Nathan W. Bingham
Connecting in a Hyper-Connected World

Our Society is Sick. Have You Been Infected?

Sick

Our Society is Sick

Our society, at least the Australian society, is sick. And it knows it.

That’s why campaigns like “RUOK Day?” and the “Walk the Block” project continue to be launched.

As we’ll see, it’s a heart-breaking diagnosis of a society, but I find it also extremely fascinating. Why? Because what these campaigns are trying to achieve is in many respects how I believe a healthy Christian, motivated by the Gospel, should be living anyway.

3 Symptoms To Check If You’ve Been Infected

One problem with a sick society is that it makes it so easy for you to be infected. How can you tell if you’re sick if we’re all sick?

So today I want to consider three of our society’s symptoms and exhort us all, for the sake of the Gospel, to self-diagnose. Let’s be unhealthy products of our society.

Shallow

I really didn’t want to sound harsh labelling this symptom as “shallow”.

I had originally jotted down “shallow”, crossed it out replacing it with “silent”. But now as I come to write this post I realise silence really isn’t the issue, shallowness is. I must call this symptom “shallow”.

As a society we’ve lost the art of serious conversation. It’s not that we’re being silent. We always seem to be talking about something. More and more each day are ‘virtually’ screaming through Facebook and Twitter. Yet, amongst all the noise is an apparent shallowness. Yes, we speak, but not about the things that really matter.

As a society we’ve lost the art of serious conversation.

I wrote about this last October on RUOK? Day (“Are You Okay” Day). This campaign began due to the growing number of people suffering from depression who have never told anyone. The campaign encourages people here in Australia to ask family, friends and colleagues: “are you ok?” The hope is that through this conversation, a person’s problems may be prevented from escalating to the point of suicide.

How shallow have we become as a society when we no longer seriously ask people how they are, expecting a genuine answer, and offering an empathic ear?

Is shallowness symptomatic of your conversation?

As Christians, if our conversation always remains at the shallow level, how are we to ever have serious conversations with people about our faith, and about how the Gospel relates to them?

How are we to be “encouraging one another” (Heb. 10:25) within the church if we only ever talk about the weather?

Isolated

Our society enables people to remain isolated from each another due to the structure of our careers and lifestyles.

It is not uncommon for a person to get into their car, drive to work, spend all day at a cubicle or desk, to then get back into their car, drive home, and spend the evening in front of their television.

Our society enables people to remain isolated from each another…

If we need to go out, walking isn’t considered. The car is the first option. We take a direct route from A to B, never blinking to have meaningful contact with anyone else.

If public transport is taken, we join the hundreds of isolated individuals around us who sit there and say nothing to each other.

Last month our state ran a “Walk the Block” campaign. The idea was simple. On this particular day get employees from across the state to get up from their desks and walk around the block to combat mass inactivity (and as a result, isolation).

Suggested initiatives included regular “walking meetings” (why sit for a meeting when you can walk around the block), “walkabout inductions” for new employees, and the beginning of “walking groups”.

Is isolation symptomatic of your career and lifestyle?

As Christians, if we’re largely isolated from those around us in our communities, how are we to be salt and light in a lost and dying world? How can we love our neighbours if we never see our neighbours?

Again, how can we be “encouraging [or be encouraged by] one another” (Heb. 10:25) if we isolate ourselves not just from society, but from the church?

Disengaged

You’ve probably begun to see that these symptoms are linked and flow in and out of each other.

We live isolated lives. We avoid meaningful contact with others. When we do have contact with others our conversation remains shallow.

Our society has almost successfully taken the “community” out of community. We live near each other, but we’re disengaged from each other.

We live near each other, but we’re disengaged from each other.

A recent article I was reading in the paper spoke of the essential nature of having a “community spirit”. It suggested that one essential element to happiness is having this sense of community, a sense of belonging.

As Christians we can agree with this and explain it as well.

We’re creatures made in the image of God. He’s a relational God (think Trinity), and so we are relational beings too. He made us to be in communion with Him, and He calls His people to be in community with each other (cf. Heb. 10:25). Even for a non-Christian, it doesn’t feel right (or shouldn’t feel right) to be outside community and relationships.

Is being disengaged symptomatic of your lifestyle?

As I read that short article, I questioned how those around me would see my life and the life of my local church. Would one of the defining characteristics be, observable to others, a people with a “community spirit”? Or are Christians as miserable and disengaged as the rest?

If it’s not, are we communicating indirectly that the Gospel we believe is impotent and unable to change lives?

Further, if we’re disengaged from our community, how can we proclaim a Gospel that hits them right where they’re at. After all, Paul’s preaching at Mars Hill was very pointed (Acts 17).

Even more fascinating to me was the three suggestions the above article gave to building community spirit in your neighbourhood.

  1. Volunteer
  2. Say hi
  3. Shop locally

Why did I find this fascinating? These three suggestions involve a person being engaged and essentially offered solutions to the first two symptoms I’ve mentioned in this post. Don’t be shallow, but actually have real conversations with those around you. Don’t be isolated from your community. For example, don’t visit the mega-marts where you “get in & get out” but instead invest your time and attention to the local businesses around you.

Swim Upstream

I wonder how much more effective our witness and healthier our church life would be if we identified that we are in many respects as sick as our society, and decided to instead “swim upstream” against the current.

I wonder how much more effective our witness and healthier our church life would be if we began to have real conversations with people, both inside the church and outside of it.

I wonder how much more effective our witness and healthier our church life would be if we didn’t spend all our time behind a desk or in a car, but when possible went out into our neighbourhoods, speaking with people, volunteering with people, and investing in our communities. This wouldn’t need to be done alone, but with your Christian brothers and sisters.

I wonder how much more effective our witness and healthier our church life would be if we cultivated a community spirit within the church (we already have a community spirit, the Holy Spirit, but we don’t always live in light of that reality) and lived our lives among the local community that is in desperate need of God’s grace and the news of the Gospel.

Our society is sick.
I know I’ve been infected.
It effects all areas of my life.

Have you been infected?
The first step is admitting you have a problem.

Thank you God for your mercy and grace.

Leave a comment, discuss it on Facebook, or send me on a tweet on Twitter.

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