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Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart

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Despite Jesus' prayer that all Christians "be one," divisions have been epidemic in the body of Christ from the beginning to the present. We cluster in theological groups, gender groups, age groups, ethnic groups, educational and economic groups. We criticize freely those who disagree with us, don't look like us, don't act like us and don't even like what we like. Though w Despite Jesus' prayer that all Christians "be one," divisions have been epidemic in the body of Christ from the beginning to the present. We cluster in theological groups, gender groups, age groups, ethnic groups, educational and economic groups. We criticize freely those who disagree with us, don't look like us, don't act like us and don't even like what we like. Though we may think we know why this happens, Christena Cleveland says we probably don't. In this eye-opening book, learn the hidden reasons behind conflict and divisions. Learn: Why I think all my friends are unique but those in other groups are all the same Why little differences often become big sources of conflict Why categorizing others is often automatic and helpful but can also have sinister side effects Why we are so often victims of groupthink and how we can avoid it Why women think men are judging them more negatively than men actually are, and vice versa Why choices of language can actually affect unity With a personal touch and the trained eye of a social psychologist, Cleveland brings to bear the latest studies and research on the unseen dynamics at work that tend to separate us from others. Learn why Christians who have a heart for unity have such a hard time actually uniting. The author provides real insight for ministry leaders who have attempted to build bridges across boundaries. Here are the tools we need to understand how we can overcome the hidden forces that divide us.


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Despite Jesus' prayer that all Christians "be one," divisions have been epidemic in the body of Christ from the beginning to the present. We cluster in theological groups, gender groups, age groups, ethnic groups, educational and economic groups. We criticize freely those who disagree with us, don't look like us, don't act like us and don't even like what we like. Though w Despite Jesus' prayer that all Christians "be one," divisions have been epidemic in the body of Christ from the beginning to the present. We cluster in theological groups, gender groups, age groups, ethnic groups, educational and economic groups. We criticize freely those who disagree with us, don't look like us, don't act like us and don't even like what we like. Though we may think we know why this happens, Christena Cleveland says we probably don't. In this eye-opening book, learn the hidden reasons behind conflict and divisions. Learn: Why I think all my friends are unique but those in other groups are all the same Why little differences often become big sources of conflict Why categorizing others is often automatic and helpful but can also have sinister side effects Why we are so often victims of groupthink and how we can avoid it Why women think men are judging them more negatively than men actually are, and vice versa Why choices of language can actually affect unity With a personal touch and the trained eye of a social psychologist, Cleveland brings to bear the latest studies and research on the unseen dynamics at work that tend to separate us from others. Learn why Christians who have a heart for unity have such a hard time actually uniting. The author provides real insight for ministry leaders who have attempted to build bridges across boundaries. Here are the tools we need to understand how we can overcome the hidden forces that divide us.

30 review for Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart

  1. 4 out of 5

    Leigh Kramer

    This should be required reading. The trick is to focus on the ways YOU contribute to disunity in the church, instead of coming up with a list of other people who really should read it. We're all guilty of othering but we don't have to stay there. Cleveland offers personal stories, research, and well-reasoned theology to back up her points. She lovingly urges us to remove our blinders and become part of the solution to the division and vitriol that seems to be growing worse each year. This should be required reading. The trick is to focus on the ways YOU contribute to disunity in the church, instead of coming up with a list of other people who really should read it. We're all guilty of othering but we don't have to stay there. Cleveland offers personal stories, research, and well-reasoned theology to back up her points. She lovingly urges us to remove our blinders and become part of the solution to the division and vitriol that seems to be growing worse each year.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I was all set to hear about why "those" people or institutions don't get it, and what's wrong with them. After all, I've been reading about this stuff since college, so I didn't figure that would be anything new here. I was wrong. I was disarmed from page one, realizing that I am as guilty of "us/them" thinking as anyone, and this message is for me. With a combination of personal story-telling and academic research, Dr. Cleveland communicates in a spirit of humility and grace, while be unapologe I was all set to hear about why "those" people or institutions don't get it, and what's wrong with them. After all, I've been reading about this stuff since college, so I didn't figure that would be anything new here. I was wrong. I was disarmed from page one, realizing that I am as guilty of "us/them" thinking as anyone, and this message is for me. With a combination of personal story-telling and academic research, Dr. Cleveland communicates in a spirit of humility and grace, while be unapologetically an expert in her field of social psychology. And most importantly, she offers hope for real change.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Robert D. Cornwall

