From Individualist to Faithful Citizen
“Why Worry About the World’s Troubles? I’ve Got Troubles Enough of My Own!”
Should individualism—the lone individual seeking self-gratification—stand at the center of our ethics and our faith? While our freedoms, rights, and liberties are indeed precious, we need tools to reexamine our individualism and see how faith can be more deeply rooted in community and embrace public life. This first session introduces a number of concepts—covenant, community and common good—which help Christians think more deeply about their role as citizens in American life.
Why Not Go It Alone?
This video offers a starting point for discussion of the costs and benefits of individualism—the lone individual seeking self-gratification.
- Each of us wants to be a unique individual and to achieve self-determination, yet we require community in order to achieve fulfillment. It can be challenging to strike a balance between the individual and community life.
- Uniquely American social values play a powerful force in how we experience ourselves as individuals and in community, yet we rarely discuss the role of values such as individualism and self-determination. These values are widely shared, yet often we are not fully aware of how they shape our attitudes.
Questions for Discussion
- The individuals interviewed represent a variety of responses to the question of going it alone vs. being in community. Which spoke most directly to you? What memories or stories did they provoke?
- No simple solutions exist for the challenge of the loss of community. Are there times when you have successfully met the challenge? What makes you hopeful?
Individualism and the Power of Community
Sociologist Robert Bellah discusses with Donald W. Shriver the relationship of the individual and the community in American life.
Questions for Discussion
- Bellah describes how our American religious forebears, the Puritans, believed that freedom really meant “freedom for” each other, a responsibility to community. Yet in current American life, freedom often means individuality or freedom from community. How does the pattern of American housing distribution into suburbs and cities show American individualist ethics versus communal ethics?
- Bellah describes talking with “Sheila,” a nurse whose religion was “Sheilaism,” a view that when she looked in the mirror, she found God. What roles do church, family and school have in establishing our understanding of God and self?
- Shriver comments that a stronger sense of interrelationship might relieve us of a sense of burden of responsibility for job loss. “The church needs to say, “Brother/sister, it’s not your fault.” In what concrete ways can the church help jobless individuals lift the burden of guilt?
Faithful Citizen: Living Responsibly in a Global Society
A six-part study guide designed for use in congregational development. The guide includes in-depth discussion of global issues effecting our faith and our response to the world as well as questions for discussion and where to look for more resources.