I’ve been reading a lot of history lately and I find in my reading that it wasn’t until humans began to draw together in groups, to create community, that progress occurred. Archaeologists are discovering that society was much more advanced than was previously thought. There have been eras of great achievement followed, due to some catastrophe, by Dark Ages and then a rebuilding on the ashes of what was before. But in it all, it was people working together, in community, for the benefit of everyone that made civilization continue.
When considering the institutions that have shaped society — public education has been a dominating feature. When I taught school it took the support of the home and all the teachers and the administration and the auxiliary staff working together to bring one child along to a functioning, productive member of society. If one piece of the process did not work with the others, we failed that child.
Groups of people who gather to worship the god of their choice, are by their very nature communal. There are people who withdraw from society to draw nearer to god, but it takes a functioning, devout group of people to gather for corporate worship, to feed the hungry, to pray for those in need. Without the communal nature of religion, people supporting each other because of their love for a god-infused humanity, religion soon fades away. One person cannot keep it going by sheer force of will.
Government was envisaged to help the “whole”. When groups of people came together for agricultural interests, economic interests, safety issues, great men and women rose up to guide great empires, establish laws, and make life safer and healthier for the people. When the leaders became controlled by self-interest, the civilization most often went into decay.
Currently we have about one fourth of our population who has opted out of that sense of community. Gun rights, political challenges and health issues are being defined as individual rights with no consideration for the community as a whole. Choosing to live in isolation from society is certainly an individual choice. We have the stories of mountain men who lived off the land, avoiding society whenever possible. That works if you want that type of life, but once the individual moves into “community” other principles come into play. If you want the benefits of what “community” offers then there are a few basic rules to live by.
The old line we heard as children, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” comes into play. Something as simple as a traffic sign or a four-way stop is part of that sense of community. The idea is that together we can make life better for everyone and no one is excluded. Douglas John Hall in his book Waiting for gospel identified truth, compassion, justice, judgment, forgiveness, liberation, peace, and hope as the best way we have of “keeping human life authentically human.” And it is these same principles that identify the “community” we can build together.