Community

In my last post about drug and gun control, I said this:

He is as terrified of his son being shot as my neighbor is of her son ending up a junkie. Both he and my neighbor blame an inanimate object – a firearm or bag of heroin – and not the cultural standards that their children have internalized by their own free will.

The “he” above is a hypothetical person living in a poor city who favors strict gun control. He wants gun control for the same reason my small town neighbors want the government to do more about drugs, because he fears for the life of people whom he loves.

I say they should blame the culture, but that is a little bit of a cop out.

The problem, as I see it, is not the gun or the heroin, but the very people we love and want to protect. In general, those killed by inner city violence are themselves violent people caught up in gangs. And no one ends up a heroin addict without knowingly consuming it.

The guilt of the urban young man who joins a gang and gets shot, or the guilt of the small-town young man who uses heroin and overdoses, might be mitigated by the stupidity of youth, but not excused. They are in neither case innocent.

It is in fact incredibly easy to avoid getting shot, and easier still to avoid dying of a drug overdose: just obey your parents. Don’t go looking for trouble, and you will not find it.

And I think that is the real horror and sickening fear that parents feel: they do everything they can to raise their children with one set of values, and their children go off and embrace a totally alien set of values that they have been warned, over and over, will lead to their destruction.

They do it anyway.

The human choosing mechanism (aka, free will) can only chose something that the mind thinks is good. No one joins a gang or takes drugs because he thinks these things are bad. He thinks these things are good, no matter what he has been told. He, by his own free will, rejects one set of values – goods and evils – and embraces another.

Or you could say, he rejects one culture – that of stolid middle American virtues – for another culture.

It really becomes an age old problem: how does one “inculturate” his children in what he feels to be vitally important when he is surrounded by these other, destructive cultural forces?

I have two contradictory ideas:

  1. You can’t do it alone.
  2. The government can’t do it for you.

The first, I think, is obvious. The second should be obvious, since the entire government structure of law, police, and public schools are a colossal failure as far as the drug epidemic is concerned, and somewhat less of a failure as far as violent crime is concerned. (Certain sorts of proactive policing do reduce violent crime. Whether those kinds of policing are sustainable over the long run is currently being put to the test in America, see Baltimore, St. Louis, and NYC.)

This is an aporia, that is, a logical dilemma that appears to have no solution. How to raise your children correctly in a hostile culture when you both cannot do it alone and the legal structure of the community can’t do it either?

The solution I think it to create parallel communities with their own standards and ideals. If you look at the ancient world that is exactly what the Church was. Outside the Church was a world based on violence and exploitation. Inside the Church it was not as if these things did not exist, just read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, but they were formally rejected and at least curtailed in practice.

There is not enough strength in institutional churches today to defy the cultural undertow: in fact, all too often the various churches are eager to conform to the standards of the world. But maybe that is the call to the churches today, to relearn to reject the world and to be authentic communities again.

 

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One comment

  1. This was really well said. You’ve captured the essence of the issues I wrestle with. We really do need churches to help us “defy the cultural undertow.”

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