What is wrong with this picture?
The American economy has been hot for some time. Most Americans can afford to buy the stuff that Madison Avenue tells us is essential for our happiness. But they are not happy.
The fact is prosperous liberal democracies like the US has exhibited a long-term rise of clinical depression. This puzzling statistic is the focus of a recent book by Robert E. Lane, a political scientist recently retired from Yale.
In his book, ‘The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies’, Lane concludes:
” People in such countries [prosperous liberal democracies] have become less resilient in the face of everyday setbacks because they suffer a kind of famine of warm interpersonal relations, of easy-to-reach neighbours, of encircling, inclusive memberships, and of solidarity in family life.”
Which is a somewhat long winded way of saying “it is not good that the man should be alone.” (Genesis 2:18a)
It appears that empirical science confirms what the Scripture teaches, that to be truly human, we need community as much as we need food and water.
In the words of Claus Westermann:
“Gen 2 acknowledges that people do not find the true meaning of life in the mere fact of existence; if this were the case, then community with the animals would be enough. But people find the meaninig of life only in human community; it is only this that makes true humanity.”
There are many reasons why community is not receiving its needed attention.
- The rapid pace of modern life means our attention is focused on adapting and catching up. Relationships get neglected by default.
- A prosperous economy often hides the fact that the workplace is going through mega changes and that we all have to work harder just to survive. Two career couples have become the norm with its concomitant strain on relationships.
The church ought to be shining bright in this relational darkness. Unfortunately it often is not. More and more, the church of Jesus Christ is exhibiting an activism that parallels the hard driving culture of the marketplace. Fixated with the pursuit of tangible goals, many churches have imbibed both the spirit as well as the methods of bottom line companies.
The present day church can be one of the most loneliest places on earth. You can probably find more authentic community at the local pub.
There is a famine of true community. The church of the three-in-one God has an inexhaustible supply of true life giving relationships.
We need to get the word out.
But first we need to feed ourselves.