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Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart Paperback – December 3, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"A well-researched and readable book on the issue of disunity that all of us pastors face but are able to do little about once the wheels are set in motion. Helped to remind me of the importance of dealing with potential problems before they blossom into something more sinister." (Dave McDowell, "The 2014 Leadership Book Awards," Leadership Journal, Winter 2014)

"Cleveland wants us to engage in building bridges and dismantling the existing divisions as soon as we put the book down. In the closing chapters she equips the reader with tools for the work of reconciliation. She provides us with a biblical foundation for cross-cultural unity and explains how to overcome our cognitive and emotional biases. . . . Disunity in Christ is not only a source of education, but is also a source of hope that the work of reconciliation is possible, necessary and not done in vain." (Ryan Herring, Sojourners, July 2014)

"Cleveland tackles a thorny topic by sharing pieces of her own story. She is appropriately vulnerable and honest about the ways she has sought to grow in her view of other Christians with whom she disagrees. This is a great resource for the pastor or lay leader serious about bridge building in a Christian culture that can sometimes be obsessed with fortifying boundaries and walls." (Andrew E. Stoddard, Leadership Journal, Winter 2014)

"What I love about Christena’s work is that it is consistently thoughtful, gracious, and PRACTICAL. Few writers are able to instruct without condescending, question without growing cynical, and challenge without hurting. I am so grateful for Christena’s wise perspective." (Rachel Held Evans, July 23, 2013, www.rachelheldevans.com/blog)

"In Disunity in Christ, Christena Cleveland keenly points out why Christians who have a heart for unity have such a hard time actually uniting, and offers wisdom on how we might begin to listen to and work with others who differ from us." (Chris Smith, Relevant Magazine, "10 Books to Read This Fall for a Deeper Faith," September 12, 2014)

"Christena Cleveland provides valuable insight into the causes and perpetuation of factors within the body of Jesus Christ that hinder true unity. She examines how obstacles such as race, national origin and personal prejudices can only be overcome when believers are willing to break outside the boundaries of their small cultural/group identities and embrace the larger common identity. Worship leaders will be challenged to encourage worship that merges a diverse congregation into a unified body praising God." (Jeff Friend, Worship Leader Magazine, May/June 2014)

"Disunity in Christ gives us an opportunity to begin a dialogue in the church that is way overdue. If we can talk about privilege and race and divide, if we can get it on our collective radar, then, like the new word, it'll start appearing all over the place. And at that point we can make different choices, better choices. . . . If she continues to hone in on her singular perspective and keeps speaking with courage and truth, then Christena Cleveland's voice will continue to be very welcome indeed." (Zena Neds-Fox, Englewood Review of Books, Advent 2013)

"Amidst American culture, in which deep divides over race and sexuality have been driving public conversation in recent years, it is a great work of peacemaking to have a book like this that reflects on why our differences lead to conflict and divisions, and how we can begin to work toward healing." (C. Christopher Smith, Englewood Review of Books, Ordinary Time 2013)

"With a personal touch and the trained eye of a social psychologist, Cleveland brings to bear the latest studies and research on the unseen dynamics at work that tend to separate us from others. Learn why Christians who have a heart for unity have such a hard time actually uniting. The author provides real insight for ministry leaders who have attempted to build bridges across boundaries." (Light Magazine, Canada, November 2013)

"In Disunity in Christ 5/5 stars, Cleveland helps readers view people of diverse cultural backgrounds as God's gifts, not thorns in the flesh. She provides valuable insights, practical recommendations, and tools to help the Christian community identify and address the dynamics that fracture Christ's body. . . . My hope, ultimately, is that Disunity in Christ will create new momentum toward fulfilling Jesus' prayer for unity amongst his followers. Those involved in building and supporting multiethnic Christian communities will be moved by Cleveland's stories, perspectives, and gracious spirit. Her book will, I hope, help us resolve generational, economic, political, and theological differences―and teach us to see that, truly, we are better off together." (Paul Louis Metzger, Christianity Today, November 2013)

"Disunity in Christ is an honest and sophisticated account of the disunity within the Christian community. Highlighting social-psychological principles backed by a large body of scientific research, Cleveland both explains why human nature allows--perhaps even facilitates--this disunity, and outlines steps for overcoming it. The book is unapologetically hopeful and insightful. It emphasizes Christ's underlying message of unity in a down-to-earth, heartwarming and easily accessible way. Readers can experience a sense of fellowship with the author as they relate to her experiences. The refreshing insights within each chapter and the thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter make this book an excellent discussion starter and a wonderful teaching tool." (Carmel Saad, assistant professor of psychology, Westmont College)

