By Connie Faber
Our current discussions as U.S. Mennonite Brethren about issues that come to the forefront as we review articles 12 and 13 of the Confession of Faith raise a question: Does resolving differences always mean that someone has to change his or her convictions? How do we nurture healthy relationships in spite of our different perspectives about citizenship, allegiance and the use of violence to bring about good?
I tend to think that in order to have a good relationship one “side” or the other will need to amend a particular perspective, conviction and/or practice. But I wonder now about this assumption. An alternative picture to living with differences is offered by Head Over Heels, an Academy Award-nominated film that illustrates that good relationships—including good marriages—don’t just happen.
“If the film has a message, it’s that relationships require effort,” says filmmaker Timothy Reckert in a recent interview with Worldmagazine about his 10-minute claymation film nominated in the Best Animated Short category.
Reckert’s simple story concerns a middle-aged husband and wife who live in the same house, but one lives on the floor and one lives on the ceiling, depending on your perspective. The only things Walter and Madge share are a refrigerator they slide back and forth down the wall as needed, a photo taken during happier days and resentment—clearly articulated in this film that is free of dialogue.
Their equilibrium comes tumbling down when Walter tries to ignite the old romance, and the couple that can’t agree on which way is up is forced to find a way to put their marriage back together. You can find the stop-motion animated short on YouTube, Netflix and iTunes.
Although Madge and Walter mend their broken marriage, their two gravities remain, and the film ends with Madge walking off into the sunset, holding on to the cord that connects her to Walter, who is sitting upside down—or would that be right-side-up—in his favorite chair. Harmony is restored even though their differing perspectives endure. And that caught my attention.
I doubt that anyone who attended the January Board of Faith and Life study conference, “Kingdom Citizens in a World of Conflict,” changed their mind. But even if we left with our perspectives largely intact, I hope that we find ourselves linked together by a cord of three strands, as Eccles. 4:12 describes the value of partnerships.
Agreeing that, in spite of our differences, peacemaking will characterize who we are as Mennonite Brethren who are also citizens of the United States means that we agree to hold on to one another as we put feet to our convictions about peacemaking. That even while we maintain different perspectives, we will firmly grab hold of each other and work at our relationships with one another.