I’ve previously mentioned our self-induced engineered lack of community in this world, and I want to tell you about Chad. I don’t even know his last name, other than he is a one-man band called, “Live Animal.” Chad and I shared a flight from Indianapolis to Denver. He is the kind of vagabond that rejects the societal engineering that forces individualism. He is a communal guy who finds hope in creative community. He and I shared a two-hour conversation about politics, Dylan, Jesus, Nietzsche and community. We hardly landed on anything except for individualism is putting a stranglehold on our society.
Individualism isn’t all evil, it’s good to have an individual personality so one can stand on their own two feet. It is extreme individualism that is killing our culture and harming public morality. Extreme individualism is inherently selfish, community is inherently selfless. Individualism leads to excess while community leads to generosity.
These might sound like bold claims but just think about the very simple task of going to the grocery store versus growing your own food. At the grocery store you can buy one apple and meet your need, but if you lived in a village that grew their own food and you grew an apple tree, you can meet the need of many people in your community.
Here’s another example, and warning, this is going to sound liberal. Why do you pay taxes? Probably because you are compelled to by the IRS, but what is the thought behind taxes? We all contribute to a government that will be for the common good of its citizens. (I know this is idealistic and there is a larger question about whether or not the government is faithfully stewarding the peoples’ resources, but humor me a little, will ya?) So the question I have is would you pay $50 more a year in taxes for our schools to improve? For many of us that is an easy answer, we would say “absolutely no new taxes.” I understand this mentality; really I do because I struggle with this. So now that we have all voted “no” what happens to your local school? Teachers get pink slipped, class sizes increase, the quality of education begins to diminish, the people with the means pull their kids out and send them to private school, thus reducing school funding. Then what happens to the culture of the town where this school is going down hill? Maybe the dropout rate increases, maybe crime and drugs become more prevalent in your community, maybe you start seeing prostitution, maybe the value of your home drops. There are a lot of maybes in this scenario, but let me ask one more question. Would you pay $50.00 per year to maintain the value of your home over the long term?
I realize that our government is polarized and seemingly useless right now, but I think our answers to the questions above say something about what we value. Do we value community or do we value individuality? Do we act in the common good of society, or the common good of the individual.
I am thankful for my conversation with Chad, it went everywhere. We talked about schools and taxes and even though you might think my senario is far fetched, it is what is playing out in his hometown of Indianapolis. When we reframe our perspective from, “what is the best for me?” to “what is the best for my community?” then we take a jump from selfish to selfless from an individual perspective to a communal one.
It is interesting to note that Jesus has a solid plan for taking care of the poor. It is called community. It is called jubilee. It is called generosity. Some people call it love in action or incarnation living. It is called the church, or the community of redemption…But what happens if that institution too has become individualized?Share