    Writing from the perspective of the social psychologist, who also happens to be a woman and person of color, Christena Cleveland, addresses the problem of disunity within the body of Christ. While most ecumenical conversations focus on doctrine and polity, seeking to find pathways to unity amongst our diversity of church practices and theologies, Cleveland focuses on cultural and ethnic diversity and the dangers of homogeneity. It is a very good book, raising important questions and suggesting wa Writing from the perspective of the social psychologist, who also happens to be a woman and person of color, Christena Cleveland, addresses the problem of disunity within the body of Christ. While most ecumenical conversations focus on doctrine and polity, seeking to find pathways to unity amongst our diversity of church practices and theologies, Cleveland focuses on cultural and ethnic diversity and the dangers of homogeneity. It is a very good book, raising important questions and suggesting ways in which the gap can be bridged. Most of the suggested solutions focus on building relationships and common identities that bridge our diversity. She does, however, rightfully dispel the idea that "color-blindness" is the answer. Color-blindness rather than helping build bridges by eliminating cultural and ethnic differences fosters them by ignoring or missing those places where privilege suppresses minorities in the name of unity. Being more open and frank about our cultural differences can provide the opportunity to forge a common identity that includes those differences. Writing as an evangelical Christian, Cleveland suggests that the key is to forge a common identity in Christ. We are, one body in Christ. One concern or question that I find it necessary to raise is this: at what point do we find it too difficult to forge a common identity in one local body? I raise this question because I find that there are conservative Christian communities that are very diverse ethnically, but very narrow theologically. At the same time, I would say that a majority of liberal Protestant churches that allow for a wide diversity in theological and political views tend to be fairly homogeneous. I continue to wonder why this is -- and it's not a question that Cleveland raises in her book. Indeed, she skirts theology for the most part. That's understandable since she writes as a psychologist and not as a theologian, but it is a question that we need to pursue.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rachel A. Dawson

    This book. 🙌🏼 This was one I read and studied with a church small group last fall, which I think is the way it should be read. The discussions we had (as Black, white, Hispanic, male/female, varied age believers) were challenging and rich and catalytic. I’m so grateful for the way we were able to use this wise and thoughtful book as a launching point into really honest, sometimes hard, incredibly helpful and hopeful conversations. I could quote you dozens and dozens of lines and passages, but in This book. 🙌🏼 This was one I read and studied with a church small group last fall, which I think is the way it should be read. The discussions we had (as Black, white, Hispanic, male/female, varied age believers) were challenging and rich and catalytic. I’m so grateful for the way we were able to use this wise and thoughtful book as a launching point into really honest, sometimes hard, incredibly helpful and hopeful conversations. I could quote you dozens and dozens of lines and passages, but instead, I’ll recommend you read it yourself (with others!!) if you’re a person of faith wondering how we do this work of reconciliation and rebuilding as a body of Christ.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Relevant and needed. If 10% of church leaders read this book, the church would look and act differently. This book is interesting, practical, challenging and funny. At first I wished the book was more theological, but then I realised that perhaps many of our "theological" differences that prevent unity with other Christians and churches are really shallow cover ups for the social psychological reasons that lie beneath. Very insightful cross-cultural helps that will aid reconciliation efforts for Relevant and needed. If 10% of church leaders read this book, the church would look and act differently. This book is interesting, practical, challenging and funny. At first I wished the book was more theological, but then I realised that perhaps many of our "theological" differences that prevent unity with other Christians and churches are really shallow cover ups for the social psychological reasons that lie beneath. Very insightful cross-cultural helps that will aid reconciliation efforts for those willing to try. Furthermore, Cleveland practices what she preaches. Can you think of any other book that has endorsements from such varied Christians as Greg Boyd, Thabiti M. Anyabwile (of the Gospel Coalition), Sojourners and Rachel Held Evans?!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lynne Stringer

    I found this book a mixed bag. On one hand, it presents many fascinating and thought-provoking arguments on our propensity, as humans, to band together with people who are like us and exclude those who aren't like us, prejudiced against everything about them often simply because of their skin colour, beliefs, cultural background, or the simple fact that they disagree with us. While this was presented with a great deal of evidence and in a convincing manner, I found that the case was almost overst I found this book a mixed bag. On one hand, it presents many fascinating and thought-provoking arguments on our propensity, as humans, to band together with people who are like us and exclude those who aren't like us, prejudiced against everything about them often simply because of their skin colour, beliefs, cultural background, or the simple fact that they disagree with us. While this was presented with a great deal of evidence and in a convincing manner, I found that the case was almost overstated. I wish the author had spent a little less time establishing it and more on explaining how to overcome this tendency. However, it's still a worthwhile and eye-opening read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dan Bouchelle

    This may be the single most accessible book dealing with racial issues affecting the church that I have ever read. It is based in solid research by an expert author who knows her field but knows how to communicate with those who don’t. It is written in such an humble, approachable style that anyone can appreciate it. This would make a great book for leadership groups, reconciliation groups, or general classes for churches and organizations who want to grow in cross-cultural skills and practice. This may be the single most accessible book dealing with racial issues affecting the church that I have ever read. It is based in solid research by an expert author who knows her field but knows how to communicate with those who don’t. It is written in such an humble, approachable style that anyone can appreciate it. This would make a great book for leadership groups, reconciliation groups, or general classes for churches and organizations who want to grow in cross-cultural skills and practice. I’m very grateful to have found this resource. I will be recommending it widely and keeping copies around to give away.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Melisa Blankenship

