Community and Individualism

A Few Thoughts on a lingering Post Postmodern Binary

In Christian circles, particularly the academy, there is this notion that American Christianity was far too influenced by Western modern individualism.  That this RUGGED individualism was detrimental to our society and that we need to all go back to community, social salvation, the church, etc., etc.  And to be honest, for a while, I joined in this call, decrying the privatization of Christianity and emphasizing more and more the social aspects of religious life. Then, one night, I was having a conversation with Rob Kashow, and we sometimes don’t see eye to eye, but occasionally we do (we are, afterall fanboys of Stanley Grenz). He made an interesting point. He asked me, to paraphrase, “What if these postmodern calls to community lead to nationalism?” It was this inquiry that made me stop in my tracks and made me re-think the oversimplistic critique of community versus individuality.

Then, last week it hit me, American individualism is not an entirely evil thing; it is actually rather ambiguous. The problem with Western individualism is that it promotes a RUGGED individualism, where the subject (the person) is seen to be able to have the most potential for growth by separating from community, as well as others that are different from herself, in order to become independent, self-sufficient and autonomous (shall we say, God-like?).  It is the rugged part of the Western vision of individual subjectivity that we as Christians should take aim at. Personally I think that the Gospel (both in the First and New Testaments) promotes a biblical individualism where individuals grow in the Triune God, living out lives of mutuality, love, and self-giving, but that is for another day.

0 thoughts on “Community and Individualism

  1. Pingback: Individualist-Communalist Tension « Near Emmaus

  2. Stephanie Wyatt

    The Bible and Christian tradition calls us to pursue a personal relationship with God and also a communal one. Going to an extreme on either end of the spectrum is problematic. The call of faith is to find the creative tension between these two ways of being.

    Reply
  3. Bret Jamison

    Christians are quick to offer help to those who truly need and they are slow to seek help from anyone other than God.

    1 Timothy 5:8 ESV

    Proverbs 6:9 ESV

    James 1:22 ESV

    2 Thessalonians 3:11-12 ESV
    Proverbs 24:30-34 ESV
    Colossians 3:23 ESV
    Proverbs 21:25 ESV

    2 Timothy 3:17 ESV
    Proverbs 22:13 ESV

    Proverbs 26:13-16 ESV

    Proverbs 6:6 ESV

    John 15:7 ESV

    1 Thessalonians 3:10 ESV

    Matthew 25:14-30 ESV

    Proverbs 20:4 ESV

    1 Peter 3:1-22 ESV

    2 Timothy 3:16 ESV

    Philippians 4:19 ESV

    Psalm 1:2 ESV

    1 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV

    Jeremiah 15:16 ESV

    Revelation 20:4-6 ESV

    HelpfulNot Helpful
    Ephesians 3:9 ESV / 2 helpful votes

    HelpfulNot Helpful
    John 3:3 ESV / 1 helpful vote

    Reply
    1. RodtRDH Post author

      Unhelpful:

      Quoting bible passages at length. We read the by on our own, just cite the passages.

      Also unhelpful:

      Quoting irrelevant passages commenting on the post at hand.

      Reply

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