I’ve been pondering about community. Shocker I know being a person called to ministry and who is a nurse, and an Ethics Fellow, and an educator. Community- a word, concept, reality –that has so many different meanings for each person I encounter.
Up until a few years ago, (well before seminary) I never really paid much attention to where I was, who I was and if I was even in community with others. Until I encountered an online community of people who were as diverse as they were the same. Each “personality” was so evident that if for some reason they had to change their sign-on, which meant changing their public name, you could pretty much- still pick out as to “who” they were when they posted on the message boards.
For some who posted, there is a sense of freedom to post in a way that didn’t mirror the way they presented themselves in person. They felt protected by the anonymity of the electronic community- some interacted and engaged in the various conversations, others would just read the posts- interacted when something interested them, or just sat back and watch the train wreck ensue when the conversations got way out of line.
It was when the conversation got way out of line that I would wonder, why are we here? AND why do we continue to stay in this particular message board even when we get our egos handed back to us when the rest of the community not only disagrees with what we say, but it could be a group of 40 or 50 people disagreeing with what we say. It’s that unspoken rule of covenant.
We know what we are getting into when we meet each other in this online community. There are the hard-heads (those who only want their opinion to be the loudest one-regardless of who is speaking.) There are the mediators- their voices are above the fray in the thread trying to not let people get too nasty to each other. The ignorers are those who skirt around the issues and just continue the conversation, sometimes fractioning off into tangents that have no relation to the original start of the thread. Then, there are the lurkers- those who no matter the content will hardly if ever respond and just continue to read. You never know if they are there or not. And it turns out they are the historians of the group more often than not when some minute aspect of a past post is forgotten by the others.
The thing is this isn’t a religious online community, so where is God here? See as a Christian, I’ve come to learn and love that any community is where God is. This is a rather transformational statement for me. The people who interact on this board are an extreme cross-section of society. They are a community of broken, alienated, fragmented people who live, love, celebrate and hold each other accountable in a way that is broken, alienated and fragmented. Rather like any community of God’s own choosing made in the image of God whether some on this particular message board realize it or not.
Our lives are directed to community not isolation. Our choices are choices for community, not alienation. This is the vision that directs and molds the direction of our lives. We are moved to community regardless of where we come from, what we believe, or how we live. And all I can say is to God be the glory. Amen