Monday, September 20, 2010

LAFB #3: Community, Proximity, and Interconnectedness

I'm not really sure if "interconnectedness" is a word, but it sounds enough like one for me to go forward with it. That, and as a writer, I believe it is both my right and responsibility to coin new words, or at least merge new ones from familiar roots and pre/suffixes. That being said, I'm going forward with it.

One advantage to FaceBook that has become even more prevalent and has been consistently exploited by the FaceBook model has been the quality of real-time connection to people regardless of physical proximity. I can read a status update from my current BFF, my kindergarten BFF, my favorite celebrity, or anybody else I have on my friends list, as soon as they post it -- and this without any extra effort on their part to connect with me beyond the initial confirm-or-ignore click. Server issues notwithstanding, this trumps the chatroom, instant message, or message board due to the speed with which we connect. There have even been technological advances that permit one person to broadcast their status via FaceBook, Twitter, and various other networks, all with one everlasting click.

So this means, on those lonely Fridays when I didn't commit to any event or gathering of people, I can theoretically use status updates to find out where people are. Practically, however, I only use it to further my own realization of how disconnected I am, living somewhat vicariously through friends who are at a ball game, concert, party, evangelism on Bourbon Street, or even just getting together for our newly created game, "Battleship of the Sexes."

My friend David Loti recently sent me his term paper from a course titled Counseling and Community: Using Church Relationships to Reinforce Counseling, which he took at Regent College in Vancouver, BC.  One particular passage struck me from his paper:

Through personal experience I mostly agree with the argument in Counseling and Community.  As a songwriter who has questioned:

How can it be where relationally
Everything was perfect
The Supreme would decree
‘It is not good for man to be alone’?[1]

one particular point with which I strongly agree in Wilson’s argument is that Gen. 2 “is tied primarily to the nature of people” being communal before it is about marriage.[2]  I concur with Wilson we do not need to be married to be fully human, but we need to be in relationship.[3]  Additionally as a Christian who firstly believes my sin—which wears away at my love for God—inevitably impacts others, and who secondly mourns the popular Western, live-and-let-live, if-it-doesn’t-harm-anyone-else-you-can-do-whatever-you-want ethic, I agree with Wilson’s argument that Torah is not focused on individuals as much as it is focused on God’s people as a community—because sin impacts the whole community.[4]  Wilson strongly argues God’s decisions flow from a communal-focused heart and the life to which God calls us is a communal life.
There are some ways in which my experience leads me to disagree with and question Wilson.  As a student who has participated in a live-in community house with four other Regent students over the past nine months and experienced loneliness, unresolved conflict, and relational superficiality in this setting, one thing with which I disagree in Wilson’s argument is that relational depth is increased through the proximity and commitment of living together.[5]  Whereas there has been close proximity and a commitment to live together relational depth has not occurred.  Additionally, as a Christian who would characterize the experience of my relationship with God as dependent on Him, a question I have for Wilson as he advances his image of community saying, “We were created to be interdependent and relational” is: If interdependence is a characteristic of Christian community then can humans and God have community with one another in this life or the next?[6]  (For it seems God in His aseity cannot be interdependent with humans.)

[1] David Loti, “Catharsis,” Ambivalence.  Self-published.  CD.  2003.
[2] Wilson, Counseling and Community, 61.
[3] Ibid., 62.
[4] Ibid., 66.
[5] Ibid., 51.
Ibid., 220.
 I have a group of friends who live in a community house in New Orleans called The House of the Rising Son, and they have come to similar conclusions.  I have experienced this as well, noting that cell groups, ministries, houses full of single(ish) guys, and the rest of the things the Church does to try and bridge the loneliness gap are good for facilitation, but horrible for substitution, of community.  

Community has to be who we are.  Community has to come from inside, from a heart that wants connection, rather from the outside in, forced upon an individual by a system.  If the desire for community is not internal, the individual will put in what they feel they have to, and will seek to get away from said community whenever possible.  I dealt with this concept when I was struggling with private sin, under the theory that "If I surround myself with people all the time, I'll never be alone and I'll never have a chance to fall into sin."  I quickly realized that this could last a maximum of three weeks before I would run away from everything and everyone just so I could have some time to myself.  And then I'd probably fall into sin again.  

And just like throwing a handful of guys into one house in order to force them together (what I call the Frat House Model), FaceBook failed at creating real, lasting community simply by making it more convenient for people to connect.  I'm no more connected to my kindergarten BFF (Matt Bergstedt, who was the non-family member I knew the longest of my 1600 FaceBook friends) than I am to my roommate with whom I would share the living room and hold silent FaceBook conversations (Cody Berry, lived with him in four different places, worked with him at four separate jobs).  During the socially driest seasons of my life, my list of FaceBook friends didn't drop to single digits, I just quit trying to connect with people.

So what's the solution?  We'll only connect with people when we want to.  FaceBook allows you to get past some of the initial first-conversation small talk (Where are you from?  What's your major?  Where do you work? etc.) and to keep up with people with a single glance, but aren't we're more than what we let out on FaceBook?  Isn't FaceBook just a filter to what we want the world to see about us?  Real community comes when we are so close to each other that we get to know each other as well as we know ourselves.

 9Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
 10For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
 11Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
 12And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

For more great stuff by David Loti, visit Also, check out The House of the Rising Son,

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