Wednesday, December 5, 2012

“Community” and the Mafioso Side of Church

Continuing to watch season one of “Community,” I have continued to think that it is like the postmodern, XXI Century version of “Cheers.” That show was a lot of people’s pop-culture go-to for what church should be. A place “Where everybody knows your name,” the attractional picture of community. In this new series, we see the community less centered on a building or meeting place, (even thought they do have regular meetings in a designated space) and more about the changes that the group bring upon each other as they share life. It is a good picture of the way church should be, albeit without the spiritual dimension.

Then along comes an episode that takes everything to a new level. It is a study of the evil that happens when community becomes religion. No, not the Christmas episode. That was more of a critique of religion in general, and how differing beliefs come up against each other without really interacting.

No, the story that explores our group ceasing to be community and instead becoming religion is “Contemporary American Poultry.” It is the mafia spoof. Mafia movies really are a good study of institutional religion. Religion usually is more about control, power, and cultural norming than spiritual things. Here, we see the group gain control of the culture of the college through the school cafeteria. They set out to benefit themselves in the face of a perceived injustice in the school society, but end up being just as evil (or more) than the original wrong they faced. They cease to be community, become inward and self focused, and begin demanding that the group leadership get them what they want.

It is really a good picture of where church goes wrong. When the church ceases to be the community God intends it to be, and ceases to change the world through story and relationship, and starts to wield cultural power to change society into what it thinks it should be, it becomes just another secular tool. This is why your average church is obsessed with things like buildings, money, plans for themselves, politics, and rules for behavior that the world should adopt.

Church should be a family and not the “family, in italics.”

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