Miroslav Volf on identity, purity, and conflict

I follow a number of people and sites on Facebook, some of which help me keep up on areas of research interest. One of these is in the area of New Testament studies, and this included a quote from Miroslav Volf. From his essay "Soft Difference" that interacts with 1 Peter.

"When identity is forged primarily through the negative process of the rejection of the beliefs and practices of others, violence seems unavoidable, especially in situations of conflict. We have to push others away from ourselves to keep ourselves pure of their taint. The violence of pushing and keeping away can express itself in subdued resentment, or it can break out in aggressive and destructive behavior."

I think this quote is spot on, and it dovetails with my understanding of conservative American evangelicalism, and our grant research. Note that mention is made of identity, and in the case of conservative evangelicals that comes largely from affirming doctrinal orthodoxy. The corollary of that is a re-enforcement of identity through the opposition of the beliefs of other religions. It is also worthy of note that Volf mentions "pushing others away" in a desire to maintain purity from the others' "taint." This is the conservative evangelical moral foundation of purity that reacts with disgust at the contamination from others.

Volf is, in my estimation, one of the leading thinkers in contemporary Christianity in bridging our divides.

John Morehead