I’ve been doing a Bible study at my husband’s church. We’re studying the concept of community–what it is and isn’t, how to achieve it, how to fix it when it’s broken. We’re not very far along.
Already, I am having the inward waves of physical reaction to some bizarre form of reverse, quasi cognitive dissonance. I would say 80% of the members think community is a good thing. I with a handful of others are in the minority who aren’t quite there yet.
I don’t know why the others in the group are in the minority. I believe I’m there because I see it as a tool, a morally neutral tool. It depends on how that tool is used and the motive behind the tool usage.
For example, an ax is a morally neutral tool. In the hand of a firefighter, the ax is a good because the human is using it to save lives and prevent destruction of property. The ax would be an evil in the hands of Lizzie Borden… you can see where I’m headed.
I have seen how community can be immoral.
Look at the southerners who looked the other way as the KKK terrorized African Americans, Jews, Catholics, and anyone else who didn’t fit their (distorted) view of what an ideal reality would look like.
Look at the German people in WWII who turned away as the Jews were rounded up into ghettos and as Jews, Catholics, homosexuals, the mentally ill, and the disabled were sent to the gas chambers that caused an impure human ash snowfall.
Look at the Americans who turned a blind eye to the way the government treated Native Americans during Manifest Destiny or Japanese Americans at the beginning of WWII.
But I have seen how community can be a great benefit.
I have seen suburban communities do benefits to support wounded veterans. People make homemade baked goods that get sold to the crowd that doesn’t cook. Others share their talents in a public forum while a bucket gets passed; attendees empty their wallets of bills large and small. Sometimes, people may even give new or gently used goods to be distributed.
I have seen rural communities unite in ways they never thought possible. A while back, a local family had lost a huge number of children in a fire. They needed money to rebuild, clothes to replace what had burned, and comfort for empty arms and quiet ears. Churches and community groups took collections.
It was even rumored that westboro baptist “church” was going to picket. I don’t know if the rumor was true. I couldn’t see how anyone could be that cruel in the death of children to claim it was the “judgment of god.” (Yes, I am not capitalizing certain words and I am using punctuation–writer’s privilege and the only way I can cognitively survive getting through that story.)
But I digress… The entire county even made provision for the possibility of truth in rumor (or God used the people to provide for the family). We couldn’t legally keep them out, so we just threw up a love wall. Bikers lined the path to the country church. Other people showed up to pay respects and show support. Yet others just prayed from home.
Sorry, I avoid cities like the plague (I am truly a child of my earthly father 😉 ), so I can’t give you urban examples. However, I would assume soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and women’s shelters would be some good examples of community as a moral good in an urban setting.
So, like an ax, community and participation in community is a tool. We can wield it for encouragement or destruction.
Choose wisely, young grasshopper.