The Loss of Community

An article in the Washington Post reports on
a study documenting growing social isolation in the U.S. A contributing factor
may be the fragmentation that results from television.

The number
of people
who say
they have
no one
to confide
in is

Social isolation in the U.S. is growing, according to a study that tracks two decades of American relationships. The study is reported in the Washington Post in an article by Shankar Vedantam. The Post links to the full report in pdf as well.

For those of us concerned about community building this has direct relationship to wider communities such as neighborhoods and specific communities such as local congregations. This data is complemented by an article in Christianity Today that discusses in helpful detail the context in which church membership and participation are measured.

The challenge here, it seems to me, is to do something with information such as this and not stop with hand-wringing analysis or depressed disengagement. And a lot of creative people are doing just that, especially pastors leading growing local congregations and leaders organizing communities. I’ve written about a couple of the latter, Zane Ibrahim in Cape Town, South Africa and Peter Odengho in Kisumu, Kenya in the past couple of days. Both are using media to build community conversation.

Granted, they are working in different contexts than we experience in the U.S. Never the less, the methodology of getting people into conversation in order to engage them in a more participatory community is a solid methodology. That they are using media to complement this is even more exciting than blaming media for contributing to the problem, which it probably is, or disengaging from it because it’s a tool of commercial interests, which it definitely is.

What creative folks are doing is taking the conditions at hand and transforming them to shape a new reality. That’s exciting.

I think we do best by delving deeply into lifestyle issues and attempting to understand them and how they reflect the spiritual condition and emotional state of people, more so than we are served by hanging our heads in frustration, despair or disengagement.

I see this as a time of great challenge and remarkable opportunity. Let’s get on with it! Build community!

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