Where did Communitarianism go?

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A community does not exist in a void, neither does a single person make up a community. A combination of individuals are responsible for influencing an atmosphere, redefining a place or moment; through attitudes, character, and disposition that could either stimulate a sense of belonging or not. In the same vein, an individual does not necessarily become a family unit without the inclusion of other individuals.  

Communitarianism stresses the link between the individual and the community.

How does an individual contribute to his or her immediate community? What is that individual’s idea of what a community is or what it should be? Communitarianism in this context is not described in accordance with a political thought, philosophy or theory. This is simply casting a glance at the underpinnings of the early church and the role of the church as a benchmark for enhancing community relationships without treating the church as simply a place of worship. Did the community ideal of the church disappear or has it been driven away?

A church is simply a building or an architectural infrastructure not worthy to be called a church if there are no congregants. A church is its people, not the physical structure. If the quality of life of congregants is good, then the church is healthy. Although, there are fundamental spiritual principles that cannot be ignored, would the teachings at the church settle on a restless heart? With the sanctity of a church intact, would a heart that experiences malicious and hypocritical gestures from fellow church members be prepared to imbibe the message being inculcated? 

It is okay to think that as long as you are comfortable in the church, you understand the sermon and you are able to shun unnecessary distractions, you are good to go.

What about the other person seated beside you with a perturbed look, who has just been destructively criticized as a heathen right before service? How often do you genuinely reach out to check on one of the church members? Do you do so because you really care or do you do so because you want to fulfil all righteousness? It is not bad to mind your business but caring for others or reaching out when you observe their countenance doesn’t look too pleasant, goes a long way. 

There is a difference between being altruistic in your intentions and becoming the reporter-in-chief of people’s personal issues and challenges. 

As mentioned earlier, the quality of life of congregants is crucial, as it is a conglomerate of the degree to which an individual or a group is healthy, comfortable, happy and able to participate in life events. A church is supposed to be a haven where people can find solace, not choked out by the pointers of their imperfections. If anything, people in attendance at church (whether for an ongoing service or not), should feel a sense of support, not an arraignment to crucifixion.  

Of course, a church is typically referred to as a gathering of saints but the church is not for the perfect or spotless. If this is so, how are souls won for Christ? Where do people get the opportunity to experience the expression of God’s love for sinners? How would they be accorded the chance to understand the concept of approaching the throne of mercy boldly? All have sinned and fallen short of His glory and still, in love He called us. If love is not demonstrated to fellow congregants and even guests, the way it should, if iniquity should get marked, who would stand? God is love, whoever does not love, does not know God.

Christianity is wholistic, not just a religion. It is a way of life. An aspect of Christianity cannot be reckoned with for the sake of self-justification, while others get ignored. This would be a reversion to the biblical reference to the Israelites who were being ignorant of God’s righteousness and went about to establish their own righteousness. (Romans 10 : 3). 

Fellowship is key! It is not uncommon for the concept of fellowship to be restricted to a group of people coming together to worship and share the word. There is an aspect of fellowship being a friendly association in the midst of people who share common interests. This also transcends into having positive impacts, lifting each other up where the other seems weak or deficient, as well as understanding the strengths and weaknesses of others, in one accord. Segregation along the fine lines of Christian denominations should not weigh into fellowshipping, considering that irrespective of which religious subgroup one is affiliated with, we are all one body in Christ.

In The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu echo the saliency of communitarianism; “Perhaps our synagogues, our temples, and our churches,” Archbishop Tutu added,” are not as welcoming as they should be. 

I really think that we do need for these fellowships to do a great deal more to have those who are lonely come and share. Not in an aggressive way, or in order, as it were, to increase their records or their ranks, but really just keenly interested in one person who comes and gets what they did not have before–warmth and fellowship. …” This excerpt from the book written by Dalai Lama XIV, Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton encapsulate the quality of fellowships and what they should be versus the way fellowships are being run.

What is your version of brotherly love and how do you practice it? Is it real or a facade? What is your contribution to retaining the communitarian culture of the church? Are you hospitable, polite in speech and tone? Do you pursue reconciliation or would rather go for prolonged animosity? “Individualism” where the church is concerned, does not necessarily engender communitarianism.

Author: Lizzie Winniran

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