[You might want to read the post before this.]
Children. When does community become communitas for children? That place of camaraderie, connection, closeness, common feelings and experiences, the place where their relationships cause them to consider the welfare of the group that they're part of as more important than their individual . . . but that's where I get nervous. It's the place where parents of teens get nervous because the c word (cult) creeps into our thinking . . . We don't get nervous when kids find that closeness growing up together or working together on a project. We don't get nervous when kids come back from camp having found close camaraderie that keeps them writing and calling - maybe visiting. We don't get nervous when our kids find camaraderie at school, on a mission trip, on a team, in a youth group, or at a teen center. We don't get nervous when the group is looking out for the individual as passionately as the individual is looking out for the group or do we?
We get nervous when we feel like a group (or another adult or child) is pulling our loved one away from the people who love him/her. We get nervous when a group or individual is only looking out for itself and not our loved one. We get nervous when teens want to follow their peer group and that peer group doesn't share our value system or the activities they enjoy will get them into trouble. Exploring another culture? We might not have a problem with that. We get nervous when kids (or adults) only care about their group and stop caring about us or about all the other things that we thought were important to that person we love. We get nervous when it keeps our loved one from operating as a responsible, caring adult in the world as we know it or if we believe they're being physically, emotionally, or spiritually abused.
As free-spirited, individualistic American believers we're left asking (for ourselves, and our children), when is it Biblical to lay down our lives for someone else, for spouse, family, the church, work, for the sake of the larger community (giving up homestead farmland for a community road). Is it always Biblical to make sacrifices and living selflessly or is there a time to stand as individuals who need to be who we are because we have a role to play or a job to do as an individual (not unlike the prophets). When do I (child or adult) sacrifice my own sense of individual accomplishment for the sake of a group endeavor? Or is it always the right thing to do? Does it include everything we do in our lives or just some of what we do in our lives? Biblically. I'm not talking culturally. I'm talking Biblically.
This is off the top of my head. There are a lot of separate questions mixed in here. But when we become part of a group of people and there's tension between our individual identity and our group identity, is there a time and a place (or is it always the time and the place) to lay down our lives? If we find it fulfilling to lay down our lives, are we in fact laying down our lives? Or am I just being over-analytical and 2nd guessing God here?
Some cultures are historically more communal than others in and out of the US. Those of you in your 20's, 30's, early 40's seem to sincerely long for more community or a different kind of community that those who are older maybe it's because of the way the presence and role of family has changed in the last two decades. Maybe it would have happened anyway. Community, communitas - pro or con - there are all kinds of ramifications both good and bad for children. What do you think?