catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 17 :: 2003.09.12 — 2003.09.25


What kind of community is this?

A look at *cino, one year later

Who do you think you are?

As begins its second year as a website, we return to the first and most important issue for cino: community. From the initial *campingisnotoptional event that led to the making of culture is not optional to the most recent gathering in the West Virginia wilderness which once again caused us to question *cino?s role in bringing people together, we have been challenged to make sense of our longing for community. Where does this longing come from? Will the community we hope to find ever be a complete reality? Did we ever lose it in the first place?

Some might say we were bitten by the community bug at Dordt College where students are squeezed into tight quarters, forced to eat the same foods in The Commons (an apt name for a dining hall), made to share CDs and shaving supplies with roommates, encouraged to speak the same buzz-words inside and outside of the classroom, and taught to believe that, as a theory, community is best understood when put into practice. But this last year, as cino has grown steadily in membership (almost entirely by word of mouth!) we have become aware that the need for this kind of community is not restricted to the Dordt diaspora. Many Christians, non-Christians, and those who aren?t quite sure what to call themselves, have participated?in one way or another?in the cino community. They have been interested, intrigued, frustrated and amused by the things that go on at

More than one person has greeted me excitedly as a newcomer to *cino, saying ?I spend way too much time looking at back issues and catching up on discussions. You guys are raising issues that I myself am very interested in.? When I hear comments like this, I?m glad to know I?m not the only one pouring over posts or zealously trying to communicate with others as if it were an itch I can?t scratch enough.

Can?t we agree to disagree?

I would love to say that culture is not optional satisfies some kind of deep inner need for a sense of community with other like-minded believers, because that?s what I?ve been telling people cino was designed to do. But as much as *cino shows me I?m not alone in caring about certain issues, the website also reminds me that no two people think exactly alike. In fact, two people can come to extreme opposite conclusions even though they are both junior members of *cino?s community!

Which leads me to the necessity for evaluating the progress of cino after its first functional year. Has one full year of done anything to unite people who share the same ideas, hopes and dreams? Thinking back on the issues and topics of the past year, it would seem that cino?s discussion board has helped only to display how much we all disagree. Indeed, it would appear that disagreement is the glue that binds us all together?the longest running topics on the discussion board are the ones that have sparked the most disagreement, after all. But is this the kind of community we set out to establish?
I believe this is exactly the kind of community we were hoping to find. Though we have a long way to go before achieving a full sense of being in the community of the Kingdom of God, cino is a place where a group of people can come together not around a pledge of allegiance or a particular creed, but because there are other people on the website who care about the same issues. cino is a meeting place for people who take things seriously, whether because they believe God rules over all creation and demands that His people live obediently in all areas of life or perhaps just because the topics of discussion are interesting and the perspectives are somewhat under-the-radar of mainstream media.

Many discussions on cino often begin with people complaining that the mainstream media or a particular political party or the public beliefs of the broader evangelical community do not accurately represent them. cino, then, becomes a place to voice the perspective they adhere to, or to read perspectives they might not find many other places. In short, *cino is meant to be a community in which you feel like you can belong.

So, now that you?ve discovered, have you finally found the community you?ve been longing for? Is your search for the sense of togetherness that seems so hard to find in an individualistic society complete? Whenever you feel alienated and alone late at night, are you comforted by the thoughts and opinions of your fellow *cino-ites?

If you answered yes to all these questions, then you?re set for life. You don?t need to go to church. You don?t need to talk to your neighbors. Everything you need is right here. *cino has become a one-stop shop for all your community needs.

And yet, you still go to church. You still go to class. You live in a neighborhood. You still get much of your news from television. You subscribe to the Utne Reader and the National Review. You talk about the latest reality show with your co-workers during lunch break. You dress up for a family get-together, dress down for a road trip with friends. You enjoy a concert with 2000 others, and you all sing along like one big happy family. You?re a Gap-shopper, a Goodwill-patron, a Borders customer, an NPR listener. Your day-to-day living is filled with shared experiences with all different kinds of people. You?re in and then out of one community after another. You shop in one community, eat in another, go to worship in yet another, then dabble in three more when you connect to the Internet at home.

?Excuse me. Have you seen my community?? ?Uh, yeah, it went that-a-way.?

