Thursday, November 30, 2006

community, or not

Everyone is clamoring to be part of a community, the problem being that no one wants to give up their individual desires in order to do it. Those who have had to listen to me over the past year and a half are probably sick of hearing me say it, but contemporary ideas of community are nothing more that one finding a nice club of like minded people to underwrite personal desires. Community in the postmodern sense is a collection of individuals seeking the support of friendly folks who will ooh and ahh over their dreams (which is nice, I like when people ooh and ahh over my dreams) but fail to contribute in any way to the edification of the community's growth.
Let's just say that, for instance, that there is a terribly unhealthy relationship in the midst of community, or simply one person engaging in unhealthy decision making. It is not very often that people are willing to accept personal direction for the betterment of community, at the expense of personal desires being met. Most of us would rather feel good about maintaining unhealthy relationships that meet specific needs, that might be best left unmet, instead of sacrificing for the benefit of those surrounding us.
An interesting thing is that most of our desires, most of our dreams, are dreams of self-fulfillment and aggrandizement, and not dreams that will further build our community in a manner that brings ourselves and others closer to being a community of God.
Really, it is a matter of self-definition. Am I willing to identify more closely with the needs of my neighbor than my own personal desires. That is a tough thing for an all-American boy or gal to do. It has proven difficult for me to grasp for my own behavior, yet easy to point out in others. Most of our dreams (my dreams) are based upon the idea that we have met our full potential, if not economically, than spiritually. It is amusing to me that the means that we employ to be successful financially seem to be closely related to the means we employ to move forward spiritually. We measure ourselves by personal fulfillment, (how many people have I helped today), instead of how we have served the living God by reflecting the sacrifice of Jesus, who invited people to be part of his community. Instead of serving individuals through a system of social services (which are important) we should build communities that invite and welcome the marginalized as possible contributors. Building communities that offer alternatives to those desire based clubs is one step the church needs to take in order to build faithfulness to a God that is not propped up as a mere proponent of the American experiment.

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