From Fake Unity to Radical Love

“A choir is made up of many voices, including yours and mine. If one by one all go silent then all that will be left are the soloists. Don’t let a loud few determine the nature of the sound. It makes for poor harmony and diminishes the song.”

― Vera Nazarian

John 17:1-11

…so that they may be one, as we are one.

Classic words from Jesus of Nazareth’s longest discourse in the entire gospels. It’s referred to as a prayer, though it really was/is a mashup of various things the authors of John’s Gospel attributed to Jesus. It follows a lot of highly metaphorical talk and philosophizing in which Jesus makes the case that God, Jesus, and humans are all connected and in reciprocal relationship with each other. Sounds really great and I really wish we saw this in the real world. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer…

I am being realistic, though. We all can admit that even among Christians, unity is something we are not seeing. It’s sad and unfortunate, but churches remain segregated, divided communities because of differences and divisions having to do with culture, politics, and interpretations of the Bible. And even as political leaders openly attack LGBT+ people [especially transgender kids, youth, and adults, many churches are silent. And some are vocal in support of harmful policies and rhetoric.

No, I can assert that I am most cautious and guarded in conversations with Christians than I am with anyone else. I don’t know if I’ll be safe in that conversation, especially if they find out that I am LGBT+ affirming, anti-racist, and seeking to learn how to be an ally every day. I have sat through church and ecumenical [meaning churches of different denominations] meetings in which I found myself having to stand up for friends, family, and colleagues in the face of bigotry, ignorance, and quite frankly, hate.

So I’ve given up on “unity” as we may define the concept. Instead, I’m leaning into how I’m hearing Jesus’ discourse on “being one” in this moment. I hear Jesus saying that radical love is what ties us all together. Not a love for those whom we are familiar with, but a love for those who might be strangers to us right now. A love for people who live and breathe in different ways that we may not even understand. A love for the languages that we are not fluent in. A love for the foods we have never tried, the songs we’ve never sung, the lands we’ve never visited. Love of this ilk is powerful, transformative, and world-altering. And love of this kind bonds us not only as humans, but bonds us with the Divine. So no, I don’t care much to hear about “unity” of dogma or doctrine, or unity because we have national prayer days, or unity that looks a whole lot like Christian nationalism. Give me and show me radical love. A love that looks out for the marginalized one, the vulnerable one, the one who isn’t entitled and isn’t harming others. Love, as defined by Howard Thurman: “the experience of being dealt with at a point in oneself that is beyond all the good and beyond all the evil.” So Love well, ya’ll.


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Josh grew up in the Midwest before completing a B.A. in Theatre at Northwestern College [IA] and a Masters of Divinity [M.Div.] at Princeton Theological Seminary [NJ]. An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ [UCC], Josh has lived and worked in the Midwest, East Coast, Hawai’i, and Mexico. He is the co-founder and Executive Director of The Welcome Project PA, host of the Bucks-Mont PRIDE Festival, and he is Pastor of Love In Action UCC, an open and affirming congregation featured in a Vox Media episode of Divided States of Women with Liz Plank and in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Josh has 20+ years of nonprofit experience, including leading workshops and training in corporate, medical, and academic settings, focused on diversity & inclusion, grant writing, fund raising, and program management. Josh is a fellow of Interfaith Philadelphia, and designs and coordinates HS and University student groups for interfaith immersion service-learning weeks. Josh also co-facilitates Ally trainings for LGBTQIA+ inclusion and interfaith cooperation. He is a founding member of The Society for Faith & Justice, and a Collaborator for Nurturing Justice, and a member of the Driving PA Forward team via New Sanctuary Movement. He also performs regularly with the dinner theatre company, Without a Cue Productions, and has developed theatre arts curriculum for use in religious and secular settings. Josh also enjoys running, singing, traveling, learning languages, or making strange and funny faces. He lives in Center City Philly.

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