From a Distance
Last week the world celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the moon landing. Like the assassination of John F. Kennedy, earlier in that turbulent decade, that event imprinted on the minds of those who witnessed it, along with all the details of the scene--where we were, who we were with, even the weather on that day.
I was at a cabin on Lake Windermere, in B.C., vacationing with my cousins. I was about to turn sixteen, and I was included with the adults as we squinted at the flickering images of a grainy black and white television screen. Both my uncle and his neighbour, in whose cabin we had gathered, were academics. It lent credence to my own sense of wonder that they too were riveted, and awestruck.
The moon walk altered our perspective on our world. No longer gazing out from the world to the great unknowns of space, we were now gazing back on the world, from afar. Beyond all our differences, beyond the racial divisions and political warring that were tearing us apart on earth, we were ... one planet. A coloured photograph taken from the command module caught that image for all time, and a song, performed by Bette Middler, celebrated it--"From a Distance."
Is this what the church needs now, as well--a radically new perspective? A global perspective? A new appreciation of our essential unity, where all our divisions melt away? We know they're there--the hard divisions of theology, the wide spectrum of sexual orientation, the cultural chasm separating the old and the young. But, from a distance, these differences simply cease to matter.
Our unity trumps our diversity, both acknowledging it and transcending it in a single image. We are one, across the battle lines we have drawn and the distinctions we have made. We are one, in our differing models of who God is and how God works. We are one, in our personal struggles with the church, from whichever way we come at it.
An early Russian cosmonaut commented wryly that his space travel proved that religion was wrong: he didn't see any "heaven" up there. We didn't see heaven, either. But we rediscovered the earth, and that changed everything, as a new perspective always does.