Tuesday Re-mix -
I wonder if we in the American culture have become addicted to anonymity?
Dictionary.com defines addiction like this:
the state of being enslaved to a practice or habit or something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.
When I think about the community prescribed in God’s Word, particularly in the New Testament church, I see plenty of problems for our contemporary culture. We have become a people insistent upon our anonymity. We value self-sufficiency and independence almost above all things. We write books about “self-improvement” and “self-made men”. We idolize individual achievement and we dream about financial independence, and we describe all of this as “the American dream”. We live in gated communities to keep out the undesirable community. And we see anyone asking for help as weak and sad. We have created an entire body of law around the “right to privacy” and we guard our privacy as if it is our most prized possession. There is no question but that we have, in many ways, worked exactly contrary to the type of interdependence described in the Bible.
But none of that necessarily gets us to “addiction”. The question is, are we “enslaved” to this need for independence? Is it psychologically habit-forming? If we lost it, would we be traumatized? These are troublesome questions for me. These are the questions I ask myself as I travel around the country from one church to the next talking about Biblical relationships and New Testament community. I have to say it…that kind of community is not easy to find, even in the church…maybe especially in the church.
I believe our culture’s obsession with privacy and independence and anonymity have approached the “addiction” level. I believe this because we kick and scream anytime we lose those things. Like an addiction, we actually know that we should be living in community and that we need other people in our lives, but through our actions we choose otherwise. We choose anonymity, even when we know we should not. It feels like an addiction to me. So what about the church?
In the church, we have become so consumer-oriented that we are afraid to create an environment which might actually offend someone’s desire to remain anonymous. We have done all our marketing homework and we know well what people want and what they do not want. We aim to give them what they want, because we want to be a “user-friendly” church. We create huge crowds so that a visitor can come in and, essentially, remain anonymous without being “bothered” by anyone. What’s worse, we give our own members plenty of leeway to exercise their own desire for independence and privacy and anonymity. We actually make it possible for people to be “members” without any investment in community or personal accountability at all. In a sense, we have become “enablers” of our society’s addiction.