117 E Elm Street
excerpted from Samaritan Ministries - full article here
A growing number of books in recent years touch on the themes of community and place. Some of these books have sold extraordinarily well. Just to give a couple of examples, J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy and James Rebanks's The Shepherd's Life have both sold in the millions and reached the top of bestseller lists. Both books are said to be unlikely hits.
But is it so extraordinary that these sorts of books, which are, among other things, a lament for the loss of community, should be so widely read? Not long ago, it would have been surprising, and it is highly unlikely, that such books would have gained anything more than a small, niche readership. Yet in 2017, it's actually not extraordinary at all. And the reason for this is that some of the themes they touch upon—that of struggling, broken, splintering communities—are now obvious to all. People see the loss of community and increasingly realize that something has gone very wrong.
…Loss of community, although it may look very different, is found in far more affluent areas as well, where people often hardly know their neighbors, let alone live in community with them. Many explanations can be given for this phenomenon, from the effects of the industrial revolution right down to the digital revolution. But at the heart of it all, standing above all other reasons, is individualism, an ideology which is intrinsically hostile to both family and community.
…What is the nub of individualism? It is the belief that I myself am king and that nobody has the right to tell me what to do, to deny me any pleasure I seek, or to stop me from doing what I want. It's my right to take drugs, and has nothing to do with you. It's my right to have latchkey kids that I leave to fend for themselves or constantly shunt off to others, because I'm doing whatever I want to do, and it's none of your business. It's my right to sit around watching hardcore porn and what's that to you. It's my business whether I sleep with someone who isn't the person I'm married to, and it's nothing to do with you. And so on.
The most common response to these attitudes is to basically shrug the shoulders and say, "Well, yeah, it has nothing to do with me." …But should I care about these things? Should I care that my neighbor is defiling himself with porn? Should I care that my neighbor is taking drugs? Should I care that my neighbor is on welfare and sits around all day doing nothing? Should I care that my neighbor is going through a divorce in a marriage that might, with counselling, be saved? Should I care that my neighbor has chosen material gain over looking after her children? While the ideology of individualism says "no," the Biblical answer is "yes," of course I should care, although the proposed solution is not some heavy-handed, overbearing state cracking down on people.
The rest of the article and thoughtful solutions are found at link above. In our next newsletter we'll follow as the author develops ”this theme and ask(s) what we, as individual Christians and as the Church corporately, can be doing to start rebuilding communities from the ashes."