Ransom Olds is not a household name. His legacy lives on, however, in the company that bears his name: Oldsmobile. Olds was the first to create and patent the assembly line, allowing him to increase production by 500 percent in a single year.
Henry Ford took Olds’ ideas and improved upon them to create his own assembly line process for creating automobiles. In the century that followed, mass production has become the norm. A quick glance around the house will probably reveal that the bulk of the items inside it are made in such a manner.
The advantages are clear: (1) lower costs, (2) consistent quality, and (3) higher profits. In theory, every item will come off the line in rapid succession, looking and functioning exactly the same as the one next to it.
It appears that this desire for uniformity has morphed from the factory to the broader culture. We seem to be a people bent on homogeneity—whether in our churches, our politics, our social media feeds, or our friend groups.
The trouble is: this is counter to the way of Christ. In the book of Ephesians, we read about a vision for the early Church: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
Despite the number of times the word “one” may be used, it is clear that Ephesians is not calling for uniformity. (If you have any doubt, read the description of “the body” in Romans 12 or 1 Corinthians 12.) Rather, this is a call for unity. In the midst of all our diversity, it is a call to remember that we are connected to one another, that we need each other, and that what unites us is greater than what divides us.
Maybe this whole idea can be best summed up by the slogan, “e pluribus unum.” Obviously, it is a Latin phrase, printed on most of our American money, meaning “out of the many, one.”
This is who we are as a nation: many people, from many places, many cultures, with many ideas, united as one. This is who we are as the church of Jesus Christ. Out of the many—Jew and Gentile; slave and free; male and female; old and young; black, white, and brown; rich and poor, musical and tone deaf; introverted and extroverted; loud and quiet; traditional and contemporary—we are one. We have been created by one God, redeemed by one Savior, and empowered by one Spirit.
In the midst of the choices that lay before us at the polls next week, I have encouraged my parishioners to make a different choice. I have encouraged them to end their day on Tuesday around the Table of our Lord, breaking bread with those who may think, speak, look, and vote differently from themselves.
My prayer is that we all may remember that God does not make humans on assembly lines. We are each unique, just as God intended. Therefore, may we remember that in the midst of our differences and diversity, we are still one.