Emphasis on high individualism/low community keeps an alertness to interconnectedness at bay. That was at least one of the implications I intended in yesterday’s post. When conversations about social or structural change take place under the rubric of high individualism/low community, the means to explore interconnectedness is limited, if not discouraged. After all, the a priori requires a rigid bifurcation out of a perceived threat to individual responsibility, as if high community/low individualism inherently shutters individual culpability. Not so.
Consider the way this shows up in Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel or the work of N.T. Wright, or even the recent release of Michael Bird’s, Evangelical Theology. Let me quickly say that my inclusion of Mike’s work stems from a response to a review he recently posted. I have not yet read his work but have followed his writing for some time.
Critics of McKnight, Wright, and Bird, among others, seem to infer a threat to high individualism or put another way as a perceived de-emphasis on personal salvation. One easily sees how this works when John Piper suggests the means to social changes/transformation begins at the level of the individual and so pastors should eschew temptation to dabble in systems and structures. My contention would be that is an unnecessary polarization between personal redemption and Paul’s vision of God reconciling and restoring all things to Godself in Jesus. The idea of an isolated individual, which such a rigid vision seems to require, does not comport with human experience or situatedness, much less an understanding of human relationships as necessarily requiring an other.
My own conversations, and some criticisms we face at our church, expose an unnecessary either/or. We work hard at a both/and. Even more, since our tradition has tended toward a reactionary stance toward anything that resembles justice in the social sphere, we feel it necessary to work harder to point out the way our individual practices have simply been sanctified to maintain the status quo. When we sanctify the status quo, we actually betray an understanding of redemption and reconciliation and merely offer a facade of difference to things as they are.
Poetry is at least a prophetic form. A friend posted a link to this video. Listen to it twice carefully. There is a prophetic challenge to systems, one in particular, in the voice of an individual. One more illustration why I think we at least need to turn the equation upside down and opt for high community/low individualism. Acts 2 and the description of the early church sure seems to point in this direction.
What are your thoughts?