Posted by: sailingspirit | April 11, 2011

American Community: Oxymoron

(This is a response to a discussion about eastern and western differences in the religious mandate to love one another and live in harmonious community)

I agree, the Eastern world is doing a better job of modeling that mandate.  Though I’m not sure if it would be entirely fair to give them credit for doing so, since all else is not equal.  As other economies grow, and they become as well-off or better than the West, they may choose to become more materialistic, individualistic, etc., too.

Americans (generally, today) are too competitive and too selfish to “do” community
well.  Whether by choice, conditioning, necessity, or a mix of these we (I only include myself because I cannot yet claim any other nationality) put financial stability and impressive titles far and above all other priorities in life.  What’s more, our thresholds for turn-around are extraordinarily high–we won’t consider ourselves blessed enough to be a blessing until we have giant homes with >1 room per person (including people who visit less than 1/2% of the year), multiple new-ish vehicles per family, closets and attics stuffed with clothes and junk we never use, every electronic toy/gadget known to mankind, food we throw away because we hoarded it long beyond its expiration date (or were too lazy to use our preservation machines), multiple pets and typically a minimum of one
major insurable toy such as a boat, RV, ATV, etc.  Oh and don’t forget, we believe we are entitled to at least one major tropical vacation per year.  AFTER all that, maybe we’ll be willing to share a little.  But, if our individual comfort or identity is threatened by compromise, we throw a fit.
As V alluded to, many of us in the US are being forced back into family unity because we can’t afford to live separately anymore.  It wasn’t our idea.  We held out as long as we could.  But now we have to return to the only people who would have us.  Not that I think God has a problem with us all having our own homes–we know we’re all getting new ones in heaven–the problem is that the majority of the population (including so-called Christians) is not in a regenerated state, and therefore has insufficient humility to tolerate others’ imperfections.  God’s forcing us to acknowledge our common sinfulness and
weakness, thereby reminding us (like an OT story) that we are all equals under
Him.  Not under the titles and lifestyles we previously worshipped.
Akin to patience with others is patience, period.  No generation previous to mine (the X-ers) ever expected to come out of college making over $50k and start adult life with
a new car, house, and all the trimmings.  Generations previous had to work for those things many years, and fully expected to save up for them as well.  The mega-debt-for-instant-gratification idea is killing us!
If that doesn’t kill us, the image maintenance will.  We may be forced back into sharing
households, but that doesn’t create unity.  My parents have no idea that I cry myself to sleep multiple times a week, and wake up most days wishing I hadn’t.  They have no idea how many times I’ve started to plan running away, only to sit in the driveway for hours because I honestly don’t know where to go.  They think I’m just disgruntled, just anxious for spring weather.  Or I just need to eat something.  Because I’ve had so many years’ practice putting on the facade of being “just fine, thank you, and you?”  And because if I told them how much I hate my life, they would just pay somebody else to listen to me, returning the facade of care.  For 60 minutes.
As one of the posters on this thread commented, the anti-communal sentiment of our society hasn’t been in existence forever.  The Pilgrims were the complete opposite, and
the Revolutionists hung together well.  But we saw instances of the problem rearing its ugly head when money got involved–apartheid was affecting the bottom line for plantation owners in the South, enough for people to want to secede from the Union for pete’s sake!  The Industrial Revolution started the extraordinary gulf between classes, making “family institutions” such as the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts (if you read their family histories, the money ruined them long before they squandered it–and it only took 3 generations to squander millions).  And then, guess what?  Great Depression.  Starting over.  Unionizing, patriotism and unity through the Great Wars, then–uh oh, Russia beat us into space, wounding our pride, so now scientific data usurp truth as our measuring standard.  Our whole nation changes its value system and priorities.  To follow?  Unrest, violence, drugs and sexual “revolution” in the late 60’s and 1970’s, followed by more drugs and sex used as “strategies” of uber-competition in the 80’s, then a surge of corruptive fraud and white-collar crime in the 90’s.  Followed by: Another Great Depression.  Coincidence?  HA!  Not even close.

Clearly we’re not capable of community until 1) we, individually, submit to regeneration by
Christ and 2) pursue renewing our minds with Truth as the standard, then 3) we, as a society, decide it’s perfectly acceptable to live with less “stuff” in order to live more “together.”  Who will volunteer to be first giving their stuff away and scaling back?

Anyone?  You?


How has this impacted your thinking on the matter?

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