What is Community?

What IS community?

This is something that I'm going to be thinking about for awhile.

Community has traditionally referred to a geographically integrated group of people. This kind of community shares common experiences and habits. They shop at the same grocery store, send their kids to the same school, have some relatives in common, and share the same basic world-view and outlook on life.

This kind of community started fraying at the edges when Christianity was introduced. Christianity originated as a small persecuted group, not at home in either the Jewish or the Roman world, and so Christians explicitly believed that an individual might hold a radically different belief-system than their community. Further, Christians saw themselves as part of a community that transcended location.

So Christianity introduced the concept of community built on values rather than history. But this concept is a hard one, and if you are no longer a small, persecuted group, it is probably too vague to put into practice.

It wasn't until the 20th century that the traditional type of community really started to fall apart. Mobility and technology reshaped the world, so that people were no longer tied down to an ancestral village, state, or nation. Travel became a common right, rather than an exotic adventure.

In the 21st century, this has practically demolished the traditional idea of community. Next-door neighbors no longer have much in common, or share much conversation. Cities allow people to choose dramatically different traditions and styles of living. Community as something centralized by geography has almost disappeared.

Some people look to online community to take up the slack. For many of us plagued with wildly untraditional ideas, it has ended our sense of isolation, and helped us to find a sense of legitimacy.

Others look to local churches to take on the mantle of community. Many people develop important relationships through their affiliation with a particular church.

But what IS community?

Is it shared location? Shared experiences? Shared beliefs?

...more to come...