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January 03, 2005

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Jimmy (formerly of fluidfaith.blogspot.com) said in a personal conversation recently that suburbia is one of the chief sources of this problem of individualism. Our lives are literally structured in isolating ways - you have to drive everywhere, people don't live close together, and there is little shared space. None of this is true of highly urban areas, but very true of the suburbs.

For a secular angle on how urbanites have transcended the modernist sense of individual isolation, I recommend Ethan Watters' Urban Tribes.

There is nothing wrong with being an individual. However, we tend to suffer from "Rugged Individualism," the old "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" and "don't take handouts from anyone" that is at the very core of everything we do as Americans. It is individualism at its most manic and virulent.

The church in America has failed to divorce itself from rugged individualism. Tell the average person in the average church that you just lost your job and the response is along the lines of "I'm sorry. I'll pray for you. How about those Red Sox?" That ain't gonna cut it. People are almost afraid that bad news is like a virus they can catch. The idea that we should never have anything bad happen to us tends to reinforce individualism when it should be doing the opposite. It forces us into little (seemingly)fortified islands that the Enemy destroys with impunity.

I could talk about this topic forever, but have other things to do today, so it will have to wait. Suffice it to say that you are dead on, DP, with seeing this as a problem. Hopefully we in the Church can shine light into the darkness of individualism before it is too late.

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