    Cleveland weaves her areas of expertise of sociology and theology to look at the underlying issues of disunity and self segregation. She explains the natural tendency to create in-groups and out-groups and then appeals to the reader the reasons we have to fight against these tendencies. She gives practical ways to counter this tendency backed up by sociological research. She closes with the appeal to whomever is in the seat of power and privilege to expect to have to give something up (time, exp Cleveland weaves her areas of expertise of sociology and theology to look at the underlying issues of disunity and self segregation. She explains the natural tendency to create in-groups and out-groups and then appeals to the reader the reasons we have to fight against these tendencies. She gives practical ways to counter this tendency backed up by sociological research. She closes with the appeal to whomever is in the seat of power and privilege to expect to have to give something up (time, expense, power) if they truly want to see change. Cleveland writes in such a way that her research is easy to understand and her logical conclusions from that research are easy to follow, leaving us with the challenge to put it into practice.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Heather Bottoms

    Some good information here, and it was a good jumping off point for discussion in our small group. But the author appears to be a better researcher than writer. Very repetitive, and a bit dry at times, but worth reading.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Protim Adhikari

    For those looking to build sociological literacy but have no idea where to search or are too intimidated by dense articles, go here; Cleveland curates well. This is an audience-centered read, especially if the audience is new to formal learning on the sociological dynamics of contemporary Christian communities. For that audience, this is a thoroughly accessible and readable intro. It is accessible because it establishes a sociological foundation via basic vocabulary, categories, and studies. It For those looking to build sociological literacy but have no idea where to search or are too intimidated by dense articles, go here; Cleveland curates well. This is an audience-centered read, especially if the audience is new to formal learning on the sociological dynamics of contemporary Christian communities. For that audience, this is a thoroughly accessible and readable intro. It is accessible because it establishes a sociological foundation via basic vocabulary, categories, and studies. It is readable because it uses a clear and whimsically-edgy style for story-telling and statistics-citing alike. Even the repetition in latter chapters proves useful for readers that are just beginning to think sociologically. This is perfect for a small group, book discussion, etc. For those looking for more formal interaction (case studies, models, bibliographies, etc.), try The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Steph

    I'm giving this 4.5 stars because it quite was a fantastic read. I want to meet Christena and be friends with her! Her book sheds light on the social, and sometimes clinical, reasons we separate ourselves from others that don't think like us. Because I'm all about psychology I truly appreciated the perspective she gave and her approach to this issue. I wish there'd been a bit more relating to faith and the church, but at the same time I think she addressed it so well that it worked in her favor. I'm giving this 4.5 stars because it quite was a fantastic read. I want to meet Christena and be friends with her! Her book sheds light on the social, and sometimes clinical, reasons we separate ourselves from others that don't think like us. Because I'm all about psychology I truly appreciated the perspective she gave and her approach to this issue. I wish there'd been a bit more relating to faith and the church, but at the same time I think she addressed it so well that it worked in her favor. That being said, I highly recommend this to anyone in the church - members, elders, bishops, pastors, youth leaders, etc., and everyone struggling to reconcile these issues that the church faces today.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amy Hughes

    Disarming, insightful, and immensely helpful. Cleveland pastors us through stages of potentially difficult self- and communal reflection about our overriding impulses to divide the body of Christ into "us" and "them." With compassion and directness she exposes our ecclesiology for what it is - not for what we want to believe it is. Her work as a social psychologist melds perfectly with the ecclesiological frame and sheds light on the ramifications of the way we treat one another. A great example Disarming, insightful, and immensely helpful. Cleveland pastors us through stages of potentially difficult self- and communal reflection about our overriding impulses to divide the body of Christ into "us" and "them." With compassion and directness she exposes our ecclesiology for what it is - not for what we want to believe it is. Her work as a social psychologist melds perfectly with the ecclesiological frame and sheds light on the ramifications of the way we treat one another. A great example of practical theology!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Laura W

    A Helpful Read I found this to be a helpful, thought-provoking, convicting, and hopeful book. It took me a while to get used to the frequent references to different studies and experiments, but it grew on me and I appreciated the intersection she brings between social psychology and theology. It seems like even since she wrote this book, people are treating each other worse than ever. But I feel convicted to guard my language (both in “real life” and online) especially in regard to other believer A Helpful Read I found this to be a helpful, thought-provoking, convicting, and hopeful book. It took me a while to get used to the frequent references to different studies and experiments, but it grew on me and I appreciated the intersection she brings between social psychology and theology. It seems like even since she wrote this book, people are treating each other worse than ever. But I feel convicted to guard my language (both in “real life” and online) especially in regard to other believers, even if I perceive there to be big differences between us. These concepts feel really important for our current cultural climate!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Caleb

    This is an important book that approaches the divides in the church from a psychological standpoint, showing just how prejudice and bias infect our congregations through seemingly benign actions. Dr. Cleveland's insights are a useful and unique addition to the conversation about diversity in the church. She has convicting words for people from both ends of the political and theological spectrum, and I appreciated the thoroughness and thoughtfulness with which she laid out the evidence. This is an important book that approaches the divides in the church from a psychological standpoint, showing just how prejudice and bias infect our congregations through seemingly benign actions. Dr. Cleveland's insights are a useful and unique addition to the conversation about diversity in the church. She has convicting words for people from both ends of the political and theological spectrum, and I appreciated the thoroughness and thoughtfulness with which she laid out the evidence.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mitchell Dixon

