So, our pastor had an interesting line today in church, and not sure if he got it from someone else (so if he did, apologies if credit needs to go elsewhere). In the final of a four-week series on “Why Church?” he noted, of the value of attending church, that in doing so…
The synergy of collectivity overcomes the entropy of individualism.
Now, there are a lot of non-Christians who read my blog here who are cringing right now. Really, I can feel your shuddering through the Internet. You’re saying, “See! This is the problem with churches. They preach conformity and groupthink.”
Get your knickers out of your ass crack for a moment though, and reflect. First off, even the non-churchgoing types belong to plenty of clubs, groups, political parties, community groups and more where unity of action and thought is often encouraged. So get off the high horse.
But more importantly, let’s examine what the pastor of my church is really talking about (because, for one thing, it’s a highly open and inclusive church, and doesn’t promote lock-step thinking at all).
Having a community that is together in a single purpose, or a set of purposes, can be a very good thing. My church, in fact, is very involved in community helping and in helping abroad. Helping primarily, with proselytizing really far down the list of priorities. That is the synergy of collectivity. Not a collective “turn off your brain” mindset but the pooling of talents, wills and resources.
Together, we can achieve things that as individuals we could not do, or not do as effectively. The offerings we give, the time we might volunteer, the smiles we might offer to fellow church members who need a smile…all these things come together to make the church community powerful when there is love and compassion at the heart of things, and not judgment or recrimination.
And that’s where we get to the “entropy of individualism.”
Not, mind you, “individuality.” Our pastor said individualism.
I think there is a distinction. The first is natural. We are all unique and should be. We all have lives outside the church as well. And we should. These are good things.
But the latter thing, individualism, is trickier, and more dangerous. It speaks to me of the desire to put individual desires above all else. We’re all guilty of doing this, regularly. But we must be careful to remember the importance of community (spiritual or otherwise) and not lift up the individual so much that we end up preaching the dangerous nonsense of someone like Ayn Rand and that dangerous school of thought known as Objectivism, which encourages people not to help their fellow humans.
There are pastors and churches where the collectivity is taken to the extreme of collectivism, which is where we end up with “sheeple” and large groups of people mobilizing behind issues that I’m sure make Jesus cringe.
I agree that such a state is not good. But I like the “synergy of collectivity,” idea and I agree that it should be one of the primary reasons for finding a good church and being a member of it, even if you don’t attend every week and even if you can’t give much or your money or time.