When my daughters were still in grade school, I created the "Keep or Get Rid Of" game. I created the game as a desperate measure to restore order to their bedrooms when too many toys, clothes, shoes, and clutter had resulted in a chaotic tornado of mess and mayhem. I would gather boxes, bags, and a kitchen timer. Then I would set the timer (usually for 45 minutes to an hour), ask the girls to sit on their beds while I would hold up items and simply say, "Keep or Get Rid Of?"
The rule was that they would have five seconds to decide if it was something worth keeping or if it was something that would end up in a box or bag to be donated to Goodwill or the church rummage sale. The idea was to make quick decisions about what was still needed and useful. It was also meant to quickly organize their bedrooms so that they could find things and I could walk past their bedrooms without cringing at the mess.
While I felt like this was an effective game, I have to confess that it often reduced my girls to tears and meltdowns. The sorting was not as easy as I wanted to make it out to be. There were stories, memories, and deep sentiments often attached to the "things" I wanted them to get rid of in order to establish a sense of order for ME to feel as if I had a better handle on life in our house. Eventually, the game was banned in our household because of the stress and fights it caused.
Brene Brown's new book Braving the Wilderness quotes Bill Bishop's work The Big Sort in which he writes, "As people seek out the social settings they prefer--as they choose the group that makes them most comfortable--the nation grows more segregated--and the benefit that ought to come with having a variety of opinions is lost to the righteousness that is special entitlement of homogeneous groups. We all live with the results, balkanized communities whose inhabitants find other Americans to be culturally incomprehensible; a growing intolerance for differences that has made consensus impossible." Brown goes on to point out that Bishop's work was published in 2009 and she imagines if Bill Bishop wrote a sequel to The Big Sort today, he would probably have to entitle it "THE BIGGEST SORT EVER."
It does seem that as a nation we have entered into a collective sorting game. Deciding rather quickly, without considering the true worth and story of each person, who is in and who is out. Who shall we keep in our circles of connection and who shall we get rid of? If we are honest with ourselves we play this kind of "keep or get rid of" game in our nation, in our communities, in our neighborhoods, in our churches and even in our families.
We convince ourselves that anyone is not of the same worth and value as us--have dehumanized them and dismissed their divinely created uniqueness. We often do so out of a deep seated fear that life has become too complicated, messy and out of our control. We try to control the chaos by establishing categories we believe will bring order. Yet, the most heartbreaking consequence is that we become further divided, fear rises, and hate emerges. The meltdowns of connection and compassion give way to more hurt, more pain, and more division. The sorting game creates a never-ending loop of disconnection and chaos.
One of the most common threads of the Biblical stories is what happens when humanity engages in the sorting game. Many of the stories reveal what happens when humanity turns to fear of those who are not like them, and away from the beauty, mystery and diversity God has created for us to enjoy, embrace, and celebrate. The result is a separation from God and one another or what we have classically called sin. As Jesus the Christ reminded humanity, we need to be redeemed and restored from the sins that separate us from God and from one another. In truth, with one another, we should never play the "keep or get rid of" game for it only destroys that which God has created and named as good.