If you’ve ever wondered why community is non-existent in America, here’s your answer (from the Harpers story “The Christian Paradox“):
Here is a statistic that does matter: Three quarters of Americans believe the Bible teaches that “God helps those who help themselves.” That is, three out of four Americans believe that this uber-American idea, a notion at the core of our current individualist politics and culture, which was in fact uttered by Ben Franklin, actually appears in Holy Scripture. The thing is, not only is Franklin’s wisdom not biblical; it’s counter-biblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor.
Now there are some blatant inaccuracies about American benevolent giving in that article, but the truth still exists: We’re in love with the island fortresses we’ve constructed to keep others out—even if it is killing us all as a result. The truly sad part is that I would suspect that at least a third of those 75% who answered incorrectly will self-identify as born-again Christians. But if Christians can’t get freed from such devilish ideas, how can we expect anyone else to? If it doesn’t start with us, who then will start the revolution in Spirit-filled community?
5 thoughts on “Why Community Is Non-Existent in America”
Very good points. I think individualism has been a cancer on the Church because peopel hold that value up higher than the body of Christ…none of us our immune and it is no wonder that we are often lonely and want more friends and deeper fellowship.
Whoa, I never put this together…thanks!
You’re right, Dan.
What a timely post. Pastor Doug and I were just talking abou this the other day – how difficult it is to gather people together in community. No one seems to know how to be involved in true community, even though a lot of people are talking about it. Our culture is pushing iPods and TiVo. Individualism the the only fully supported and accomodated lifestyle. Evangelicals are gobbling it up without discernment and no wonder: many believe, as you have pointed out, individualism is a biblical concept.
I have concluded that “prosperity” is often the enemy of community. If I am poor then I need people. If I am rich then I can get by without them. Communities that stand the test of time are largely poor communities who know their need of one another or who have taken on voluntary poverty in order to achieve it. I think that personal wealth and individualism are inseparable.
If we want to know “how” to “do” community we are looking at a fundamental change in lifestyle and attitude to personal property, not just some magical concept that will make us want to get along. In poverty, community and interdependence are forced on us, rather than luxuries we can choose – we could learn from hunter-gatherers in this respect.