Probe: Community

As is typical, I formulated a two hour essay for a 50 minute class session. Thus, I had to jettison ideas left and right to be at all coherent and complete. Here is one idea that got left out.

Community is based around ritual, and ritual is based in meaningful movement–crossing, dancing, running, and so on. The challenge to Protestant (comm)unity is shared, meaningful movement in ritual. Doctrinal statements invite agreement/disagreement, thus inclusion/exclusion; movement invites involvement. On the spectrum of Protestantism, denominations with more ritual movement may have more unity than those based primarily around doctrinal statements. Doctrinal statements are intellectual, analytical; they lend themselves to contemplation in solitude.

Without ritual movement, then, community will form around other spheres that are not intrinsically linked to Protestant faith, spheres such as sports and politics, for example. These spheres create unity in movement, goal, form, and ritual timelessness. They sacrifice the concept of the individual for a shared, communal identity if only for a time.

Probe: Icons

The problem with politics, at least as we picture it in the U.S. is that we do not elect men and women; we elect traits, ideals, ideologies, and dogmas. Thus, we elect icons. And being icons, we revere them. They become living saints to a secularized way of doing government—secularized even in spite of our attempts to inject religious adherence into the process, into the icons; we are still revering a man-made system, autonomous in itself, and following its own operational rules—the machine is tuned and oiled. As a result, we tend to place our political icons into a position of substitutionary activism and responsibility—a substitutionary virtuism, if you will. Just as Christ took our sins upon himself, leaving us with only one obligation—to come—so do we make our politicians Christ-figures by which they take on our duties and obligations to our neighbors, the poor, the outcasts, and the non-Christian. We place these roles on our politicians because (we believe) only they can truly do the good work of Christianized social construction, leaving us with only one obligation—to vote.