Sunday Share

So, our pastor had an interesting line today in church, and not sure if he got it from someone else (so if he did, apologies if credit needs to go elsewhere). In the final of a four-week series on “Why Church?” he noted, of the value of attending church, that in doing so…

The synergy of collectivity overcomes the entropy of individualism.

Now, there are a lot of non-Christians who read my blog here who are cringing right now. Really, I can feel your shuddering through the Internet. You’re saying, “See! This is the problem with churches. They preach conformity and groupthink.”

Get your knickers out of your ass crack for a moment though, and reflect. First off, even the non-churchgoing types belong to plenty of clubs, groups, political parties, community groups and more where unity of action and thought is often encouraged. So get off the high horse.

But more importantly, let’s examine what the pastor of my church is really talking about (because, for one thing, it’s a highly open and inclusive church, and doesn’t promote lock-step thinking at all).

Having a community that is together in a single purpose, or a set of purposes, can be a very good thing. My church, in fact, is very involved in community helping and in helping abroad. Helping primarily, with proselytizing really far down the list of priorities. That is the synergy of collectivity. Not a collective “turn off your brain” mindset but the pooling of talents, wills and resources.

Together, we can achieve things that as individuals we could not do, or not do as effectively. The offerings we give, the time we might volunteer, the smiles we might offer to fellow church members who need a smile…all these things come together to make the church community powerful when there is love and compassion at the heart of things, and not judgment or recrimination.

And that’s where we get to the “entropy of individualism.”

Not, mind you, “individuality.” Our pastor said individualism.

I think there is a distinction. The first is natural. We are all unique and should be. We all have lives outside the church as well. And we should. These are good things.

But the latter thing, individualism, is trickier, and more dangerous. It speaks to me of the desire to put individual desires above all else. We’re all guilty of doing this, regularly. But we must be careful to remember the importance of community (spiritual or otherwise) and not lift up the individual so much that we end up preaching the dangerous nonsense of someone like Ayn Rand and that dangerous school of thought known as Objectivism, which encourages people not to help their fellow humans.

There are pastors and churches where the collectivity is taken to the extreme of collectivism, which is where we end up with “sheeple” and large groups of people mobilizing behind issues that I’m sure make Jesus cringe.

I agree that such a state is not good. But I like the “synergy of collectivity,” idea and I agree that it should be one of the primary reasons for finding a good church and being a member of it, even if you don’t attend every week and even if you can’t give much or your money or time.


6 Responses to “Sunday Share”

  1. October 5, 2010 at 2:35 pm


    What a great word. I’ve never seen that word before.

    Non-churchies do cringe at these kinds of things in part because it can be so hard to understand the diversity within Christianity.

    Now, there has been maybe too much celebration of “Bring in the sheep, bring in the sheep!” in some Christian traditions. But yes, it can be amazing what good a congregation can actually accomplish.

    “No other organization has [the] networking ability. No other organization has access to adults, many of whom are quite prepared to change their lifestyle if it is going to positively impact the world.” – Gretta Vosper

  2. October 5, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    I so dearly wish I could take credit for “sheeple” as I’m pretty enamored of the word myself. First heard it from my wife, whom I believe heard it from someone else. I have no idea how long it’s been in circulation, but along with “Churchianity” it’s a word that seems so perfectly evocative.

    Thanks for the quote in your comment, by the way. It’s a good one, and totally new to me.

  3. 3 Big Man
    October 6, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Good post man. I hadn’t been through in a while and was shocked by the change in blog. You might have noticed from Facebook that I started doing some other writing and it’s interfered with my blogging and blog reading.

  4. October 6, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Sounds like I’d better get my patoot over to Facebook and see what you’re up to lately. Haven’t been there in a week or two, I think., Big Man.

    Too much online stuff to keep up with, and Facebook tends to be the proverbial “redheaded stepchild” in my social media hierarchy when I’m forced to choose.

  5. October 7, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    and that is why in judaism, while MOST prayers are individual prayers, and certainly we observe in the wilderness, by ourselves, in the home, subway, wherever, there are certain prayers which can only be recited in/by a minyan [group of 10 or more] most famous of which is the kadish, the mourners prayer, because no one should grieve alone. in community there is strength and comfort.
    the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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