    This book gave me new categories for explaining ingroups and outgroups. I have often felt distant from "other" Christians and didn't recognize my own biases and tendencies to have a us/then distinction. Cleveland paints a hard but rewarding picture of what until will take and actually looks like. I hope I can begin to step outside my comfort zone and take her words to heart. This book gave me new categories for explaining ingroups and outgroups. I have often felt distant from "other" Christians and didn't recognize my own biases and tendencies to have a us/then distinction. Cleveland paints a hard but rewarding picture of what until will take and actually looks like. I hope I can begin to step outside my comfort zone and take her words to heart.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Andy Flintoff

    It was good. Helpful. Honest. Laugh out loud Funny at points. I learned a lot and it put my mind at ease that I don't have to find people exactly like me to be happy. It was good. Helpful. Honest. Laugh out loud Funny at points. I learned a lot and it put my mind at ease that I don't have to find people exactly like me to be happy.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    I really appreciate the author and her non-condescending discussion of this topic. She answered some lifelong questions I had, such as “Should we be colorblind in terms of race?”

  18. 5 out of 5

    Drew Fajen

    Disunity in Christ is a must-read book for any Christian leader in today’s USA. Christena Cleveland shows, chapter after chapter, the ways we divide ourselves from each other and then presents solutions to these divisions. She has research, clinical studies, and great sources in each chapter. Once read, this book can also serve as a wonderful bibliography for further research. She quotes some of my favorite authors, Soong-Chan Rah, Scot McKnight, and Miroslav Volf all in the same chapter, so tha Disunity in Christ is a must-read book for any Christian leader in today’s USA. Christena Cleveland shows, chapter after chapter, the ways we divide ourselves from each other and then presents solutions to these divisions. She has research, clinical studies, and great sources in each chapter. Once read, this book can also serve as a wonderful bibliography for further research. She quotes some of my favorite authors, Soong-Chan Rah, Scot McKnight, and Miroslav Volf all in the same chapter, so that’s also a plus. Cleveland teaches various psychological theories and ideas of exclusion and disunity. She does so with humor, relatability, and scripture. This book dips into academia in a very warm, welcoming, and easy to read way. I have never read a book both as studious and as easy to read. Cleveland is a master. Most of Dr. Cleveland’s solutions are variations on the same crucial theme: followers of Jesus need to develop a common identity rather than dividing over our lesser identities. We must see each other as members of the same family rather than as opposing smaller identities. Christians need not divide over ethnic, political, or even theological boundary lines, but rather, see each other as family members because of the reconciling work Jesus has done and because of the in dwelling Holy Spirit. I deeply appreciate and resonate with the work Cleveland has done here and am so grateful to put much of her teaching to practice in my community. A few quotes: “Focusing on shared characteristics and taking the perspective of the other are small but powerful steps that will lead us toward unity.” 77 “When we categorize, not only do we draw a very clear line between those who are like us and those who are not like us, but we also tend to think that all of the people who are not like us are the same. It’s not just that they are all different from us; they are all different in the same way.” 51 “Rather than perceiving the body of Christ as one large group, we often perceive numerous distinct groups within the body of Christ... by focusing on smaller, distinct categories for church groups, we erect and fixate on divisions that are far less important than the larger, diverse group of members of the body of Christ.” 49 “If we want to know how to embody the household of God, we need look no further than to Jesus. While on earth, Jesus modeled this new reality by connecting with every type of person around— conservative theologians, liberal theologians, prostitutes, divorcees, children’s, politicians, people who party hard, military servicemen, women, lepers, ethnic minorities, celebrities and so forth— and inviting them to be part of his group and to work together to bring wholeness to their cracked and crumbling world.” 37 “Jesus pursues is despite theological differences, his theology is more comprehensive and accurate than any of ours. He also pursued us despite cultural differences; he’s holy, we’re sinful— that’s a pretty significant ‘cultural’ difference. Finally, the incarnation is evidence that he pursues us despite physical differences. His actions and words suggest that he is serious about our connecting, in spite of physical, cultural, and theological differences.” 36 “To the extend that I accept the work of the cross as my invitation to participate in the self-giving intimacy of the Trinity, I must be prepared to embrace self-giving intimacy with the ‘other.’ To partake in the sacrificial love with all others, not just the ones who are part of my homogenous Christian group.” 35 On group polarization, “In the absence of diverse influences, homogenous group members tend to adopt more extreme and narrow-minded thinking as time passes.” 27 “People can meet God within their cultural context but in order to follow God, they must cross into other cultures because that’s what Jesus did in the incarnation and on the cross. Discipleship is cross-cultural.” 21 “Rather than using his power to distance himself from us, Jesus uses it to approach us. ” 16 “Jesus doesn’t distance himself from me even though, let’s face it, I’m not always good for PR. I can do the same for other Christians.” 