Sabbatical Post #5: Purple AND Orange

Sometime during my childhood, I participated in a summer parks and rec program for children, and tie-dye was the art project for the day. I had brought a plain white t-shirt, and we were provided with rubber bands to create rings of fabric on our shirts before we dipped them in dye. The young woman helping me asked what my favorite colors were.

“Purple and orange,” I told her.

She explained that two colors was going to be hard to do, and so I needed to pick one: purple or orange. I waited until another adult volunteer came around and asked if I could have purple and orange dye. She brought them right away, and I figured out how to dip part of the shirt in purple dye, and part of it in orange dye. Sure, there were parts where the colors merged into a reddish brown, the color of earth, but that just gave it a triune flair. I had my purple and orange shirt.

While they seem like contradictory colors that don’t go together, purple and orange share a base primary color: red. Purple is composed of blue and red, and orange is composed of red and yellow. They share that blood red.

This memory arose during our quiet day on the isle of Iona because it’s a windy and cold day in Scotland, and I am wearing the purple and orange down jacket that I bought for this Scotland trip. On this trip, we have immersed ourselves in Celtic spirituality. Celtic spirituality emphasizes the goodness of all of God’s creation, the wonder and power of both feminine and masculine properties, the presence of God in every atom of matter, the nearness—or perhaps even the utter unity—of heaven and earth. That is, it tends to emphasize non-dualistic thinking. Some examples of dualistic thinking include the pure goodness of God vs. the fundamental evil of humanity; male vs. female; humanity vs. nature; conservative vs. liberal; rich vs. poor.

When we celebrate the unity in diversity, when we see how closely we are intertwined, we no longer think that purple and orange are opposed to one another. They go quite well together, and sometimes they merge into a beautiful earthy brown. They share that one blood red at their base. In Christianity, we consider that blood red foundation to be the Christ Jesus that is from the very beginning of creation, the sign and source of resurrection. We consider the Spirit to be the wind of inspiration that blows around and through all of us. We consider the Creator to be more that the Thing that pushed the button to start creation long ago, but rather a present power in our life that co-creates with us and restores creation, and we recognize that we are not the only important members of God’s creation.

While we sometimes call this “progressive Christianity,” this thinking is in fact quite old—at least as old as the 6th century and attributed to St. Columba and others of his mindset. But we can see strands of it in other writers as early as Paul of Tarsus and Irenaeus.

In my next post, I’ll write about the amazing experiences I’ve had with other species on Iona.

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