Dr. Seuss tells the story of two creatures known as Zax. There is a south-going Zax and a north going Zax who happen to cross paths in the dessert of Prax. This creates quite a confrontation between the two creatures, for neither is willing to alter their course in order to accommodate the other. For each creature, to step to the right or left would be a denial of their solely north-going or south-going nature. For these two creatures, then, the conflict entails deeply held understandings of identity and mission. With an inability to budge, the two are locked in an unsolvable battle.
The story concludes with the south-going Zax ranting that he will stay unmoved even if the world stands still. To that statement, Seuss concludes the tale:
“Well . . . Of course the world didn’t stand still. The world grew. In a couple of years, the new highway came through and they built it right over those two stubborn Zax. And left them there, standing un-budged in their tracks. “
I find this ending incredibly frightening. Seuss ends the story with a depiction of a world that simply side-steps these two arrogant and insular looking creatures. The world moves on and literally by-passes the Zax. I wonder if they ever looked up and wondered why nobody seemed to pay them any attention anymore.
How often do we in the church assume that the world stands still in the midst of our arguments and disagreements? We dig our heels in; we draw our lines in the sand; we firmly resolve to remain unmoved in light of what we view to be important matters – such as traditional vs. contemporary; BAS vs. BCP; hymns vs. praise songs, organ vs. guitar. . . . the list could go on and on. Sadly the list does go on and on.
To us, our disagreements make sense. They are about the very nature of our identity and mission. What is more, there are deeply theological, ethical and moral issues that the church is called to navigate. Yet it wasn’t their individual positions that stopped the two Zax in their tracks, it was their inability to value, honour, and care for the other. The silliness of our arguments is not about the positions we hold but the manner in which we refuse to allow others to hold their positions as well.
Our Epistle reading from last Sunday said as much: “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, I don’t need you.” I wonder what the church look like if Liberals said to Evangelicals “We need you!”, and Evangelicals said to Liberals “We honour you.” When we view the other side of theological spectrum, the other style in worship musicality, or the other person in ministry as a mere obstacle to get around, we are essentially saying “I don’t need you.” When both sides fail to listen and love the other then the church can go no where. What is more, as we remain motionless, the world finds creative ways to bypass us.
I’m sure each Zax firmly believed their position was the best. Yet their dedication to proving the supremacy of their position actually stopped their movement. No longer was the north-going Zax north going, or the south-going Zax south-going. They were stagnant in their identity and motionless in their mission. Their inability to accommodate the other stopped them from being the very people they were created to be. That silly little argument actually stopped them living out the very convictions that they were arguing about!
We all have convictions and beliefs. Making allowances for others isn’t a denial of those things. Basing our identity on where we stand in these arguments, however, only isolates us from the world around us and creates barriers and obstacles to interactions and relationships. Being able to allow space for another person, made in the image of God, may actually allow us to fully live out our identity and mission. Furthermore, the dismantling of our silly arguments just may allow the church to re-claim its space in this world, and begin to re-engage the people around us.
What are the silly little arguments that you have found? How has accommodating the other helped you understand more fully your own identity and mission?