"Weaving together research from social psychology with engaging--and sometimes hilarious!--stories from her own life, Christena Cleveland has given us a unique and important work on a matter of extreme importance. Written with a clarity and style that is accessible to all, this marvelous book is as informative as it is practical, as challenging as it is entertaining, and as insightful as it is fun (yes, a book on reconciliation that is fun!). Every Christian concerned about reconciliation in the church--and all Christians should be--will benefit from reading Disunity in Christ." (Greg Boyd, senior pastor, Woodland Hills Church, Maplewood, Minnesota)

"An ideal tool for ministry leaders, this book answers such questions as why choices in language can affect unity, how we can avoid thinking as a group, and why women think men perceive them negatively." (CBA Retailers + Resources, December 2013)

"'Witty, thought-provoking, engaging and delightful-to-read book' best characterizes this well-informed analysis of major divisions that fracture churches within contemporary America. Christena Cleveland's ability to weave autobiography, sociology and social psychology into her fine analysis of the topic offers stunning insight into congregational life today. May serious Christians enter the conversation that she has graciously framed." (David D. Daniels, Henry Winters Luce Professor of World Christianity, McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago)

"If you are concerned about healing the schisms within Christianity--or for that matter, between Christians and non-Christians--this is the book for you. Clearheaded, well written and funny, it is a serious attempt to do something important." (T. M. Luhrmann, Stanford University, author of When God Talks Back)

"Christena Cleveland's book is delightful, witty and deeply insightful! She effortlessly weaves her own voice and stories with compelling social psychological research to convey an urgent, informed message that church leaders, educators and lay Christians will find profoundly useful." (Christine Ma-Kellams, college fellow, department of psychology, Harvard University)

"In Disunity in Christ, Christena Cleveland provides an insightful analysis of why we all say we want unity but find it so difficult to gain it. Combining a humble Christian tone, familiarity with many types of churches and skillful use of social science, Disunity in Christ reveals to us those very human tendencies that keep us divided. Along the way, Cleveland helps us to see, laugh at and rethink our very selves. This book will effectively help any Christian or church wanting a deeper experience of the reconciliation we have in the body of Christ. As a pastor serving a church of some thirty nationalities, I found it an extremely useful analysis of what hurts and helps unity." (Thabiti M. Anyabwile, senior pastor, First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman, and author of The Decline of African American Theology)

"A unique, down-to-earth but delightful and fast-moving confession about a thoughtful and fun trip through the vicissitudes of personal experience and growth in the meaning of Christianity." (James J. Blascovich, professor of psychology, University of California Santa Barbara)

"In this wise and approachable book, Christena Cleveland brings a fresh perspective on the importance of doing our own 'perspective taking' to uncover blind spots, identify internalized fears and expose privileged assumptions within the body of Christ that keep us caught in uniformity and division, rather than celebrating our unity and diversity in the image of the triune God. With humor, grace and solid research, Cleveland encourages the church toward practical, theological renewal by dismantling cultural categories and false boundaries in order to undertake the risky, exhilarating, cruciform work of crosscultural reconciliation. She does not consider this to be an optional idea. Rather, Cleveland rightly assumes that multiethnic, crosscultural reconciliation manifests the church's glorious, nonnegotiable life in the kingdom of God, and she leaves us better equipped to enact that life together." (Cherith Fee Nordling, associate professor of theology, Northern Seminary)

"Disunity in Christ is a very significant book for twenty-first-century Christians and congregations. Using accessible language and concepts, Christena Cleveland offers profound insights from social psychology to clarify the many reasons for the troubling and rampant divisions found in Christianity. She also suggests very practical strategies for creating greater unity. This book is a must-read for pastors, lay leaders, seminarians and college students. The integrity of Christianity depends on a church not only committed to reconciliation but moving toward real unity. Cleveland unveils a clear, compelling and realistic path to get us there." (Curtiss Paul DeYoung, professor of reconciliation studies, Bethel University)

"Cleveland is a smart, funny, social scientist who speaks to the church's fundamental problems with listening. Pointing out how segregated we have become (ethnically, to be sure, but also theologically and culturally), she remarks on how puzzling it is that people committed to unity have such a hard time actually uniting. A key, for Cleveland, is acknowledging that bias feels good, and actively trying to overcome it. She also tackles our cultural idolatry of individualism and points out that, whether in churches or neighborhoods, homogeneity is never harmless." (D. L. Mayfield, Christianity Today, September 2015)

