Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thought for the day - Belonging, in right relationship, helps with existential anxiety

"If the fundamental sin of the modern era is the tendency to disregard our utter dependence upon the people and the world around us, then being a part of a cohesive community will indeed help solve part of our existential problem."

Galen Guengerich, God Revised, p. 134


  1. Abraham Maslow taught us with this model of hierarchy of human needs that the third need is for belonging after food and safety.

    While Guengerich is writing that people have a need for belonging, the "reference group" which fills this need after the family is less and less frequently a religion or a church. Given the flags, fan paraphernalia, and every present sports talk shows on radio and TV, I think American preoccupation with professional sports and "being a fan" has surpassed any identification with a religious tradition or a church in American and European Culture.

    Sports is the new religion and being a fan of a particular team contributes to the sense of belonging which Guengerich seems to be saying people are looking for and gives their living meaning.

    1. Edwin, I think you are right about sports being the new religion and there is a transcendent quality to this identification with a group much larger than the self and which takes on regional rivalry and "contests" similar to war which religion has provided in the past.

      The celebrity stars seem more than human with their super powers of prowess which at times seems magical and supernatural. Their financial resources and consequent life styles also become a target of adulation and aspirations of young people who bank their hopes and dreams in being similarly gifted and blessed. Watching some players thank Jesus, and God and pray for victory co-opts the superstitious aspects of religion and incarnates divine intervention on the game.

      This whole discourse of professional sports involving the worship of fans at the stadiums of contest is insane and a shallow comment on our modern society which is failing much as the Roman Empire did with its bread and circuses during its decline.

  2. I realize that taking Guengerich's comment out of context is unfair and dangerous, but having acknowledged this, I don't agree with the comment at all. In fact, at face value it seems dangerous. Being a member of a terrorist organization while it may give the adherent a sense of community and belonging can further the destructive activities and goals of the group.

    Also, as all addicts learn in recovery, they may well have to change their people, places, and things if they want to enhance their recovery and not jeopardize it. It is important to remember that religion and churches can be used for destructive, abusive, and oppressive purposes just as they can for constructive, therapeutic, and liberating purposes.

    As the post moderns have taught us, the grand metanarratives of the modernity have given way to pluralistic options of the post modern and secular age, Multiple narratives valuing diversity is a good thing, and what is meaningful and right for one person may not be for another, and some values are more pro-social and beneficial than others. While Guengerich's observation at a superficial level may be partially true some of the time, there is much more to be taken into consideration when one identifies with a "cohesive community" in attempts to resolve one's existential anxieties. "Cohesive communities" with the power to dominate the various societal discourses often marginalize other discourses which are silenced. This, unfortunately, is the position of the Unitarian Universalist church which has so few adherents in a very pluralistic society that its voice is very weak. Whether an ethic of gratitude will gain in strength in a society very militaristic, mercenary, built on a capitalist dynamic of injecting fear of scarcity to drive its financial gains is very dubious. The American belief that "might makes right" and money talks and bull shit walks have corrupted pro-social and constructive values that are easily ridiculed and squashed.

    If Unitarian Universalists are to enhance visibility and influence they are going to have to find ways to better live their values to make them visible to the world. It is this idea that makes me appreciate this blog and what you are tying to do here.

    Thank you. I am grateful for the voice I read here even though you are farting in a hurricane and pissing in the ocean.

    All the best and sincerely,