Sunday, March 3, 2013

Individualism and Community

At church this morning, an issue that was swimming through my mind was individualism and community.

The hymns that we sang this morning largely seemed to focus on the individual's relationship with God.  God loves me.  God has forgiven me.  God has taken care of me.  God will lead me through death into the good afterlife.  The sermon also struck me as rather individualistic, in that it was about personal repentance. 

On some level, I like this.  I often get tired of reading Christian authors downplaying Christ as our personal savior, promoting instead a more communitarian outlook.  The reason for my sentiment, as I've expressed before on this blog, is that I'd like to believe that God loves me personally and can relate to me as an individual, whether I am accepted within a community or not.  I also find it cozy when I sing hymns by people who are reflecting about God's love and care for them personally.  Moreover, in my opinion, certain tasks are individual, in that nobody else can do them for me: I need to have faith and repent.  It's good to have support on this journey from other people, but the tasks, in the end, are my own (though, of course, I have God's help).

And yet, there was one communitarian element in this morning's service.  The liturgy for the Lord's supper said: "Create in us a new community of abundant love, that we may be life-giving disciples of Christ, one with each other, one in unity with You through the Holy Spirit, and one in ministry to a world that hungers for grace and mercy."

All this "one" stuff scares me, to tell you the truth, for I'm against homogenization.  But unity does not necessarily have to entail homogeneity.  Unity can be people loving each other, recognizing the value of loving each other and being concerned about the lives of other people in the community, and seeing importance in reaching out to a world that needs love and even concrete help.  How people pursue this goal may vary from person to person, as some are more extroverted than others.  But, in my view, the church should be a community that is united around this goal.

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