Monday, March 30, 2015

Real vs. Virtual Community

Random musings from this morning...

Some people feel isolated and they explain to themselves by saying, "It's because I don't have a community."  And yet others feel isolated despite the fact that they are active members at a church or Messianic synagogue, etc.  They go to church on Sunday (perhaps even on Wednesday nights).  Or they go to synagogue on Friday evening or Saturday morning.  They participate on the praise and worship team.  They serve on committees.  And yet they feel something is missing.

We have within us some sense that there is an ideal community and we're constantly measuring our own community (or lack thereof) against this sense of what a community should be.

The sociologists have a term for this social dichotomy:  gemeinschaft vs. gesellschaft.  The idea is that there is an ideal gemeinschaft (intimate community such as a family) and then there is gesellschaft (virtual community such as a nation).  There are, in reality, very few examples of true gemeinschaft but they include such groups as the Amish community, religious kibbutzim (perhaps even secular kibbutzim), the Hasidic community, etc.

Church pastors (and even Messianic leaders) are constantly trying to manufacture gemeinschaft.  But it's difficult to think of a congregation as a community when you only see them once a week (or perhaps several times).  You can make it feel like a community when you utilize small groups, after service community meals, etc.  But ultimately these attempts result in a virtual community.  We don't really need our church or synagogue.  We can leave and go to another one.  It's relatively painless.  It's not like you're walking out on family.  

But in a gemeinschaft no one considers leaving.  To leave is to die a spiritual (and perhaps physical death) death.  The true gemeinschaft is not a city type of "community" but rather a rural community.  It is not high tech but rather simple--even at the cost of inefficiency.  It is agrarian.  It is old-fashioned...

Ah, well, I've got to run.  Such is my modern life.  

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