17 On social identity theory, “when it comes to group membership, we do four things to maintain positive self-esteem: (1) we tend to gravitate toward and form groups with similar others; (2) once the group is formed we engage in group-serving biases that defend the group’s positive identity; (3) we try to increase our status by associating with higher-status groups and distancing ourselves from lower-status groups; and (4) if all else fails we literally disparage other groups because in doing so, we elevate our own group.” 84-85 “I think that this picture of a healthy marriage is a great model of how the body of Christ should work. Theoretically, married people can’t quit a marriage. In the same way, theoretically, Christians can’t quit the body of Christ. Our commitment to the other members of the body of Christ should grump our desire to CORF (cut off reflected failure) when the going gets tough and it would be better for our self-esteem if we just walked away— like when we disagree on an important issue or when the other group’s heart isn’t in the right place and they hurt us, or when the other group speaks a different language. Our submission to God, irrevocable commitment to each other, and interdependence should hold us together when we want to distance ourselves from Christians who fail to live us to our gold standards or who complicate our lives.” 95 “We need to adopt the belief that to be a follower of Christ means to care deeply about and pursue other followers of Christ, including the ones that we don’t instinctively value or like. We need to adopt the belief that to be a follower of Christmeans to allow our identity as members of the body of Christ to trump all other identities. We need to adopt the belief that to be a follower of Chris means to put our commitment to the body of Christ above our own identity and self-esteem needs. We’ve coped with our divisions long enough. It’s time for us to discover our true identities as members of the family of God. It’s time for us to rally around this identity, overcome our divisions, and change the world. In sum, it’s time for us to change the way we see ourselves.” 97-98 “When my identity is rooted in the right place, I’m able to listen to opposing viewpoints as a member of the body of Christ: with humility, with an eagerness to learn from a different point of view, with a desire to connect across cultural lines, with confidence in my identity and without fear.” 115 “Within the context of the larger body of Christ, when we interact with fellow Christians who possess a different cultural viewpoint or tradition, we are often interacting with what we perceive to be black sheep. Due to the gold standard effect, we believe that our culturally influenced beliefs and practices are the best ones and that our cultural group should be the standard against which all other cultural groups should be measured. As a result of this thinking, anyone who disagrees with us is perceived as someone who is failing to live up to the cultural group’s standards— a black sheep. The mere existence of these so-called black sheep threatens to blur what we perceive to be the important beliefs and practices that differentiate Christians from everyone else. Rather than remaining cognitively open to our culturally different fellow followers of Christ who might offer a much-needed perspective, we dig out heels in and seek cognitive closure. In doing so, we tell ourselves that these people are black sheep who deserve the black sheep treatment— and we are happy to oblige by calling them heretics.” 131 “As we begin to change the way we see ourselves— through adopting more inclusive language, doing self-affirmation exercises that remind us of common membership in the body of Christ, and overriding the effects of natural categorizing— we will begin to see that they are part of us. Once they become us, they will no longer be threatening... we will be able to set aside our fear of ambiguity, relax our competitive stance, and adopt a promotion orientation that enables us to lean in to hear from a culturally different viewpoint, rather than recoil in fear.” 136-137 “Without (crosscultural) contact, our errors continue to go unchallenged and often begin to take on lives of their own. As a bonus, contact reduces the anxiety that people might have about interacting with other groups... cross cultural contact works it’s magic by (1) requiring people to see different group members as individuals, rather than nameless, faceless members of a cultural group, and (2) creating a context in which the two different groups are encouraged to form a common identity... individuals who engage in cross-cultural contact are much more likely to see members of different cultural groups in accurate, cognitively generous ways and to expand their category of us to include those whom they used to consider outgroup members.” 154-55 “I will lose my will to stay in the fight if I lose sight of the painful cost that Christ endured in order to reconcile himself to me. I will lose my will to stay in the fight if I lose sight of the face that even the most seemingly ineffective reconciliation work lives on in the power of the resurrection and will one day have its intended impact. If our work is not rooted in the power of the cross, we will inevitably quit.” 156-157 “Four elements are needed for positive cross-cultural interaction: (1) working toward a larger goal, (2) creating equal status, (3) engaging in personal interaction and (4) providing leadership.” 158 “When we enter crosscultural situations with the belief that our cultural group is holding one piece to the puzzle, we can confidently make our own contribution while also looking for and valuing the contributions that other groups make, and as a result, the barriers between us and them begin to fall down.” 162 “Before two groups can enjoy renewed, healthy friendship, past wrongs must be made right through repentance, forgiveness, and the return of stolen commodities (such as power, land, status, money). This might be the most difficult element to successfully pull off because it requires that both groups (especially the higher-status group) recognize any power or status differences that exist between them, repent for them and make a unified, concerted effort to erase them in the context of the crosscultural situation and beyond.” 166 “Mattering and marginality cost on opposite ends of a continuum, such that the more an individual feels like she matters and is empowered, the less she feels marginalized and disempowered, and vice versa.” 168

