As we now know, the first major obstacle to building community is the sin of individualism. The second major obstacle proceeds directly from the first. Individualism breeds isolation. Most Americans don’t even recognize the problem until trouble hits and they need help. It usually leaves them going to family to ask for help. It’s because an isolated culture is all we’ve known.
The conveniences of technology
Prior to the 1950s, the structure of American society by-and-large consisted of the main locations that people frequented (home, stores, work, etc.) being within walking distance of each other. This type of environment kept people connected, as they would spontaneously experience each other throughout the routines of daily life. But since then, we’ve used the conveniences of technology to build a societal structure of increased isolation.
The limitations of design
Because we could drive to work, suburbs started being built with designs that promoted isolation. Instead of people walking down streets, they drive down them into their garages and go into their houses without ever interacting with anyone from the neighborhood.
We build the homes far apart from one another, don’t include porches and even build privacy fences and landscaping to “keep the neighbors from bothering us.” That’s right, we build blueprints for isolation and the people who move into the homes think this is a good thing!
The results of our lifestyle
This leaves us to have most of our interaction with the outside world through television and computer screens. Add to that the fact that since we don’t see or talk to anyone around us anymore, we get our news from the media and start to believe that the people around us are basically evil – since this is all the “news” we ever hear about.
If you want to know where to look to find what’s keeping us from living in true community, go no further than the architecture we’ve built ourselves into. The way we’ve structured our neighborhoods and homes, combined with the ways in which technology has made it easier to avoid personal interaction, and we’ve got the ingredients for isolation and loneliness.
While well-meaning leaders layout calls for commitment to their church communities, we simply don’t live in a way that allows for that level of commitment to be fulfilled. To be able to commit to community in our culture, we must commit to changing the way we live in ways that make community possible.