Divergent

Yesterday, my wife and I went to see the destopian movie Divergent. The premise of the film is that in a post-war society, people are divided up according to their strongest gifts. There are the givers, the protectors, the knowledge-seekers, the peaceful, and the honest factions. Each faction performs duties that align to their gifts in order to contribute to and balance out society. However, there are those who are not easily categorized, and are seen as a threat to the system. These people are called “divergents”, and are hunted down and destroyed for not being able to function within the system.

It was an interesting premise, and one that is designed to force us to reflect on the parallels in our own society. As I sat there watching the main character (of course, a divergent) struggle with fitting in to a single group, I started to empathize. I suppose most everybody in the theater was doing the same. After all, none of us want to feel like we can be easily categorized. We’re much too complex for simple labels. And yet, I think I have some data to support my own divergence. Early in my corporate career, my entire team was herded into a meeting in order for us to take the “four color personality test”. There was essentially one color aligned with each type of personality. Red was the leaders, the task/accomplishment driven. Yellow was the procedure people who value doing things the right way. Green was the analytical, the curious. Blue were the relationship oriented. Granted, this was not an exhaustive test, but as the results came in, I was surprised to find that I scored almost identically in three of the four colors (Yellow, Green and Blue). The only color I obviously did not align to was red, which in hindsight makes my foray into leadership development all the more curious.

That test merely confirmed what I’ve felt for a very long time. Fitting in has never been especially easy. Athletic enough to participate, but not big enough to take it very far. Smart enough to understand a lot of things, but not enough to blow people away, or win very many arguments, for that matter. Technical enough to build a network, but not enough to keep it running. Charismatic enough to communicate a vision, but not enough to sell it. Friendly enough to know a lot of people, but not enough to be very good friends with many of them. Creative enough to be able to write, but not enough to make a living out of it. When companies say they want people who are “well-rounded”, I think that is somewhat of a fallacy. “Well-rounded” to them means “the total package” or able to excel in all areas. In truth, well-rounded means mostly average in several different areas, and those people are much more difficult to place. It’s easier to find a job for someone who is strongly gifted in a single area, and easier to keep them happy in that job. People who are “well-rounded” are divergent. They don’t fit within the system.

Another interesting parallel that struck me while watching the film, was that as Christians, we are becoming more and more divergent-like. We don’t fit within the systems of the world because we’re not of this world. We are not easily categorized. People don’t understand a faith in something that cannot be proven using the scientific method. They see us as “clinging” to old traditions due to the fear of change when in reality traditions have nothing to do with it. Christians are all about change, as we are continuously renewed from within. We are guided by a spirit who can only be understood by those who know him. We see holiness in institutions that the world sees only as tax breaks and government contracts. We love that science reveals the complexity of creation, but are cautious that our entire lives not be driven by our own understanding and interpretations. We see the good in causes but know that if the cause is put before God, then it really isn’t any good at all. We seek truth while the world demands proof.  We are divergent.

The truly scary part is that today’s factions are growing ever stronger and larger. The number of divergent Christians will continue to shrink as even those who once sought truth will no longer adhere to the characteristics listed above and will instead gravitate towards one of today’s factions: Those with a cause, those who put their faith in science/technology/knowledge, those who define success through monetary accumulation and possessions, those who desire power. The fear of being factionless will be too strong, and the acceptance of the faction too welcoming. Divergents will be vilified for their outdated beliefs and for not fitting into the new system. They will be hunted down and persecuted, but the revolution won’t be led by a girl in a tight leather suit. It will be by a king. One who didn’t fit in so well when he was here, either.

The King of the Divergents.

 

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