“So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:5 NIV
There’s an old theory that the downfall of the American community began with the invention of the washing machine. I’m not sure how much truth there is in it, but it makes sense. Before washing machines, women used to gather at the river to wash clothes. There, they found a community and friendship. My grandmother was born and raised in the heart of New York City, and she lived there—surrounded by family and friends—until 1952. That is the year she followed my grandfather into the New Jersey suburbs, chasing the American Dream for her two small children (my uncle and my mother, who were six and two at the time) She left behind her family and friends, who were just down the hall, for a new town that required a car. But she didn’t drive. And she knew no one.
We cannot be humans on an island. We were built for community and connection—something that rings true in our very nature. From the very beginning, Adam wasn’t complete until he was given Eve. God rested. It was then that creation was complete. We need other people. Whatever we do affects “the other,” and our choices are ripples in the world.
Ever since I turned 18, I’ve struggled to find candidates in each election. In my first presidential election I wrote in a pro-life Democrat who was not even running. I was overwhelmed by the abysmal choices, and I couldn’t in good conscience bubble in either name. I’ve always considered myself a conscience Christian voter who could never compromise my pro-life values, but I could also not in good conscience vote for someone who was pro-death penalty and anti-environment. Expressing these political views to others (or, in most cases, simply keeping my mouth shut) is a very lonely island.
In October 2020 I was struggling, like many in the political middle, to figure out for which presidential candidate to vote. I ended up googling “Catholic presidential candidates” and stumbled upon the American Solidarity Party. I discovered Brian Carroll and Amar Patel and found myself soaking in all the podcasts and articles and interviews. I was hooked. All of a sudden, I no longer felt alone in my political realm. I identified with the importance of community and family. The party realizes that the good of the country begins with the strength in connection.
According to their site, one of the platforms of the American Solidarity Party is a “Community-Oriented Society: Humans are created to live in communities, and the proper organization is necessary for the flourishing of our societies.” Community provides connection and support. Community is how societies grow and thrive.
“There is beauty in the playgroup of new moms who send meals when a new baby is born, the group of girl friends who bring ice cream after a bad break up, the group of neighbors that share beers in the cul-de-sac on a Friday evening, the community soup kitchen in the church parking lot on a Monday morning, the prayer vigil supporting a grieving family. We can lose sight of this common and basic need when we hide behind a computer screen or abstract political ideals.”
Daniel Lipinski, former US Representative for Illinois, recently stated that 90% of Americans say the divisiveness in our country is a “serious problem.” From how to respond to Covid-19, to gender equality, to reproductive rights, this seems true—and with the use of social media our country is ironically more disconnected than ever. We seem to have cultivated an “us and them” mentality with an ever-growing chasm in between. 90% of Americans realize we have a problem of division-but how do we fix it? Political and cultural differences allow for division, and social media only seems to promulgate an even stronger divide. We’ve pushed each other away because of differences so much that we have forgotten the importance of community, perhaps when we need it the most. Division is lonely. All the while, we busy ourselves with arguing from behind a computer screen rather than gathering together over what we share. We seem to be focusing on what divides rather than what unifies.
What my grandmother left behind in New York City was her sense of belonging. She left behind laughter, friendship, and support. When I look back to when I was a newlywed and a young mother, community was vital to my survival. I was on a lonely island in new territory, and it was friends and family that offered much needed love.
There is beauty in even an imperfect community—in the playgroup of new moms who send meals when a new baby is born, or the group of girl friends who bring ice cream after a bad break up. There is joy in the group of neighbors that share beers in the cul-de-sac on a Friday evening. There is hope in the community soup kitchen in the church parking lot on a Monday morning. There is peace and comfort during a prayer vigil supporting a grieving family. We can lose sight of this common and basic need when we hide behind a computer screen or abstract political ideals. We forget that connection for which we were made.
Catholic priest Fr. Mike Schmitz recently told the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology that “the advancement of the gospel and culture would not come from a stage, but change will advance from family and friendship. That’s how we change the world.” