photo courtesy of Stephen Elliot

In the Christian tradition, God created Eve because Adam needed a helper.  Don’t we all?  Indeed, we were created to interact with and complement one another.  These relationships, this community, combines the privileges of co-existence with its responsibilities.   We add value to our community by sharing our gifts and talents as we pursue our own individual callings while always bearing in mind the wonderful mandate to love our neighbors.

The term “mediating institution” describes the role that families, churches, schools, civic organizations, and other similar aspects of society play in helping each of us navigate life.  The story Chris tells of his brother demonstrates well the way that a job can serve as a sort of “life guide.”

We see other examples of this all the time.  When I was in elementary school there was this mom who used to sit outside our apartment building watching the neighborhood kids play.  Anytime someone chased a ball into the street without stopping to look both ways she would reprimand him.  And if a car came down our street at a speed she determined to be too speedy – watch out! “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear” was never truer.

I disliked this woman.  I was scared of her and wished she would just mind her own business.  But now I see that she played an important role in our community.  She knew each of us by name, and she knew our parents, so we obeyed.  In this role she provided order, a moral standard, and gave us a clear understanding of authority.   She also kept us safe.

The experience of bumping up against one another is formative, or at least, it can be.   Community always matters, but the positive role of mediating institutions requires a shared concept of the authority of outside influencers.  If schools, churches, extended family members, friends, and other aspects of community are not granted the authority to speak into your life – or have that authority usurped by some other entity – they cease to be relevant as agents of personal moral development.  When that happens, community becomes naught but an environment of ambivalence.  As we know, it isn’t hate but this sort of apathy that is the opposite of love.


More on the Value of Community…

We Pay Them to Be Rude to Us by Peggy Noonan

In the service economy, all of us want to take the chute. Read the full article

D.C. to begin using more-expensive Trojan condoms in HIV prevention program Washington Post

High school students and college-age adults have been complaining to District officials that the free condoms the city has been offering are not of good enough quality and are too small and that getting them from school nurses is “just like asking grandma or auntie.” Read the full article

Believe it or Not by Isaiah Thompson

Eleven years ago, six white kids, fresh out of college, took a vow: They would shack up; they would share. They would live either in monogamous married couples or be celibate. They would work only part-time, valuing one another and their community over wealth. They would stand against injustice where they saw it, and bring about justice where they could. Read the full article

  • Just Thoughts

    The path he chose was a path going in the opposite direction of many his age, but he chose it with the same thirst for swift achievement. As soon as he reflected seriously on it, he was convinced and convicted of the existence of God and of the immortality of the soul, and at once he instinctively said to himself: 'I want to live for immortality with Him and I will accept no compromise.' -Dostoevsky, Brothers K