calls for added thought.
Yesterday I was critical of a CNN report on the return of a pastor to a local church in Crawford, Texas after a stint as a military chaplain in Iraq. My criticism was that the reporter did not cite the pastor’s denominational connection nor local church.
My consternation is, in part, because such reporting is incomplete. I want to know this kind of information. (Maybe no one else does.) But leaving out such information reveals a larger cultural issue.
It frames the story as if the pastor is not part of a connected community. It’s a common theme in the culture of the United States. Individualism. The stories we tell help to define us, individually and corporately. If we are presented as individual actors pursuing individualistic goals, I am concerned that such framing undermines community and, ultimately, social responsibility. Equally damaging, it does not help us perceive that we are citizens of a global community, and If we are to survive as a species, we must come to this understanding.
When storytellers frame our narratives individualistically I think it diminishes our understanding of the human family as interconnected and interdependent. This is culturally bound reporting. It reflects an unspoken assumption rife in contemporary U.S. culture, the culture of individualism.
The biblical witness speaks of our connection to a “great cloud of witnesses.” These witnesses observe, participate in, and tell the stories that shape us. And that’s the point. We are not islands, we are connected to each other and to a history that shapes and informs us. Our story is a communal story because our faith is held within a community. We practice faithfulness in relationship to God and to each other.
Our story is rooted in community. We when fail to understand this, we tell an incomplete story and we diminish the community of faith. We are not alone.