Thursday, October 28, 2010

Community vs. Competition

It's a theme that keeps surfacing in ministry for me. It started out as an affront to my idealistic just-out-of-seminary, if-they-only-knew-what-I-knew self that came in to my first appointment and preached all about community and reconciliation and the good news and the kingdom/kin-dom of God.

And then we had a contentious election (remember 2000?) and the World Trade Center/Pentagon bombing took place and we went into military action and we were angry. Angry at the French (freedom fries? really?), angry at those who had perpetrated such actions. We, of course, also got to be angry at the dot coms for having a bubble to burst. And then we got to be angry at the other political party. Now we're just angry. Angry angry angry. At undocumented workers. At the health care industry. At Congress. At our neighbors.

Through it all, I kept having this vision of community in front of me. Kept bringing it up. And I think what happened over time is that it got less and less believable. I couldn't think of why except that it's hard to be in community with people with whom we are angry.

But anger isn't the root, I don't think. I've seen anger dissipate *because* of community.

No--today as I was assessing relationships within the community I serve, it occurred to me that there is intense competition here. Competition for scarce resources. Competition for power. Competition for position. Competition for members. Competition for status.

And it's not healthy competition--not the kind of competition that helps each person get more faithfully...see the kingdom more clearly.

Then again, I wonder if any competition can be truly healthy. Because any competition I think eventually breaks down community. Think about how rival towns get in the World Series. I admit that in the last week, I've thought a few not-so-nice things about the New York Yankees.

It's not healthy for me. It's not healthy for me to want to win so badly that I think someone else has to lose. It's not healthy for me to sit and compare compare compare myself to other human beings--to their salaries, to their work ethic, to their body types or their church sizes.

It breaks down community at every level if I can't wish the best, most faithful and healthy situation for every church around me. It breaks down community at every level if I can't wish the best, most faithful and healthy situation for every member of my congregation or staff...or every person living in the neighborhood around me or for the state I live in or the neighboring states (hello--every governor is so proud of the "jobs created" when they are really most likely taken from somewhere else...) or even the neighboring countries.

It has to be more than me "winning". It has to be me opting out of games in order to follow Jesus.

So tonight, when I go into Administrative Board, I wonder if I will recognize the game in time...and instead of agreeing to referee...I wonder if I will be able to say, "Let's be among our community as those who serve. Not as those who wield power and authority. But those who serve." Let the games...end.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic post, Cynthia. I was thinking about competition this very morning as I was driving to vote. Wondering if our "winner take all" political system and corporate ladder made us put priorities in the wrong place.

You are a great preacher - even to your long distance fans! Thanks.


vlschwarz said...

I agree! Wonderful and thought-provoking post. Thank you!

Guy said...

Excellent post. Read your remark on Angela's Facebook page and am so glad I followed link to your blog.