Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:15
Key verse: (4) “For when one says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ and another, ‘I belong to Apollos,’ are you not merely human?”
Reflection: Twenty-three years ago Harvard Public Policy Professor, Dr. Robert Putnam published an article in the Journal of Democracy entitled, “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital.” The title of the article arose from the whimsical statistic that while between 1980 and 1993 the total number of bowlers in America increased by 10%, league bowling declined by 40%. The article outlined many of the ideas that would become Putnam’s bestselling book in 2000. Sighting the work of Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”, written in the 1830’s, Putnam argued that Americans had gone from possessing an amazing propensity to form civic organizations, to abandoning those social institutions from the 1960’s to the 1990’s, in epic numbers. After sighting precipitous declines in everything from church membership to PTA participation, to the Boy Scouts, the Red Cross, the Lions Club, the Elks Club, the Jaycees, the Masons, the Shriners, he concluded, “In sum, after expanding steadily throughout most of [the 20th century], many major civic organizations have experienced a sudden, substantial and nearly simultaneous decline in membership over the last decade or two.” Putnam concluded that as a result of this decline, the social capital of our country was eroding, threatening the health of our democracy and our society. The institutional church is a victim of this decline.
Twenty-three years later where are we? In 2004, Facebook was born. In 2007, the first iPhone was released. In some ways we are more connected than we ever have been; yet amidst all this connection, we are increasingly alone. In 2011, Dr. Sherry Turkle, an MIT Social Scientist published “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other”. I learned about her theories through her 2012 Ted Talk. See: http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together.html One of the precepts offered in the talk was, “I share therefore I am.” This speaks of all the ways we tell the world our “status,” through Facebook posts and instagrams and snap chats and twitter. She goes on to say, “As we distribute ourselves, we may abandon ourselves.” Turkle concludes that virtual intimacy degrades our experience of encounters of any kind. Ironically, though we are more connected than ever through technology, we are more isolated that ever because of the virtual intimacy we share through those connections.
How does faith relate to this? According to Paul, we all belong to God, and to one another. “We are God’s field, God’s building.” (3:9) He will go on to say in tomorrow’s reading from 1 Corinthians, “all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.” Faith calls us not into virtual relationship, but into true relationship. We belong together, because we belong to Christ. How can we seek to live into this belonging today? How can we move from virtual connection to meaningful connection? What could you do today to reach out to another in a way that reflects they belong to you and you belong to them, because you both belong to God?
Prayer: Open my heart this day, O God, to see that all belong to me, and I belong to them, because we belong to You. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].