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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books; 9.3.2013 edition (November 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830844031
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830844036
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 2.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"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)

"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)

"'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 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)

About the Author

Christena Cleveland (Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara) is a social psychologist who teaches at St. Catherine 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.

More About the Author

Christena Cleveland is a social psychologist with a hopeful passion for overcoming cultural divisions in groups. Drawing from a vast body of research, she uncovers the underlying processes that affect relationships within and between groups and helps leaders understand how to promote an appreciation for diversity and build effective collaborations with diverse groups.

Christena earned a B.A. from Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. from the University of California. An award-winning researcher and gifted teacher, she has published numerous scholarly articles and held academic appointments at the University of California, Westmont College, St. Catherine University and Bethel Seminary. In addition to academic experience, Christena brings organizational experience to her efforts to build unity. She coaches pastors and organizational leaders on multicultural issues and speaks regularly at organizations, churches, conferences and universities.

In addition to speaking, coaching and writing, she serves on the pastoral preaching team at her church and is a volunteer Young Life leader in urban Minneapolis.


Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 17 customer reviews
I thought this book for very insightful.
Arthur E. Sidner
One of the greatest threats to Christianity is disunity.
A. Vaughn
The result is a book that does three things very well.
David Swanson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 13, 2013
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Swanson on November 23, 2013
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Adam G. on November 18, 2013
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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Format: Paperback
This book is eye-opening for the Christian who wants to take seriously Christ’s call to love and his prayer for unity (John 17). It is for those who seek to understand challenges and getting under the layers of “personality conflicts.” It is for the ministry leader who wants to train and develop a team of Christ-minded and others-centered leaders who serve all men and women and welcome the transformation that takes place when we humbly surrender our desire to be right and submit ourselves to Christ while mutually submitting ourselves to each other.
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