VARIOUS TEXTS: The Value of 'Community': Can Faith Help Heal our Divide?

Can faith help heal our divide?

The American 'community' has been fractured. There's no reason pastors, priests, imams and rabbis can't lead the way back, coaching citizens in what it means to be 'one nation' again.

People are pack animals. We need one another. From the earliest chapters of Genesis we read that it is not good for people to be alone. People need community. Only in community are we fully human.

There are lots of places we go looking for community: bars, golf courses, civic clubs. But it's hard to find real community. Especially since the advent of air conditioning, VCRs, home computers, video games and iPods. Forget gated communities. Most of us live gated lives.

Families used to sit on their stoops and front porches while others strolled the streets and boulevards, and we communed with one another. Today, we come home late, lock the door, turn on the cable TV and don't emerge until the next morning, when we slap on our earphones and head off to work. The closest thing to community for many of us is an online chat room or a MySpace account.

Why is it that, today, community is most often associated with emotional pain? Think about it. When in recent history did you witness real national community? 9/11, right? And when did you last see global community? I suspect it was after the tsunami of December 2004. Even at the family level, it is the funerals that most often bring us together.

That's because intense pain can shatter the walls that isolate and divide us. When crises come, our fears and petty differences are dwarfed by our shared humanity and the impetus to reach out and help one another. But must we await another catastrophe before we begin reknitting the ties that bind?

National grace1
America has had a historic election, and the country is poised for a fresh start - another chance for community. With daunting2 challenges at home and abroad, the stakes have never been higher. We're on the verge of heading into a new year, a ritual that allows us to turn a page on history while keeping an optimistic eye on the year ahead.

If genuine community is to occur, it will require sacrifice on the part of both winners and losers. Winners must be willing to reach across the chasm3 that divides us and welcome losers to choice seats at the table. Losers - rather than allowing themselves to steep in their bitterness, awaiting the first opportunity to pounce on the new president - must accept the responsibility of shared leadership. Of being the loyal opposition. John McCain set the tone for this beautifully on election night.

Graciousness4 will be called for all around, as will be compromise - that essential lubricant5 of our life together. Ours is a world of half loaves, but alas, it is still bread.

Here's the interesting thing. America's faith communities are well positioned to lead the way, to set the example for the rest of us. They are, after all, the places where millions of Americans go to find community. There, Republicans, Democrats and independents weekly kneel beside each other to acknowledge their shared humanity and their common commitment to a transcendent6 God and the truths that transcend7 our political and ideological differences. Truth. Justice. Love of neighbor.

A healthy church isn't just a sanctuary for saints. It's a hospital for sinners. A place where we can let down our guard, open our hearts to one another and allow the healing process to begin. And if we can do it in church, why not in the halls of government?
607 words

From: US Today of December 22, 2008; by Oliver Thomas

1. grace - Gnade, Anmut
2. daunting - abschreckend, einschüchternd
3. chasm - Kluft
4. graciousness - Gnade, Zuvorkommenheit
5. lubricant - Gleitmittel
6. transcendent - transzendent, überweltlich
7. to transcend - überwinden

1. Why is it so hard nowadays to find real community?
2. What does the author mean by saying that community is 'often associated with emotional pain'?
3. Find at least two examples of figurative language and explain them in your own words.
4. What does the author expect from both, losers and winners, after the US elections (2008)?
5. Why does the author think that America's religious communities are best able to bring people together?
6. Compare the situations in Germany and the USA in respect of a lack of community and communication among people.

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