Vol 7, Num 16 :: 2008.09.12 — 2008.09.26
Globalization, understood as the ability to have close contact and communication among different parts of the world, has become a common reality for most of us. Globalization both strengthens and challenges community, and it even affects our understanding of what community is.
Technology, especially the Internet, has made contact and information sharing possible in so many different ways and between many different places. As much as it is a blessing to keep in contact with those we love whom we’re away from, sometimes we can spend so much time and energy staying attached to the community(ies) that we’ve left that we do not participate in communities more related to the place where we currently are.
Nowadays, the world has become so much closer. We are able to hear what is going on in different countries—and even able to visit many places without too much difficulty. This access and knowledge can create a sense of solidarity and a realization of how our actions can and do affect others. But all of this access and information can lull us into a false sense of community. Depending on our news source, language abilities, cultural knowledge, and the access to technology (both our and others’ access), what might seem like a great world community is only a superficial connection at best.
As our ability to connect with more people increases, it seems that community could only increase. One would think that being exposed to so many differences would create more varied communities. But even as we’re exposed to more different people, we’re also exposed to more people like us. And we all have a tendency to gravitate toward those who think and act in ways that we understand and appreciate. Thus, we can find the gift of a niche, a place where we feel affirmed and comfortable, but we can also isolate ourselves from the challenge of interacting with those who are different. Community becomes a place that’s focused on “myself” instead of a place where space is made for others. Community can become stagnated when we stop letting what is around us—the changing events, people and situations—shape the little part of the world that we occupy.
Even figuring out what communities we are part of and to what extent is difficult—there are so many questions and options! How much information do I take in? How close can I be to my 200+ friends? The question comes down to how I can live in good relationship with others in the midst of a culture in which there is such freedom of movement and communication and choices—and how do I even begin to develop community there?
With the shifts in how we connect with others, the shape and form of community must also shift—and it is possible to lose a strong sense of what community is. Yet, becoming involved in the communities that are available to us today is something we as Christians ought to be doing: learning how not to superficial with those with whom we are in contact and showing love to those around us.