On the Corner


The Army’s leadership has made a decision on a personnel matter of some importance. That decision allows the Army to continue to minister to significant thousands of “our” people who are residents and participants in Army programs supported by government funding.

It affects the large urban populations of the West most deeply. This decision does not change our course. It does not shift our mission. It does not modify our theology.

This is a good decision, which I endorse.

A corps, like a family, is a dynamic group. By that I mean there are forces in conflict within the group which can cause it to move in different directions. The dynamic nature of the group can cause it to fragment and split apart, or it can move the group forward into a powerful agent of good. It all depends on how the conflict is managed.

For a corps to pursue its mission, it must become a working group. For a corps to become a working group, it must be cohesive. It must have community. There must be a sense of togetherness–belongingness–relatedness.

Does this mean that the group should never experience conflict? No!

Does this mean that all of the members should always agree with one another? No!

Does this mean that the community should become exclusionary–limit its membership to those holding similar positions? No!

What does it mean?

It means we need to learn to respect one another–enjoy a diversity of opinion–explore ideas and feelings together.

It means we generate trust in one another and work to develop a climate of acceptance.

It means we know how to detoxify argument. We don’t judge the quality of an individual by their position in a debate. We don’t resort to labeling, scapegoating, or name-calling. We don’t engage in making things personal. We listen actively, consciously, with intention to fully understand the meaning of the message sent.

Building community means we refuse to fragment–to break apart–to isolate. Often this occurs as we feel hurt–as we carry pain–as we feel rejected. Our willingness to confront fragmentation makes itself evident as we find ways to accept each other and allow diversity.

It means we abandon the false positives of sub-grouping–forming small exclusive cliques limited to people who think just like us. Sometimes the sub-groups have been deliberately created within the large group–like the band or the songsters–or the young adult group. Often these sub-groups develop strong cohesiveness within themselves. Such cohesiveness is not false. It’s not dangerous. The problem comes if these sub-groups within the larger group become overly competitive. Hostility follows. Communication breaks down. Rigid boundaries appear. When this happens the leadership needs to create a stronger sense of allegiance to the large group–the corps as a whole and its mission in the community.

Building community means we are willing as individuals to risk unpopularity by expressing an unpopular point of view.

It means we are willing to validate individuals who choose to take such risks.

A stronger community usually grows out of conflict. Even internal conflict. This is not something to fear. It is a sign of growth. Even anger isn’t lethal. It is essential, however, to maintain communication between parties in the conflict. When communication stops, so, too, does hope for any progress in resolving the conflict. The leadership plays a vital role in this.

I used some of this strong bonding super-glue the other day. It really holds thing together. It sticks. They sold me two tubes of different stuff. The directions told me to squeeze a short line from each tube right next to each other and then mix them together. I did this, and then, very carefully, I spread some of the mix where it was needed. I kept my fingers out of it. It worked quickly and very well. It took two ingredients–two different substances to achieve a super-bonding. We could consider them “you” and “me.” Let’s get cohesive.

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