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Hallo again to all.

In August of 1962, the American pop singer Neil Sedaka had a smash hit on the radio worldwide. It was called 'Breaking up is hard to do'. Most of its lyrics that weren't about teenage love were along the lines of 'dooby doo', but its premise, which was its title, was that 'breaking up' is hard to do. It sold many many millions of copies in English-speaking countries.

Somehow we thought of Neil Sedaka and his song when last week we read 'South Carolina Episcopalians Begin Process Toward Reconciliation'. Our thought was that breaking up is easy. It is reconciliation that is hard to do.

Beyond the universe of churches, the world does not often seem motivated to reconcile after a breakup. When the Holy Roman Empire was finally dissolved in 1806, there was no interest in re-uniting its component countries into a new empire. Having them be separate met everyone's needs. When various kingdoms and empires were broken up into Serbia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, we did not hear a murmur of desire for reconciliation. Once the newly-constituted countries stopped shooting at each other, the entire world realized that this broken-up configuration was better than what had come before it.

Since 1054 when the so-called 'Great Schism' resulted in an Eastern Orthodox Church that was separate from the Roman Catholic Church, there has not been much serious talk about reconciliation. Committees meet and talks are held and communiqu├ęs issued, yet the progress is not towards reconciliation but towards intercommunion. Since then there have been many other schisms, none great, but there are many dozens of churches where seemingly once there was just one. No one thinks we can return to the way it was, but we rarely hear anyone assert that 'more is better'.

Nearly a century ago, most countries had only one or two radio stations, normally controlled by the government. There was no choice. As schoolchildren, our family had radios whose dials were calibrated with the names of countries: you could turn the knob to 'France' or 'Russia' or 'Switzerland' or 'London'. The cultural assumption when that radio was manufactured was that each country had one or two voices, and with the right antenna you could listen to the ones you chose.

After an interim period of having multiple broadcast stations on different frequencies, with multiple editorial content, the norm is now thousands upon thousands of sources of information. Broadcasting is now digital, and is no longer limited to over-the-air transmission. This did not result from a break-up, but from new technology. The internet gives access to hundreds of thousands of different and smaller 'stations' to replace the few large and official stations that our grandparents knew. Since the whole point of this change was diversification, it is meaningless to talk about reconciliation. Instead we rejoice in the diversity and the unprecedented access.

Historically what has kept countries and churches and languages unified was geography. You were probably in the same country as your neighbour, and probably went to the same church as your neighbour, and probably spoke the same language as your neighbour. Modern global hi-tech communication encourages clustering that ignores geography. All of the people who hate the same things can form global groups that feel and act unified. Dissolve the old groups and make new ones.

A famous chef once said to us, quite seriously, 'cooking consists of cutting up ingredients into pieces, modifying the pieces as you like, and then reassembling those pieces into something new'. Are schisms like cooking? Do we break up our provinces into pieces and then reassemble them into something new? The breakup part seems certain; it's the reassembly that is in question.

See you next week. Inshallah.

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22 July 2018

A thin blue line
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