Notable and Quotable

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“…’I am a nut about community, and what is missing in the Church for me is any realness between people. So many communities want pseudo-community and are not willing to do the work to have real community. They don’t want authenticity and reality. They want to hear a sermon that is going to make them feel better, but they don’t want to get real with each other and hear each other’s pain and talk about that kind of this. They don’t want to talk about the real stuff of life. That is very sad. Jesus said, ‘I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.’ Many churches I go to are not very [alive] places. You get the feeling that, beneath the smile and the singing and the clapping, there is no real life underneath.’ …”

--M. Scott Peck as quoted by Arthur Thomas (via Prodigal Kiwi's Blog)



Filed under: * General InterestNotable & Quotable

8 Comments
Posted June 29, 2007 at 9:33 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. KAR wrote:

“Life is a gift, not to possess, but to share.”
Henri Nouwen

“In a Christian community everything depends upon whether each individual is an indispensable link in a chain. Only when even the smallest link is securely interlocked is the chain unbreakable. A community which allows unemployed members to exist within it will perish because of them.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer <u>Life Together</u>

“A person who loves community tends to destroy it. But a person who loves people creates community wherever he goes.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer <u>Life Together</u>

“Community begins in mystery and ends in administration. Leaders move away from people and into paper.”
Jean Vanier

“Community is like a large mosaic. Each little piece seems so insignificant. One piece is bright red, another cold blue or dull green, another warm purple, another sharp yellow, another shining gold. Some look precious, others ordinary. Some look valuable, others worthless. Some look gaudy, others delicate. As individuals stones, we can do little with them except compare them and judge their beauty and value. When, however, all these little stones are brought together in one big mosaic portraying the face of Christ, who would ever question the importance of any one of them? If one of them, even the least spectacular one, is missing, the face is incomplete. Together in the one mosaic, each little stone is indispensable and makes a unique contribution to the glory of God. That’s community, a fellowship of little people who together make God visible in the world.”
Henri Nouwen Can You Drink the Cup?

“But in another way, community is a terrible place. It is the place where our limitations and our egoism are revealed to us. When we begin to live full-time with others, we discover our poverty and our weakness, our inability to get on with people, our mental and emotional blocks . . . our seemingly insatiable desires, our frustrations and jealousies, our hatred and our wish to destroy.”
Jean Vanier

“Before all things, the Teacher of Peace and the Master of Unity would not have prayer made singly and individually, as for one who prays only for himself. For we do not say, “My Father, who art in heaven”… Our prayer is public and common; and when we pray, we pray not for one, but for the whole people, because we the whole people are one.”
St. Cyprian of Carthage

——
Nah, this not that big of a passion for me ... why do you ask? wink

June 29, 9:47 am | [comment link]
2. KAR wrote:

this [is] not that ...  red face

June 29, 9:48 am | [comment link]
3. Philip Snyder wrote:

To me, the greatest mystery of the Trinity is that God is, at His essence, Community.  We, being made in the image of God, are persons who are designed to live in community.  But we are fallen through sin so that our community is broken.  The Church is where we are supposed to come to be healed and our personhood restored so we can live in community.  It is a sad fact that we are all too self-enamoured to fully form community.  We cling to our individuality and our “rights” so much that we can’t see that our “individuality” and our focus on “rights” are what keep us from community.  We cling to the very things that cuts us off from community and then complain that we are alone.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

June 29, 9:54 am | [comment link]
4. Stuart Smith wrote:

Peck’s quote is a clear indicator of why the Church in the USA is such a weak and tepid body:  we are not mutually submitted to each other in a loving “koinoia”!  Our first love being radical, autonomous individuality, we refuse to live accountably, and, thus, are unwilling to know and be known.

The ECUSA, steeped in British propriety, and seasoned with aristocratic elitism, is especially resistant to the common life Christ demonstrated and commanded.  How many parishes in the ECUSA feature a summer “off” time from Christian Education?  How many of those same parishes have a vital adult C.E. program during the ‘school year’?  How many feature small group life, wherein God’s Word and our lives are examined?

Episcopalians (in general, with notable exceptions) expect a largely commitment-free, voluntary relationship with the other members of the parish.  Coffee hour (or, worse, cocktail hour) is the only commonly shared koinoia.  Small wonder we make such a small difference to the pagan world around us.  Our parish life is often indistinguishable from a country club, and less mission-focused than a Rotary Club.