North Americans are part of so many

communities, it seems strange that one of the dominant feelings of the Western world would be loss of community. Nevertheless, the feeling of losing a sense of community seems rather common in an individualistic society. Even though people are more united than ever via television, film, radio?mass media?they feel something missing. And so they search for a group or groups in which they can feel comfortable.

Of course, the person who has put several years of work into developing herself as a unique individual will have her work cut out for her. After years of trying to establish her own distinct identity outside the bounds of family, church, class, race, gender etc., she?s going to have a tough time finding any one community to match her uncommon characteristics as a transcendent individual. She?ll have to find more than one community to meet her individual needs. For such an individual, cino might become just one more community to add to her collection. For this multi-faceted person, culture is not optional will help exercise the cino side of her character, but there will still be many more aspects she?ll be unable to work out at

This is the reality of the way community is understood today. After one year, it is obvious that cino members are not part of only one community. They are torn between several communities competing for their attention.

As an organization trying to support the community of Christ, cino must meet the challenge of a society with too many communities. cino also must take responsibility for itself as a signpost for God?s Kingdom, which means it cannot be satisfied with being just one more community among other equally important communities. cino must understand its place in the broader community of Christ, which stands antithetically opposed to any community that is not guided by the Holy Spirit.

You can only vote once.

The one community presenting the greatest challenge to cino and the Christian community in America is the democratic community. In America, individuals are taught to believe in the saving power of democracy, which promises to bring people together despite disagreements. But since everyone?s inclination is to lord their opinions over the others, the trick for democracy is to get everyone to agree that everyone else?s viewpoint is equally valid. Such a move turns truth merely into a matter of human values. In the democratic community, everyone has their own perspective, which is verified by their own experience. God becomes a construct of man. The norms set for creation are seen as human achievements. Value is measured by popular demand. Justice and peace are defined in terms of consensus and public opinion. The true community, then, is believed to be the democratic community where everybody?s vote counts on the grounds that it?s the vote of an autonomous human being. In a community where every human person is born with rights, everybody is therefore right!

But cino must not be part of such a community. Though there be no doubt cino is in this democratic way of life, it must strive to be not of it. cino must strive to be part of a community where all people are valued not because they have opinions, not because they have equal rights as autonomous human beings, but because they are created and loved by God.

Being part of a Christian community is hard to imagine in this day and age because we have given up so much to the democratic way of living, to the democratic community. At this moment in time, the democratic community seems much more relevant than a Christian community. In America, science, education, family, government, entertainment and art all attest to the cultural victory of democracy over all areas of life. What does the Christian community have to show for itself? Churches and Christian schools. And even there, we see evidence of the spirit of democracy in church leadership practices, growth and marketing strategies, in the overall structure of many of our educational institutions.

Christians in America are so used to living in the democratic community that they can?t envision any other way. Though there is a great need for new institutions that would offer a better way of life, many Christians see future possibilities only in terms of the institutions formed by the democratic community. We?ve given in to the idea that money and public opinion should rule and regulate all institutions, businesses and organizations. Christians who seek to establish a Christian community, however, should see vast opportunities for building a different kind of society.

A Christian community should work to find an alternative to the music industry. It should seek to build structures that better connect its artists to the public. It ought to dream up a different way of loaning money to college students or offer transitional services for recent college graduates so they don?t have to get the first (outside of their major) job that comes around just to pay off their loans. A Christian people can seek better payment options for television programming so that programmers are encouraged to offer shows that serve viewers instead of companies trying to sell products. The body of believers must provide more opportunities for living in close community with others outside of Sunday church groups or Christian colleges. It should offer radical insights into the conflicts between environmentalists and free market capitalists so that care for the environment can also be seen as good business. It ought to forge a path for a new way of electing officials so that communities operating outside the religious principles of democracy can be represented too. The Holy Spirit community can prove that money is not the only solution to the problems of in our inner cities. And it should provide mentorship programs for young Christians so they may learn how to live all their days in their various vocations according to God?s Word.
This Christian community is the one community
cino wants to be a part of. Unfortunately, such a community does not yet exist. Spiritual movements take the work of generations and require the actions of large groups of people. But if we believe the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, we have no other option than to cultivate such a community as image-bearers of God.

Further reading:

  • The Democratic Way of Death, Hendrik Hart

  • The Challenge of Our Age, Hendrik Hart

  • The Christian Mind, Harry Blamires

  • 1 John

Discussion topic: the *cino piece

What need does *cino meet for you that other communities don?t? Is there a need *cino could be meeting, but isn?t yet?

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