My friend Josh Claybourn at In the Agora has added a new blogger to the stable and this guy came out firing. His name is Seth Zirkle and he hits on a theme that is near and dear to my heart - the diminution of the value of the church in the Christian community in our day. I'm not on board with his comments about music (secular instruments??) but I believe the rest is great.
In reading David's latest post on isolation, I could not help but to think of Richard M. Weaver's classic Ideas Have Consequences (1948). In the chapter addressing what he calls "the spoiled-child psychology," Weaver posits that the decay of America's social fabric is the dependence of man on innumerable man-made institutions in the city to carry out even the most menial tasks, all the while loosing touch with his fellow man. In removing a rural, agrarian dependence upon one's self and another, man ironically becomes his own means to an end, yet at the same time relying on the social and technological inventions of others. This ethos, of course, is rooted in the Emersonian ideal of the personal psyche being revered before all else. Physical, emotional, and intellectual comfort must be afforded every chance to advance.
But I think that we see this also in Christianity, most especially in America. The idea of isolation in ecclesia came to mind when I read David's statement that "being bound to one's local community by devotion and discipline regardless of what comes around" is the essence of "discipline of place." As a Catholice convert, I am often reminded of Flannery O'Connor's statement that time and again we suffer more from the Church that for it. As the silly season after Vatican II settles, this is most certainly true. Finding a local congregation where the Gospel is preached and secular instruments, such as pianos, guitars, and drums, are not used to supplement the most banal of banal music, is a feat. But even in the midst of the most stupefying secularity we must find the Sacred.
I would suggest that without some sense of ecclesia, and most pragmatically in the Pauline sense we find in Eph. 3:1-10, the modern American Christian is never truly in a community, one he is bound to by devotion and discipline. Rather, he is simply among others he agrees with in conception and practice. This is certainly visible in that most piculear practice of "church shopping." Again, Newman comes to mind, and his observation that pursuing a practice of placing the human gnosis above the Logos got the Gnostics in trouble.