June 29, 11:37 am | [comment link]
5. Fr. Greg wrote:

The point that Peck missed, I think, and why his project to create communities never really went anywhere, was that he apparently believed that community could be formed simply for the sake of community.  I was reminded of this when I read the Bonhoeffer quote above, as well as Philip Snyder’s comment with regard to what is the source of all human community:  the eternal, archetypal Community that is God.

Having said that, I think that the Peck quote given here is relevant and important and that anyone who would plant or maintain a local church would do well to to read Peck’s book:  A Different Drum.  Also, no discussion, no matter how synoptic, of Christian community can be complete without noting St. Paul’s words, found both in Romans and Ephesians, concerning Christians:  “We are members one of another”.

June 29, 1:27 pm | [comment link]
6. bob carlton wrote:

what a glorious set of comments here - so much that we have to be and do if we are to be the body of Christ

June 29, 2:12 pm | [comment link]
7. Craig Goodrich wrote:

... what is missing in the Church for me is any realness between people. ... beneath the smile and the singing and the clapping, there is no real life underneath.

Peck is definitely onto something here, but I think there may be a wider generalization he’s missing.  What is missing in contemporary middle-class Western society is realness itself, in all areas of life:

** Our media elite is outraged when a six-year-old boy kisses a girl classmate at her request.  This same elite insists that we put young women in foxholes and battleships with young men, then is surprised and upset when pregnancies result.

** Our suburban housewife carefully buys Organic Whole Foods—from which the fat has been removed and replaced by some chemical, the sugar has been removed and replaced by some chemical, and the caffeine has been removed so it can be put into an “energy drink” along with the sugar.  She then buys the energy drink, more expensive than his beer (light, of course), for her husband, and afterwards has a latte at Starbucks, paying more for the caffeine and sugar than she would for a scotch on the rocks in a bar.  But she’s feeling happy that she saved 50 cents using coupons for her kids’ breakfast lowfat honey granola bars.

** She laughs in the checkout line at the “space alien” headlines in The Weekly World News but really believes that Cosmo has discovered a bunch of brand-new secrets for happiness in bed (again this month), in spite of the fact that humans have been making love to each other for more than half a million years.

** On her way to the supermarket, she was startled by a large motorcycle gang, replete with leathers and loud black Harleys.  This gang is actually composed of middle-aged accountants and dentists on their Wednesday afternoon off.

** Bothered by the constant barking of her next-door neighbor’s dog, she considers filling out a complaint to the Homeowners’ Association.  It would never occur to her to simply go talk to her neighbor.

** Her early-teen Boy Scout son wants a jacknife for his birthday, but she’s afraid to get him one because he might take it to school and be expelled for carrying a vicious lethal weapon.

** Her husband drives a Hummer.  The farthest offroad he ever goes is the Red Lobster parking lot.  Whenever he becomes concerned about its gas mileage, he buys a small but expensive can of oil additive that promises to violate all known laws of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics.  She chuckles privately about his behavior, not noticing the ethereal organically magical claims of her (equally small and expensive) hair conditioner.

** At the neighborhood/church meeting, the leader lays out “ground rules” for the discussion, requiring everyone to phrase their statements as purely subjective, “I feel ...” statements—thus precluding any assertion claiming to be factual.  The person laying out these rules is called a “facilitator”, because he facilitates ignoring any unpleasant realities in the situation.  The business or policy meeting has ceased to be a forum for addressing actual issues and become a giant group therapy session.

And on and on.  Postmodernism has won a temporary victory, at any rate; by all appearances external reality is indeed treated as a social construct: the only “real” world consists without remainder of our personal paranoid narcissism.

Reality, creation, and common sense have a way of winning out in the end, though.  At some point our society is in for quite a shock…

June 29, 5:43 pm | [comment link]
8. Pilgrim wrote:

Problems for church communities:  the outside culture stresses romantic relationships above everything, and churches sometimes seem to worship the nuclear family Victorian style with others being suspect or second class citizens.  Whereas early Christians appear to have related to one another primarily as brother and sister and the family their community modeled was the extended family.  So you took what you got and dealt with it in love rather than looking for bosom buddies or a mate or business contacts or June and Ward and the boys.  Americans don’t live in extended families all that often, expect or brag that they don’t get along with relatives, and books are written about how to get through holidays and vacations with “those people.”  It is unrealistic to expect them to adjust their behavior for church without some thought and effort.

June 30, 7:55 am | [comment link]
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