destructive divisiveness which prevails in our day.

Jesus was either a partisan or a universalist. He either came to establish a new religion of exclusiveness or to unite all humanity in a universal brotherhood. Which way does the arrow of his example point?