Every one of us has a unique identity. As James Taylor said in an Instagram post about Jimmy Buffett’s death, “We all … invent, assemble, inherit, or fall into our inner identity.” One important source of identity is our associations—the social groups we join, including congregations. It’s important to appreciate new forms of association that are emerging in our time.
“I Love My Church.” It was the slogan for a capital fund drive at the little church where I belong. I turned to our treasurer, sitting in the pew behind me—he is, like me, a bit of a grump—and said, “I have mixed feelings about my church. What should I do?” To my great pleasure, he replied, “Get over it. Give money anyway.”
That’s the spirit! A church is more than a buyer’s club, a co-op that delivers maximum religious benefit to members at the lowest cost. A good congregation puts its shoulder to a bigger wheel: transforming lives in ways no one can predict, in harmony with the congregation’s purpose. Our success is measured by the good we do, not by how satisfied we are.
Americans recently celebrated Independence Day, an event associated, in my childhood mind, mainly with fireworks. In recent years, another July 4 ritual has gained popularity: public readings of the Declaration of Independence. I’ve come to appreciate the annual reminder that genuine authority derives from the consent of the governed, and not from the mere assertion of power by those who govern. We Americans have 241 years of conditioning in the importance of independence, but many of us are woefully lacking in our concept of accountability.