I have been thinking about this issue of individualism lately. Recently I read an article that theorizes that our culture is becoming more and more individualistic. I didn't even think that was possible, but I believe that assessment is correct.
With our total insistence on individualism, our culture has suffered. When I think of societies that I admire, I think of those who value the community over the individual. It's not that the individual is unimportant, of course, but that a person must remember that one's actions affect the community and must keep the good of the community in mind when making decisions, writing laws, working together, and even relating with friends and family.
Just take a look at our broken politics and you can see how individualism has made life worse for all of us. Each politician is out for him/herself, caring too much for whether or not he/she can be re-elected rather than caring uppermost for creating a world that is good for all. People are hurt with words and with deeds and with removal of services that result from caring too much for the wrong focus.
And then we get Aurora, Colorado. It's the epitome of an over-exaggerated individual focus and how it can so terribly hurt the community. I won't even get into our need for stricter gun control laws; that could take pages to discuss all of that. Just seeing the victims on TV and how traumatized they are, and how senseless it all is breaks my heart and shows so clearly that we need to focus on community so much more than we do.
There is comfort in the small and large deeds that the community does to reach out to victims such as in Aurora. But it would be so much better to have a safe and happy community to begin with, so that our fears do not result in such atrocities, and victim outreach is much less necessary.
I don't know how we can go about making this change. Individualism is so deeply entrenched in American society; it's a value we hold, and yet I wish we could see how it hurts us when it gets to be too exaggerated.
Next week a team from my church is going back to Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. The Lakota culture is one of strong community, at least historically (working on community consensus perspective rather than individual or even democracy where majority rules). There are still signs of their community values in how they function today. I hope that our team can learn more about that and maybe even bring back some vestiges of community care than can benefit our church community. It's a start.
Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.