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tanner Hawk

    I feel like this is a must-read for anyone who wants to engage in reconciliation work. Love the way Cleveland combines sociology, theology, and personal stories to lay out clear, simple but challenging steps to work toward unity. I also just found the studies she discussed fascinating. "Jesus talked sheep to shepherds, fish to fishermen, and bookish theology to bookish theologians. He was all things to all people. I think that our differences enable us to speak richly and directly to the hearts o I feel like this is a must-read for anyone who wants to engage in reconciliation work. Love the way Cleveland combines sociology, theology, and personal stories to lay out clear, simple but challenging steps to work toward unity. I also just found the studies she discussed fascinating. "Jesus talked sheep to shepherds, fish to fishermen, and bookish theology to bookish theologians. He was all things to all people. I think that our differences enable us to speak richly and directly to the hearts of all types of people...We often fail to make a distinction between evangelism and discipleship. People can MEET God within their cultural context but in order to FOLLOW God, they must cross into other cultures because that's what Jesus did in the incarnation and on the cross. Discipleship is crosscultural" (p. 20-21). "We must relentlessly attack inaccurate perceptions in everyday interactions, weekly sermons, denominational meetings and dinner table conversations...We need to turn off autopilot and take time to honestly examine our polluted perceptions...We must take active steps to expand our category of 'us' so that 'they' are now included in 'us'" (p. 61-62). "Everyone wants diversity, but no one wants to actually be diverse...Churches and Christian organizations want participants from diverse cultures but are too obsessed with their own culture to allow diverse people to influence it. Rather, they require diverse people to assimilate and bow down to the dominant culture" (p. 184).

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sagely

    In times of broad church conflict, returning to Jesus' command to love one another seems right. I've been dwelling on what holds us together. That and Paul's frequent, overflowing descriptions of the unity of the body. A friend recommended Christena Cleveland's Disunity in Christ to help me think through what drives us to break that unity. I'm glad I read it, and I walk away with my understanding of group identity dynamics confirmed and even strengthened. Cleveland opens DIC with a cleverly writte In times of broad church conflict, returning to Jesus' command to love one another seems right. I've been dwelling on what holds us together. That and Paul's frequent, overflowing descriptions of the unity of the body. A friend recommended Christena Cleveland's Disunity in Christ to help me think through what drives us to break that unity. I'm glad I read it, and I walk away with my understanding of group identity dynamics confirmed and even strengthened. Cleveland opens DIC with a cleverly written chapter. Unfortunately the quality of writing declines in the middle of the book. DIC references many social psychology studies (with the strangest endnote citation format I've ever encountered!). These kind of studies make clever writing difficult, and Cleveland's writing in these chs reflects this challenge. It's readable and understandable, but not delightful. The very best part of DIC is the penultimate ch. Building on all of the social psychology of the chs 2-8, Cleveland offers strategic how-to instruction for overcoming the forces that drive us apart. The book is worth the read if only for ch 9. A useful book I'll page through again in coming days.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bob Wolniak

    This isn't nearly as negative as the title implies. In fact it is quite a positive and wonderful little book which will make you laugh out loud at times and cringe at others when you see yourself having made some of the typical mistakes we employ to exclude and put down others. The author is very easy to read and hard to put down. She applies some of the latest sociological research to explaining the factors that separate us and provides hopeful steps forward in changing that dynamic. A must rea This isn't nearly as negative as the title implies. In fact it is quite a positive and wonderful little book which will make you laugh out loud at times and cringe at others when you see yourself having made some of the typical mistakes we employ to exclude and put down others. The author is very easy to read and hard to put down. She applies some of the latest sociological research to explaining the factors that separate us and provides hopeful steps forward in changing that dynamic. A must read. I enjoyed having our new employees read and discuss it. In addition it is a pocket book of cross-cultural and emotional IQ lessons as well. Very good discussion questions at the end of each chapter along with clear and humble examples.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Robinson

    Probably the most important book I've read this year. Especially as a Christian blogger, this was an absolutely vital reminder loaded with brilliant insight from the world of social psychology. Christians have divided excessively and often look down on each other as inferior and maybe not really Christians at all. Cleveland goes through a variety of psychological factors which contribute to this divisiveness. Most importantly, she offers concrete advice - backed by research - on how to best over Probably the most important book I've read this year. Especially as a Christian blogger, this was an absolutely vital reminder loaded with brilliant insight from the world of social psychology. Christians have divided excessively and often look down on each other as inferior and maybe not really Christians at all. Cleveland goes through a variety of psychological factors which contribute to this divisiveness. Most importantly, she offers concrete advice - backed by research - on how to best overcome these obstacles so we can be the united body of Christ that God wants.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    I read this for the Red Couch Book Club, although too slowly/late to participate in discussions (as usual). If you're at all interested in creating real unity within and across the Church, this is a must-read. There is a LOT of academic social psychology in this book, but it's tempered by Christena's great wit and earthiness. I applaud her for addressing important truths that many Christians are too uncomfortable to talk about, and providing practical solutions. I read this for the Red Couch Book Club, although too slowly/late to participate in discussions (as usual). If you're at all interested in creating real unity within and across the Church, this is a must-read. There is a LOT of academic social psychology in this book, but it's tempered by Christena's great wit and earthiness. I applaud her for addressing important truths that many Christians are too uncomfortable to talk about, and providing practical solutions.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Emily McFarlan Miller

