What is Community?

The Oxford Dictionary defines community as:

1. A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.

2. A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

The largest grouping of a community would be the global community. We as humans all inhabit the same big blue ball we call “Earth.” All other “communities” are merely subsets of this largest community. The next subset would be the nation-state, such as The United States. Below that, is the state or province, such as Oklahoma. Further down the hierarchy would be (at least in the US) the County, such as Creek County. Below that is the city, town, or village, such as Sapulpa.

Aside from communities where people physically live, there are other types of communities. For example, a Facebook group, club, organization, or religious affiliations bring people together as a community.

Just about any shared interest results in a community being formed. Many years ago, a deacon at the Catholic Church I attended was teaching an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) class and he was explaining what the word community meant. When he wrote the word on the chalkboard, however, he parsed it into three words: come-into-unity. This, in my humble opinion, is the most profound and cogent connotation of “community.”

The current pandemic has made us aware that we are part of a global community. What happens thousands of miles away, can and has, directly affected American citizens thanks to modern jet-age travel. We have always been a few hours away from a pandemic. Unfortunately, a crisis that should have united people across the globe instead has fueled fear, friction, and fragmentation in many societies. Past catastrophes, although not of the magnitude of COVID-19, have always brought people together.

Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and man-made disasters like world-wars, for the most part, elicited an outpouring of human kindness from people of all walks of life.

The Preamble to the Constitution of this grand republic states: “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare …”

The operative words are “general welfare.” We are our brother’s keeper, and at every level of community, from our neighborhoods to the global community, we should strive for cooperation and work toward common goals.

Here in the United States, this pandemic has illustrated the breakdown of “community.” This is a war against a deadly microbe that has no political allegiance and knows no borders. This is not a Republican problem or a Democratic problem. It is an American problem, which in turn, is part of a worldwide problem.

Sadly, we have devolved into a society where one must demonize his or her political or philosophical opponent. Racial epithets are daily occurrences. Personal, petty grievances interfere with the functioning of this country by people in all levels of authority. Hate and vitriol have become the norm. President Abraham Lincoln quoted the New Testament when he stated: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Scientifically speaking, there is no such thing as race. We are all one species. The motto of the Episcopal Church, of which I am a member, says: “Love God, love your neighbor, and change the world.”

We are truly in this “boat” together. The collective actions of our society will determine whether we stay afloat or sink. It’s high time we “Come into Unity.”

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Charles Betzler

Charles Betzler

Charles Betzler is a contributing writer for Sapulpa Times.