Sunday, June 22, 2008
More about individualism...
Over at Country Parson's site last week I read remarks regarding how individualism perhaps shapes our citizen rights' mindsets, and how that same individualism may play into selection and sometimes criticism of one's church, society, government and/or even personal relationships as well as convenient governmental manipulation of its citizenry - always proclaiming correctness based upon one's rights to individualism.
As is often the case, once my mind has tuned into a particular thought pattern, that pattern pops up yet another place to demand my attention...and in my devotional reading that happened the morning after my reading CP's post - thoughts and comments regarding individualism in the context of our current culture and religion.
Reading Daily Bread Holy Meal by Samuel Torvend , author Torvend quoting, Berkeley Sociologist, Robert Bellah, who concludes - "that most North Americans now understand religious affiliation normatively as a highly personal, private, and voluntary matter. In a "utilitarian" view of both life and religion, one joins and stays in a group only so long as it serves one's personal needs."
Torvend - "No wonder that cultural formation in individualism makes it difficult for North American Christians to grasp the fundamental Christian affirmation that God is a community of three, a trinity of persons. When cultural individualism shapes the religious imagination, it can be easier for Christians to speak and sing about Jesus and only Jesus: I have a personal relationship with the Lord, Faith is between God and me. I prefer a church that will meet my (very unique) needs".
My thoughts, curling around Torvend and Bellah's recitations regarding individualism and the choices we make in life and religion, are that we cannot avoid making those choices based upon our consumer shopping list ethic; I don't necessarily think I am in opposition to their writings, probably more in line with the fact that individualism is a deeply ingrained "right" that we all sort of, for want of a better word, cherish or even worship.
A couple of words that I would like to set next to this cult of individualism that we hold dear are two - two that sometimes I find myself "short" on.....and that would be patience and tolerance. Before I knee jerk myself out of a church because the pastor/rector/priest/bishop, etc. or out of support for a politician or school official or volunteer board member, etc., who has "offended" me in some way, I like to think that I can manage to pull myself together (my poor spouse usually gets to hear the tirade that goes along with pulling myself together) and rationally conclude that I personally would not like to be graded so harshly on the dumb remarks that often cross my lips or the actions that I casually take; that perhaps I've been a bit harsh on others.
The truth probably is that my short, mostly private tirades in defense of my personal "individualism rights" can be quelled, or better just plain old doused, with a bit of rational reflection and definitely (usually) with a session of personal prayer with the ever present God who's ready to give me a welcoming ear and/or a kick in the backside for my blustery, offensive personal show of individualism tinted with shades of selfishness and impatient intolerance.
So, you see the individualism post of CP and my readings sent me off into the wild stratosphere of the Mind Sieve to rant a little about my own behavior and not to damn individualism but to sing its praises while linking it to patience and tolerance - which for me, go a long way in the pursuit of tempered, unselfish, rational individualism - if there is such a thing!
So for you, what's your knee-jerk reaction to the concept of individualism - a God given right, a man made convenience, a logical evolvement of democratic societies, a justification for selfish behavior? It's a word that I'm going to continue to let linger on my mind's "screen saver" for a while....
Collage - SS