    If we understand the hidden forces that keep us apart, we can override them to come together, reflecting the body of Christ in its diversity. Completely fascinating. Full disclosure: I received a galley copy of this book free in preparation for an article I am writing from the publisher, IVP Books.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cara Meredith

    I was blown away by Cleveland's voice and content, the former of which is snarky and hilarious and brilliant, and the latter a must-read for anyone in the church. I love how her psychology-minded brain weaves together a story, examples and a call to action. Loved it. I was blown away by Cleveland's voice and content, the former of which is snarky and hilarious and brilliant, and the latter a must-read for anyone in the church. I love how her psychology-minded brain weaves together a story, examples and a call to action. Loved it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gena Thomas

    So very powerful. Every dominant culture church & nonprofit leader should read this. It doesnt just talk about diversity, it gives tools for understanding why true diversity is so counterintuitive & with those practical tools, hope for change feels possible. I'm soooooooo glad I read this! So very powerful. Every dominant culture church & nonprofit leader should read this. It doesnt just talk about diversity, it gives tools for understanding why true diversity is so counterintuitive & with those practical tools, hope for change feels possible. I'm soooooooo glad I read this!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    In this book, Cleveland takes a broad range of research and theory in social psychology and applies it to the Christian church. She shows why our identity feels so closely tied to our specific denomination, why we shy away from the notion of being a universal church with those who seem different from us (theologically or culturally), and why attempts at crosscultural collaboration (e.g., a predominantly white church and a predominantly black church joining forces) so often go badly. The tone may In this book, Cleveland takes a broad range of research and theory in social psychology and applies it to the Christian church. She shows why our identity feels so closely tied to our specific denomination, why we shy away from the notion of being a universal church with those who seem different from us (theologically or culturally), and why attempts at crosscultural collaboration (e.g., a predominantly white church and a predominantly black church joining forces) so often go badly. The tone may be a little simplistic if you're used to reading a lot of social science research, but her main goal is to bring the wisdom of social psychology to Christians at large, and I think she does that fairly well. Each chapter is followed by a set of reflection questions, and I think they would work well as discussion questions. I'm considering pitching this as a book study for the college residence hall where we live, as I'm sure there are some students who would be interested. I think college students are probably the ideal audience for her messages, because they know enough about research to follow along with her explanations but not enough to already be familiar with some of the more famous experiments (like the Robbers Cave experiment), and many of them (at least at our Catholic university) may go on to be church leaders but aren't yet jaded from failed attempts at certain initiatives. That's my theory, anyway! One thing I particularly liked about this book was that Cleveland explicitly talked about the realities of power dynamics and histories of oppression when talking about crosscultural collaboration. Each time I thought, "Well, that's a nice idea, but it totally ignores the problems of systemic power differences between those groups," she would immediately follow it up with a discussion of that exact issue. I appreciated the section where she talked about self-affirmation exercises and how she as a woman of color could, in effect, armor herself before opening herself up to listening to someone who might have hurtful ideas. She also has some important things to say about leaders modeling inclusive language and behavior before asking their followers to do the same. I had two main critiques of the book: First, Cleveland has a lot of excellent points and examples, but doesn't always string them together in the most effective way. In several cases she introduces a topic, then shares an example that seems only tenuously connected, and then it's only later that she connects the pieces, so it's hard to follow her thought process in the moment, though it all eventually comes together. Second, she speaks at a number of points about comparing "smaller" identities (age, race, gender, etc.) to our "larger" identity of followers of Christ, and how that larger church community represents our ultimate identity through which we can find commonalities among those with different cultural identities or specific theological beliefs. However, there's almost no mention of other religions (except for some research examples involving Jewish people) and it's unclear why all of her examples of crosscultural collaboration couldn't be equally applied to interfaith collaboration. She takes it as a given that all of her readers, while motivated to move past theological differences with other Christians, believe that Christianity is the Only True Faith. I wish Cleveland had included more examples of churches successfully putting her ideas into practice, but I wonder if she felt she needed to put the ideas out there before they could start being used effectively. She has a lot of examples of what hasn't worked well, and examples of advice she's given people, but most of her actual examples of successful crosscultural collaboration are hypothetical. I'd love to know whether, in the five years since this was published, Cleveland's ideas have been applied successfully in actual churches. I think this book would be challenging to read if you're not Christian, but I do think it has valuable insights for almost anyone on group dynamics, why we judge others, and how we can overcome cultural barriers. And if you are Christian, and especially if you're a church leader, this is an exact wake-up call to push yourself and your congregation out of your bubble to learn from those who aren't exactly like you and, in doing so, deepen your faith and your understanding of the world around you.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Clayton Keenon

