Here's what's happenin' ...
Today is my mom's birthday! So, happy birthday mom. This is when it sucks being 6 hours away, for stuff like birthdays and mother/father days and so on. I feel like a bad son, as I haven't been home in 6 months. Literally. But I'll make it home eventually. I think...
I've been trying to buy an iPod for like 2 months, and I'm not having any luck. I bought one from someone on eBay, and they didn't come through with it. Then I bought another one, and the jerk never sent it. So I'm in the middle of filing a claim against them to get my money back. It's so frustrating. I will give it one more shot, and then I'm just going to give up using eBay. I guess it's what I get for trying to save some money.
Thanks to Jill's mom, I'm currently reading a book called "The Book of Dave," by Will Self. To briefly summarize the plot, it is set in a sort of post-apocalyptic England where society has been recreated in light of the discovery of a book that was written around the turn of the millennium (2000 or so). This book was written by a cab driver named Dave who wrote the book for his son, in hopes that his son might find it one day. Anyway, the book gets discovered post-apocalypse and society is built upon the knowledge the book contains (which is all rather slanted to Dave's viewpoint).
In light of beginning to read this book (I haven't finished it yet), as well as many conversations with Jill and others, I've been thinking a lot about community. We hear a lot about this at Candler, about the value of community and how it is central to the Christian life. I completely agree that Christianity is very focused on community, both the community of the church as well as the community of humanity. Community is definitely a buzzword here, arising in pretty much every class discussion, many social conversations, etc. We spend a great deal of time thinking and talking about it. At Candler, they even consciously try to foster a strong sense of community.
But here's the deal- You cannot throw a group of people into a colloquy and simply expect them to instantly become a tight-knit community. But this is how Candler seems to think it works. Throughout Con Ed, New Testament, etc., it seems the powers that be think that we'll all just instantly become BFF's and open up to each other.
Community has to be organic. If we want it to be real, community cannot be forced. It cannot be mandated. It has to come out of the free choice (followed by deliberate effort to make it work) of those wishing to be in the community. You cannot make someone like someone, or make people open up to each other and share deep, sincere feelings, thoughts and so forth. I think stuff like that has to happen over time, and those involved need to have a choice in how that happens. You just can't force real community. Oh, you can make these groups and hope it happens (and sometimes it does). Or you might get the fake sense of community that I feel comes out of Con Ed (where we all sit together for 2 hours a week and get along, and then go our separate ways as soon as it's over) but I think real, true community has to come from choice.
Looking at the gospels (hey, imagine that!), we see Jesus reaching out to people, repeatedly saying "Follow me..." The gospel stories tell us that most of the time, people followed. Of course, there is the story of rich young ruler who walks away after being told he must give up everything to follow Jesus. But I think what we may overlook is the fact that these people (even though the very Son of God was asking them) had a choice to participate in the community. They made a conscious decision to follow Christ and participate in that community. They weren't names on a list thrown into a too-small classroom and almost forced to engage a group of strangers. To be fair, this can sometimes work. There are situations where random people forced into a group can become a real community, but my point is that I think one gets better relationships when people can choose. Of course, I am not encouraging some clique-type behavior where a group begins to exclude people via their choices.
This is where I think the Christian community is called to be markedly different from other communities. Whereas other communities (our circle of friends, perhaps?) tend to be insular, I think the Christian community is called to be open to all, to all who seek Christ and even those who don't. Christ was open to all he met, but he gave them the choice to follow. Those who chose to follow entered into a challenging and life-changing community.
Okay, I'm done ranting. Just wanted to get that out there. Plus, it's probably more engaging than hearing about my day-to-day escapades.