Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: isolation

Report on a drive-by shouting in our community

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A newspaper in a small Saskatchewan city recently reported on a shocking rise in drive-by shoutings. That trend has now come to our tiny hamlet of Swanson.

In this hamlet there is a seniors’ residence; yesterday two of the residents had a birthday. Melvin was 86 and Wilbert was 91. With no visitors allowed, a birthday party was out of the question.

The families hatched a scheme. Since my wife was cooking supper they enlisted me in the conspiracy. At 7:30 I urged those two residents to come to the lounge area. A siren began wailing just as the birthday boys got to the large west-facing window. The fire truck of the local volunteer department hove into view. Two firemen got out and carried a ladder onto the driveway opposite the window and placed it on its side across the driveway from the window. When they walked away, we saw a poster fastened to the ladder saying: “Happy Birthday Wilbert and Melvin!”

Then came at least two dozen pickups, vans and SUV’s, many with birthday greetings fastened on the doors, all of them with people leaning out the open windows and shouting Happy Birthday. An honest to goodness drive-by shouting.

A surprise ending to a drab birthday. Both men were delighted with the event.

This has happened before

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Firenze (Florence) Italy. Image by Daniel Wanke from Pixabay

A careful observer who escaped the plague at Florence in 1617 describes the barricaded houses and empty streets, forbidden to all but food suppliers. Florence was dead: no business activities and no religious services — except for the odd mass  which the officiant celebrated at the corner of a street and in which the people participated from behind closed windows.

-Fernand Braudel, Structures of Everyday Life © 1979 Librairie Armand Colin, Paris for the original French edition. English version © 1981 Harper & Row

What isolation?

The world has changed, due to modern speed of travel a virus that first infected a human being in China a few months ago has now spanned the world. We are all in a crisis situation;  we are asked to practice social distancing and stay home as much as possible. 

But the world has changed in other ways as well:

  • I pay a small monthly fee for unlimited long distance phone calls. Today I talked to a cousin in another city for an hour.
  • I can write letters and send them by email. Today I received an email from a cousin I haven’t seen or heard from since we were children.
  • I can read the news from across the country and around the world on my cell phone.
  • I can deposit cheques and pay my bills online.
  • I can buy ebooks online without leaving home.
  • I can connect online to my clients accounting software and work on it.
  • I can file income tax returns online.
  • I can learn almost anything I want online.
  • I can write articles and post them on this blog to be read by people far and wide.
  • I can send and receive free text and voice messages via WhatsApp or Telegram.

One thing has not changed. I am never isolated from God. We can talk to each other anytime, anywhere.

Five reasons Christian communes don’t work

1. They isolate members from other people

Relationships with family and friends outside the community that do not further the goals of the community become suspect.

2. They disconnect members from the reality of the world around them

People who don’t have to choose and pay for their own food, clothing and shelter can hardly relate to the people around them who do.

3. Giving is mandatory, not voluntary

When someone joins a commune, he voluntarily gives all he has to the community. After that he is assigned tasks to do for the well-being of the community.

4. Conversion becomes merely assent to the values of the community

When one’s home and livelihood are tied to being a member, young people who grow up in the community face enormous pressure to make an outward commitment to the faith of the community. Those who are already members also face pressure to admit young people on such a basis, for the continuation of the community.

5. Allegiance to the community outranks a relationship with God

Since the community is believed to be the ultimate expression of the will of God, a personal relationship with God and being led of the Holy Spirit are taught to be synonymous with living in accordance with the values of the community.

Sharing of material blessings received from God, mutual aid, bearing one another’s burdens, helping the poor and the weak are all values clearly taught in the New Testament. But they are taught as voluntary actions proceeding from a heart that is transformed by the Spirit of God.

2 Corinthians 9:7 – Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

But that’s not what ships are made for

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I once had a poster with a picture of a sailing ship at rest in a calm harbour. The caption read: A ship in a harbour is safe — but that’s not what ships are made for.

There have always been Christians who thought that the safest way to live a pure Christian life was to find a safe harbour where they could rest in serene isolation from the storms of the surrounding world. But that’s not what Christians are made for.

Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth, Acts 1:8.

Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, Mark 16:15.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear, 1  Peter 3:15.

As I read the Scriptures, I am convinced that isolation is not a safe harbour for Christians. Our safety is in being obedient to our Lord and keeping our hearts and minds pure. But we have the unfortunate tendency to deceive ourselves about our inward purity if our faith is not tested daily in our relations with others. It is too easy for us to become smug and self-righteous.

We are made for something much more important than resting in a safe harbour. The important thing is to be sure that our Lord is the master of our ship as we venture out into the seas of life.

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