About the Author

Christena Cleveland (PhD, University of California, Santa Barbara) is associate professor of reconciliation studies at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is an award-winning researcher and gifted teacher who brings organizational experience to her efforts to build unity. She consults with pastors and organizational leaders on multicultural issues and speaks regularly at organizations, churches, conferences, universities and schools.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books; 9.3.2013 edition (December 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830844031
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830844036
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book should be mandatory reading. In a day of binary oppositional language such as black/white, you're with us or against us, male female, sacred secular, private public - Cleveland seeks to explain the challenges humans face in truly appreciating and valuing differences. Cleveland systematically walks us through robust discussions on:
* Categorizing - and the resultant distortions
* Categorizing - and its affect on our interactions with others
* Group tendency towards identity and self esteem protection and the implications of this protection
* The role of bias in boosting self-esteem
* Cultural threats leading to hostile conflict
* How culture clouds our judgment

Cleveland introduces the theoretical discussion in an accessible way and then supports her discussion with examples that most can relate to. No trite easy answers are provided. Instead, Cleveland recognized the difficulty: "The work of reconciliation is often excruciating. . . we must do the difficult work of addressing our biases and blind spots" (pp. 156, 157). She proposes Four elements as needed for "positive crosscultural interaction: 1) working toward a larger goal; 2) creating equal status; 3) engaging in personal interaction; and 4) providing leadership." (p. 158). Cleveland offers an explanation and an opportunity for us to individually and collectively reflect, understand our habitual ways of behaving, and possibilities for a positive way forward. A truly wonderful book!

I would have titled this Disunity and then scoped it as a case study using the Christian community as a lens from which to illustrate. My fear is that this worthwhile, informative read will be dismissed by some due to the words "in Christ.
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Format: Paperback
I think about Christian unity a lot. I’m convinced that unity is one of the first implications of the Gospel though it is often the first implication to be overlooked, reduced, or explained away. As much as I’m theologically convinced about the priority of unity I’m even more convinced emotionally. Belonging to multi-ethnic congregations for the past five years and finding identity within a diverse community of Christians has been enough to convince my heart that unity is far more of a benefit than it is a goal. It’s true that unity involves hard work but it is also a profound joy.

The challenge and joy of Christian unity is tied up in our belief that unity involves those who are incredibly different than myself. Unity is Christian when the community is made up of diverse others, individuals who were once them but are now us. Most Christians in my experience are great with the idea of diverse unity. We believe our churches to be hospitable to all kinds of people regardless of a person’s race, ethnicity, culture, history, etc. So why aren’t our churches more diverse? The answers generally given to this question just barely acknowledge the real challenges to unity. Instead we default to cliches about cultural preferences and styles of worship. Experiencing the robust unity we read about in the New Testament requires setting aside simplistic answers and acknowledging the real hurdles that keep us from experiencing the formational and joyful community that is meant to define us.

Christena Cleveland has written a book that does exactly this. Professor Cleveland teaches social psychology at St Catherine University and is fluent in the norms and challenges facing churches that strive for diverse unity.
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A good book to learn about social psychology. As implied by the title, it does have a religious background to it, but the author mostly mentions every day scenarios or references to help the reader get a basic understanding and spends the end of each chapter applying the social psychological theories discussed in the chapter to how Christians relate to each other. It's a fairly easy read and pretty relatable even for non-Christians (though non-Christians may opt to skip the last few paragraphs of each chapters). It wasn't overwhelmingly religious, just the right mix.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
FAR TOO OFTEN, as followers of Christ, we make sense of our world in a compartmentalized way. In Disunity in Christ, Christena Cleveland attempts, with great success, to integrate thoughtful sociological reflection on human behavior with a theological matrix for making sense of our division through the lens of the biblical narrative. Christena has done the church a great service by giving us a theological language and imagination for things social scientists have been observing for a while.

What is even better is that she weaves these things together in such a way that it is accessible to everyone. I find myself simultaneously in the classroom, in theological study, and deeply reflective in regards to my own complicity in the division that wreaks havoc on the church today.

Christena is asking questions which, from my view, are some of the most critical questions facing the church today. One of the great themes of God's Kingdom is how God is bringing together a New Humanity Family as, through Jesus, he reconciles all things to himself and all of us to one another. Christena's work in Disunity in Christ is a great help to any church who sees its calling as living into the trajectory of God's Kingdom future...today.
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