    Big picture, this is a really good book. I loved the examples from sociological research. There was plenty to put into practice. Two complaints. One minor. One major. Minor: The book was a bit repetitive. It boiled down to a few big ideas and could’ve been shorter. Major: She does not explain where we should draw the line between groups. Because sometimes we must. Cleveland’s goal is obviously to promote unity between diverse groups within the body of Christ. Her main idea is to see others as pa Big picture, this is a really good book. I loved the examples from sociological research. There was plenty to put into practice. Two complaints. One minor. One major. Minor: The book was a bit repetitive. It boiled down to a few big ideas and could’ve been shorter. Major: She does not explain where we should draw the line between groups. Because sometimes we must. Cleveland’s goal is obviously to promote unity between diverse groups within the body of Christ. Her main idea is to see others as part of “we” rather than “they.” She gave lots of different examples of the cultural divisions that can be overcome this way, including ethnicity, age, gender, marital status, political viewpoints, etc. This was mostly great, but there were times when she included things in the greater “we” that I thought should be excluded. The main example that came up several times was people who are pro-life and people who are pro-choice. I can understand trying to unite people across viewpoints that are both acceptable under the big umbrella of Christianity. But there are boundaries. A pro-choice person may be a member of the body of Christ (i.e. saved, belonging to God and God’s people), but that doesn’t mean there viewpoint needs to be affirmed as a valid Christian option. It isn’t just a cultural barrier when one person says, “That’s murder,” and another person says it is not. That’s a massive gap in moral understanding with grave consequences. My main point is not about abortion here. That example just highlighted for me the question that I wish she had addressed. How do you know when you must draw lines between groups and/or exclude certain views/behaviors from being acceptable within a group? I’m not talking about being hostile or unkind towards people, but not everyone/everything fits in the “in group.” There is an “out group” somewhere. How do I know who they are? The apostles seemed to make these kinds of distinctions between who was in and out of the community. I think we divide over too many things (and I am in enthusiastic agreement with Cleveland’s project). But I think some division protects the church. So, I want to know how to think through when that makes sense to do.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Abigail Advincula

    Good, if a tad repetitive. I find most books on cognitive science to be this way, like Thinking Fast and Slow . As mentioned in previous reviews, I like reading about the results of cognitive science studies but dislike reading the actual test set-ups. I think the point that Christena is trying to make in this book is that creating divisions and differentiating between "us" and "them" feel very natural. Maybe too natural...like a sin nature. It is very often the path of least resistance. The aut Good, if a tad repetitive. I find most books on cognitive science to be this way, like Thinking Fast and Slow . As mentioned in previous reviews, I like reading about the results of cognitive science studies but dislike reading the actual test set-ups. I think the point that Christena is trying to make in this book is that creating divisions and differentiating between "us" and "them" feel very natural. Maybe too natural...like a sin nature. It is very often the path of least resistance. The author especially draws attention to the division between Christians in the Church. Especially for me, this issue has been painfully mystifying. Christena gives many examples of how divisions among groups arise and why they are hard to change. I think disunity among Christians can happen for many reasons - theology, historical racism, leadership style, and community building strategies, etc. I think the author makes the point that she believes none of these factors should stop Christians from attempting to unite, but I know many that would disagree with her (especially on the point of theology). I wish she had discussed several scenarios why division and not-agreeing might be a good thing. That would have probably been very disrupting of the theme of unity - balanced certainly, but disruptive. My personal belief is that thoughts on Christianity need to be divided into categories in order of most to least important - core beliefs, doctrines, convictions, and opinions. Each category could be a reason for division in the church. I think the issues among Christians lies in the fact that different topics get placed in different categories; my core belief is something you think is a debatable conviction and vice versa. There is hope, though. A model of a multi-ethnic, inclusive church is Biblical. The Great Commission said to go out to all nations. Jesus himself befriended and loved all types of people. The New Testament discusses the reconciliation of different viewpoints within the Early Church at great length. Christena's book has convinced me that diversity is beautiful and needs to be pursued at individual and organizational levels.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I read this book with the hope of learning why disunity is so contagious in the worldwide church. One of my favorite pastors from my church recently left/got fired (who’s to say?), which made me realize just how many people have come and gone from my church over the past 5 years that I’ve been attending. I’ve also been reading up on racism in order to help diversify my own friend group. This book answered about 75% of my questions, which is a pretty good percentage! Since I was a psychology major I read this book with the hope of learning why disunity is so contagious in the worldwide church. One of my favorite pastors from my church recently left/got fired (who’s to say?), which made me realize just how many people have come and gone from my church over the past 5 years that I’ve been attending. I’ve also been reading up on racism in order to help diversify my own friend group. This book answered about 75% of my questions, which is a pretty good percentage! Since I was a psychology major, I found this book particularly interesting. She uses lots of great research examples, and lots of social psychology terms I learned about in school. My takeaways are as follows: the us/them language I tend to use that I’d like to eliminate; recognizing my status in society and actively letting that go in order to connect with people from different statuses; acknowledging that if I choose to identify with a group (Christians, for example) I need to share in the glories and the failures; overall humility that I don’t know that much!! I got a little bored half way through, but the discussion questions helped. She did not discuss anything about what to do when you interact with people who are doing terrible things in the name of the gospel. I suppose that’s because everyone defines “terrible things” differently, but nevertheless I did want some practical tips for what to do when I encounter someone who I can see doing literal damage to someone else. I would recommend this book as a good starting point for this topic.

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