Finding Faith: Turning faith back toward community

"Going it alone on the faith path is entirely contrary to the Christian faith ... we’ve forgotten that faith is about all the people, not just those attending services on Sundays."

Devlyn Brooks 2021
Devlyn Brooks

Something dangerous happens when we intertwine our faith with America’s myth of rugged individualism.

Going it alone on the faith path is entirely contrary to the Christian faith, and also Judaism, as I understand it.

I won’t pretend to be a religious scholar, but I do believe that Jesus wouldn’t understand the drive to individualize one’s faith. Based on the Hebrew scriptures he grew up on, he would have known that faith is a call to all people to live in covenant with each other. Faith is not only just about one’s own salvation.

And maybe that partially explains why so many people find that the church is failing them, because we’ve forgotten that faith is about all the people, not just those attending services on Sundays.

Our faith traditions teach us that a strong community is also good for the individual. I like how Father Richard Rohr writes about this in a recent newsletter: “True individuals create true community. And true community creates true individuals. They are not conflicting.”


But aligned against the “bootstraps” mentality in America, many would guffaw at the idea that we actually are stronger together in our faith than we are going it alone. Because to admit so would be to concede our human frailty and the need for interdependence.

Our trouble is that we’ve forgotten what good “community” is. We’re so busy out dueling the next person at work, or the other kid in school, or our neighbor, or even worse that newly arrived immigrant … that we can’t see we’re actually all in this journey together, woven together by God’s active presence among us.

Competition, greed and the myth of scarcity has convinced us this is a dog eat dog world, and we best get while the gettin’ is good. And so how can we possibly build genuine community when we practice a faith that is all about me?

The good news is that our faith inspires a different message if we only turn back to it. We are called to a faith of relationship, to be in union with the entire natural world, including each and every person. After all, how can we possibly understand living in relationship to God, if we don’t understand living in relationship with each other?

Quoting Rohr again: “As soon as those moments of relationship are cut off, we cut off the possibility of community, and we cut off the possibility of being a people of any real depth.”

There is a different way, a way that is inclusive of all people and that focuses on the interest of the entire community. Just take a look at how the first church community is described in Acts 2. Our faith traditions can lead the way if we just let them.

Opinion by Devlyn Brooks
Devlyn Brooks is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and serves Faith Lutheran Church in Wolverton, Minn. He also works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at for comments and story ideas.
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