Tag Archives: community

Sunday Share

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.

Big “S” vs. Little “S”

So, if the naysayers can leave out answers like “superstition” or “because they’re mindless followers” or “a 2,000 year old fairy tale tells them so,” why do people go to church?

There are a multitude of spiritual and/or religious (the two do not always overlap but of course often do) reasons why people attend Sunday services, of Mass, or Saturday night musical services or whatever else. It can be habit, it can be fear of damnation, it can be validation for their beliefs, a desire to be with like-minded people in a communal setting, or a lot of other things.

For me, it is about lifting my Spirit. Note the big “S.” It will be important later.

There once was a time I went to church to be edified and to learn more about faith and service in God’s name. Not so much anymore. I still get bits of new information here and there, particularly when the reverend knows ancient Greek and/or Hebrew and can actually put the passages into their real meaning and context instead of what they’ve been twisted into via a multitude of translations (and dulled meanings often lead leaders of congregations astray or allow them to lead congregants astray, but I’m getting off track).

Anyway, education isn’t my primary reason for church and hasn’t been for a long time. I’ve moved on to spiritual exploration and contemplation of the divine nature more than worrying about Bible specifics.

And so the reason I go to church, and I know many faithful have the same goal, is to lift up my Spirit.

There are many ways I can lift my spirits, but there are very few ways I can lift up and nourish my Spirit.

My Spirit, that divinely attuned part of me (or any of us, if we choose to nourish and listen to it) needs stimulation. Church services are the best way to do that in a community setting, so that I can connect with people, have group companionship and celebration, and lift my Spirit.

Certainly, other things can lift my Spirit (or my little “S” spirits for that matter): being out in nature, listening to good music, meditation/prayer, or viewing art.

(And I can’t help but note that such things are those that most closely align to unique human characteristics like abstract creativity and/or things that put one closer to the treasures of the Earth.)

These things don’t always move me to the point where they will lift my Spirit. Frankly, going to church doesn’t always do the job either. But it’s the best place to do so among other people in an atmosphere of celebration.

And yes, I know that many churches are more interested in pointing fingers, or finding scapegoats, or preaching the damnation of heathen, or fleecing people to get their money. But many churches are interested in lifting the Spirit, and I go to one of them.

It is, I think, one of the best reasons to go to church, and it would be my hope that fewer of the faithful will deal in legalisms of the Bible, or judgments of others, and find that path that leads toward encouraging people’s nourishment of their Spirit.