I am increasingly nonplussed by a Christianity—albeit Reformed in doctrine—that is as hermetically sealed as any of the individualistic ideologies of contemporary North American culture. We do church Sunday morn and eve, and then retreat to our separate worlds and our paths rarely cross with our fellow worshippers till Wednesday prayer meeting or the Lord’s Day following. What kind of Christianity is this? What kind of Christianity is it that does not create communities of friends? I have never gotten over the communitarian spirit of those far-off days of the 1960s when some of us were given a vision of community that the spirit of that era could not achieve. The solidarity of the Marxist International sparked by reading Che and Marcuse turned out to be nothing but a bad dream. And the communes of peace and love espoused by the hippie culture disappeared into the rigidity of the political correct communities and their watchdogs of the 1980s and 1990s.
But when we became Christians we knew we had found the real thing. Forty years on, I have no doubts at all that friendship with the Lord Jesus is the vision we glimpsed from afar in those heady days of the sixties. He is the only One with the words of eternal life. He is the only One who has a plan for community that is sweetly satisfying to the human soul and truly liberating to the human person.
And I admit it, reading such books as Augustine's City of God and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together spoiled me for anything less! And so I know the pain of those in our day who have been hurt by the Church and see that she is not what she should be. May God give me grace that I never give up on the Church, the beloved of my Beloved. But I wonder: what will it take for us to realize the hollowness of affirming we are a community of the Crucified One and yet know nothing of the pain and joy of walking with one another, our Lord's brothers and sisters, in daily life? And don't tell me, such is the way of life in the twenty-first century.