Friday, May 18, 2012

Are You Bowling Alone? (Part 1)

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In his iconic 2000 book, Bowling Alone, Robert D. Putnam asserts that America is in decline because America is abandoning her "social capital."  "Social capital" is the ability and desire to publicly interact with other people by means of family, church, civic organizations, sports and politics.  This kind of interaction has been in steep decline since the 1980's and is now reaching alarming new lows.  America, instead of interacting as she once did, is "cocooning."   The author came to his books title by discovering that even though interest and participation in bowling is near all time high levels, the percentage of people participating in bowling leagues is falling off the charts.  People no longer prefer to bowl together...they prefer to bowl alone.  Americans, it appears, are preferring to do most everything alone and interacting when there is no way to avoid it.  Not only does this trend indicate a danger to society as a whole, it has potentially disastrous implications for the Lord's church.  Satan, as it were, is moving in through the side door unnoticed.  His lies are convincing more and more of us that we can be "solitary Christians."  But can we?

Before we discuss the spiritual implications of these matters, let's observe the spectrum of human preferences regarding a total solitude mindset on one extreme and a total community mindset on the other.  In the center is total neutrality towards both solitude and community.  

Serving as examples: total solitude is very clearly illustrated by life in New York City on the one hand and the Amish community clearly illustrates total community on the other.  New Yorkers have little social interaction, spend as much time as possible alone and avoid contact with strangers.  They cherish their solitude and avoid community.  Quite the opposite, the Amish treasure interpersonal interaction in nearly every activity of life.  They eat together, work together, play together and worship together.  They cherish their community and avoid solitude.  For our purposes we will call these two extremes "Solitude:"and "Community."  We will construct a graph to illustrate.  Here we go:

  NYC  1       2       3       4       Neutral       (4)       (3)       (2)       (1)  AMISH  

Here's the graphs representations:

Solitude (NYC)
1 Withdrawl from Community
2 Fear of Community
3 Discomfort with Community
4 Preference for Solitude
(4) Preference for Community
(3) Discomfort with Solitude
(2) Fear of Solitude
(1) Withdrawl from Solitude
Community (AMISH)

In the long ago God issued a prime directive regarding the optimum condition for mankind.  "It is not good for man to be alone." - Genesis 2.18b  There we have it.  Community is normative and solitude is not.    Jesus Christ on occasion sought solitude but he aggressively sought community far more often for as he said; "I am come to seek and to save that which is lost."  What is lost?  Mankind.  Though man needs rest and solitude on occasion, it is within community that God calls him to live for the majority of his time here on earth.   The very first community was composed of God, Adam and Eve in what we today call the marriage covenant.  Later God called His chosen people to a community that met God publicly at the "tent of meeting" a.k.a. the Tabernacle and later at the Temple in Jerusalem.  After returning from Babylonian captivity God's people met weekly in what we today call the Synagogue.  Finally, since the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God calls all of us everywhere to community with Him in the ecclesia, the church of Christ.  Why?  "It is not good that man be alone!"

On Tuesday night, June 26, 2012, there will be a group discussion of the book Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam.  The discussion will begin at 7 p.m. and will be held at the Archdale church of Christ, 2525 Archdale Drive, Charlotte, NC 28210.  The public is invited.  We will focus on just how does the community of Christ's church address the growing trend among Americans to isolate themselves from personal interaction.  In preparation for this important discussion, you can obtain a copy of Putnam's book to read very inexpensively from  Here is your link:

We will look forward to seeing you there!  Questions?  Just e-mail Russ McCullough at


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