Filtering by Tag: Community

Local News

Yesterday's crisis is largely forgotten. Give it a week and all those critical newsstory-blogpost-watercoolerrumors that people didn't care enough about/cared too much about/were missing the truth on, will be long gone, only to be revived in bytes twenty years from now on a show called "I love the 2000's." This week's crisis/stories:

Israel/Palestine Ukraine (Which is nearly last week's story) Robin Williams Islamic State in Northern Iraq Ebola

Last few month's crisis/stories:

Phil Robertson on gay marriage Iran's Nuclear Program Malaysian Airlines (The one that disappeared. Not the one that got shot down.) Syrian Civil War (Which is still going on by the way.)


We tend to buy pretty hard into these distilled stories—boiled down, presenting only the most intoxicating elements. They keep us glued to our screens, refreshing the feed, inhaling the back and forth like the last donut in the box that you only eat because you know it will be stale by morning.

And like overconsumption, whether it be moonshine or cruller, it leaves us with next morning regret. The act of consuming and spreading sensationalism without the follow up of substantial and life-giving action makes our soul stagnant.

But local news,—the next door neighbor kind—doesn't allow us the luxury of riding the merry-go-round of passion, inaction, and forgetfulness. That inspiring video about a single mom working three jobs to pay for her kids college sure makes me look thoughtful. But if the single mom lived next door and I wouldn't bother helping her out with groceries after seeing the video (or preferably finding out through front porch conversation) my compassion would turn from sentimentalism to the pain of inaction. Compassion is after all an uncomfortable venture.

Instead of turning into tomorrow's "remember when"—the local stuff knocks at my soul and demands my response daily. So maybe just for this week (I promise, you can turn back on the fear box eventually) let's look up from whatever shocking news we're reading on our phone and find out what's going on with the people next to us.

Community Requires Sitting

...for a very long time.


I wrote Tuesday that community takes a lot of mediocre and mundane interaction. Maybe it goes without saying, but for that to happen, you have to stay in the same place.

As we sipped our first cups of java at the new Electric Brew location on Tuesday, my friend Allen told me about the time he met Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement. Allen curled a smile as he recalled how she chewed out his friend who asked questions about community, "You people!" she shouted, pounding her fist on the table, "You scoot all over the country 'trying to find community.' Why don't you just stay somewhere!"

First of all, it is an elite group of people who can claim to have been chewed out by Dorothy Day.

Second, I think she's absolutely right.

I know because from age 18 to 23 I moved from Albany, Oregon to Cochabamba, Bolivia to Sweet Home, Oregon back to Albany then to Rosedale, Ohio, spent a summer in Virginia, and another summer in Oregon then again to Ohio to travel all over the country doing promotional work for a college before finally landing here in Goshen, Indiana. Just as I was getting ready to move to Baltimore (I was accepted to the University of Baltimore) I crashed, I couldn't do it anymore. I was beginning to find community in Goshen again and couldn't let that go.

It may be obvious that state hopping isn't conducive to community, but a more localized version of my story is all too common. We swap jobs, churches, responsibilities, small groups, friendships, and favorite restaurants like they're going out of style.

Wendell Berry, Kentucky native and writer, wrote a book called Jayber Crow (one of my favorites), which is in one sense and exploration of the death of the communal society in America. To oversimplify, from what I gathered, he blames it on interstate highways; the ability to find yourself three states over in the amount of time it used to take many people to get to the next town exponentially grew the possibilities for work and entertainment. To reduce it further, there is simply more things to do and people to see than ever before.

Opportunity kills community.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

A friend (who took the above photo) just got back from a week of in New York where he spent the greater part of a couple days wandering the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan Island. What he found was remarkable. As he moved from one block to the next, there were very clear demographic changes. Low income occupied the block next to hipsters who held the next two blocks–white collar, Jewish, Vietnamese, and high end artists after that. At one point he said there were middle class white 20-somethings pushing strollers on one side of the street and elderly black women shuffling on the other. Not that I think we should partition ourselves off by race or occupation, but in the city of extremes and endless opportunity, entire blocks of people have separated into hyper-community.

Community finds a way.

But it's not possible without limitations. Two people deciding randomly from endless opportunity will rarely connect. In order to build community, you have to learn to say no, to limit the number of places you go, how often you move, even the number of people you spend time with (which maxes out at 150 by the way. It's called the Dunbar number).

So here are some suggestions.

  • Stay in the same place for more than 5 years at a time, it takes that long to really get plugged in.
  • Frequent small businesses (even if it does cost more money, you are paying for community and quality) that are closer to where you live.
  • Live close to your work, play, and worship. Driving 30 minutes to work, 30 minutes to friends, and 30 minutes to church, is exactly the sort of thing that makes solid community more difficult. It may mean you have to switch jobs, or move, or switch church communities. It may also mean that you have to leave something good behind in one of those categories, which is your call as to which one that is.
  • Pick less extras, and do them well. This one is most definitely for me. The more things I try to do, the more stretched my community becomes, and the more I end up just 'doing things' rather than experience life with others, which seems to be the thing we crave the most in life.
  • Fight for it. We live in what is called an associational society, which means that most of the people you interact with on a daily basis, your bank teller, your grocer, the guy at the Verizon store, are people that you don't know and have probably never met before (or don't remember meeting).If you aren't digging for community, you probably don't have very much of it.

What I'd Change If I Were Jesus

If it were up to me, there would only be one thing I would change about following Jesus (or if I were Jesus, following me). I would change whatever God was working on in me at the moment. If I had to be moment specific, right now I'd like some revisions to Jesus' call to unity.

Jesus unfortunately talked a lot about unity. He tossed a national traiter, a political revolutionary, a couple of hotheads, and some blue collar workers into the same boat told them to get along. If the sorts of disputes we have among the disciples in the gospels is the tip of the iceberg, then the little discipleship community wasn't always easy sailing, even with the Son of God physically in their presence.

And now Jesus calls me to live together and share life deeply with conspiracy theorists, flaming liberals, fundamentalist republicans, self-righteous over-spiritualizers, and narcissistic manipulators.

Unfortunately, I figured out a long time ago that the number of people we're called to part fellowship with is far smaller than the number of people I want to part fellowship with. If I'm operating on my social tolerances, I can handle a lot. But when it comes to who Jesus asks me to live life with, my tolerances just can't muster the strength.

Consequently, Church can feel like a wrestling match. I love my church, I love the people there, most of the time. But I'm a bit of a control freak, which I used to control by standing on the sidelines. But recently Jesus has specifically called me to quit being the squeaky spare wheel and start hitting the pavement. This doesn't come easy. People don't do what I think they should; they lie, lump manipulative expectations on you, and season their conversation with spiritual words that make you feel like you should probably care more about your faith. Of course they're probably just as insecure about theirs.

This of course is all a documentation of my deficiencies. It's not my specific group of believers I hang out with that is the problem. No matter where I go I'd have the same issues, because I am the problem. I am the one lumping expectations on people for what they should be, how they should treat me. I am the one who speaks out of my insecurity, steering the 'spiritual' conversation to places I'm comfortable with, so I can control my surroundings.

Jesus of course wants me to do more than just get along with his friends. He wants us to love each other like He loves us, which is according to the gospels a rather painful process. He's thrown us all in the same boat and asked us to to the same thing He has, to take up our cross and die to ourselves, for Christ, for others.

A Benediction For the Day.

May God place difficult people in your way, May He guide you in places of relational frustration, May He send you your ideological opposite when you ask for His help, So that you, like Him, may die for the Jesus that lives in others.