You and I, friend, are on either side of a divide. I write these words before the inauguration of President Joe Biden. You will read them after. So, here we are, on either side of a day. Something that likely unites President Biden, you, and me is a somewhat anxious question: What are we going to do about all of this?
Do you know the story of the egg carton?
The egg carton was invented in 1911, not by a farmer, agricultural worker, or engineer, but by a newspaperman.
The story goes that Joe Coyle was typing away in his office next to a hotel in British Columbia one day when he heard a commotion outside. He stops, fingers over the keys, listening. It might be something newsworthy. But the words the hotel owner is screaming at Farmer “Bob” are not fit to print. Joe grabs his hat and heads outside. It seems the trouble is that the hotel has a standing order for Farmer Bob’s eggs, but when the eggs get to the hotel, they’re all smashed up.
President Joe Biden, like Joe Coyle, is faced with division. The conflict runs so deep that the calls for cooperation across the aisle, so typical of inauguration days past, seem laughably naïve at best. At worst, the calls for unity are heard as a regressive defense of an unjust status quo—a particularly crude display of moral cowardice masquerading as “moderation” to selfishly protect privilege. This election—indeed, the past five or six years—has more in common with a street-by-street battle than a gentlemen’s duel. A handshake will not resolve it.
Yet, peace sounds good. Doesn’t it?
Few things in 2020 struck me with as much dissonance as the tagline “We’re all in this together.” Really? In a nation where contempt has carved a canyon so deep that wearing masks divided churches, severed the body of Christ?
Even in the church, in those called to a “ministry of reconciliation,” it’s come to this. It pierces my heart daily as I listen to pastors grieve for shrinking congregations and the way relationships go up like kindling in the heat of anger. I work for the Colossian Forum, a ministry equipping Christians to faithfully engage conflict in their congregations, families, and communities. I urge Christians daily to remember their baptism, to not discard their Christian brothers and sisters in allegiance to a nation or a political party. It pains me to see both sides evict and excommunicate. It’s more or less the same words shouted at conservative grandparents and progressive children: “If you don’t like it, leave. See if we care.”
I am elbow-deep in the ache for unity, and yet I know the impossibility of surrender to injustice and shallow neighborliness with falsehood. Compromise seems to ask us to deny the truth, excuse sin, and abandon our work of loving God and neighbor.
Faithfulness is far too desperate for God and “on earth as in heaven,” too wild with everlasting life—excessive, rainforest-like flourishing—to be content in “agree to disagree” and sin paved over with politeness. The faithful steward scrubs the whole house in case the Lord comes home tonight. The scrubbing is holiness.
So what do we do when called to communion as one body and yet commanded to unflinching love, truth-telling, and holiness?
Joe Coyle went back to his office. The sound of shouting dulled when he shut the door. He sat down with a sigh. Then he pulled the sheet of paper out of his typewriter and began to fold it into the shape of a “W.” Yes, something like that could work. A box with rows of little egg pockets, like so, would keep the fragile cargo from rattling against each other so much in transit. No more scrambled eggs!
That’s the story. Well, more or less. Joseph Coyle invented the egg carton to solve a dispute between his neighbors. He sold his newspaper, built egg carton factories, and mass-produced his design.
The invention of the egg carton is one of those delightful historical tidbits that almost begs to be symbolic. One might say, “If we stay in our own little pockets, we won’t get so broken up.” What fellowship can there be between conservative and progressive Christians, in agony over the loss of relationships but utterly convinced that the “other side” is harming our congregations, communities, and the people God loves? Better to divide.
However, as Christians, we are invited to be caught up in the wave of redemption as it ripples out from the cross—the Second Creation. Our work should be a reflection patterned on that second creation, a justice which did not destroy its enemies but made billions of children of God. Creativity wrote the code of resurrection into the program of the universe. Redemption work must, I truly believe, be about creation, not destruction. It ought to be egg-carton-like—something new rather than a compromise. Because President Biden professes to be a Christian, the reconciliation work ahead of him is much the same—work, not of flimsy compromise, but creating something new.
Emily Stroble is a writer of bits and pieces and is distractedly pursuing lots of novel ideas and nonfiction projects as inspiration strikes. As an editorial assistant at Zondervan, she helps put the pieces of children’s books and Bibles together. A lover of the ridiculous, inexplicable, and wondrous as well as stories of all kinds, Emily enjoys getting lost in museums, movies old and new, making art, the mountains of Colorado, and the unsalted oceans near Grand Rapids. Her movie reviews also appear in the Mixed Media section of The Banner and her strange little stories of the fantastic are on the Calvin alumni fiction blog Presticogitation. Her big dream is to dig her hands deep into the soil of making children’s books as an editor…and to finally finish her children’s novel.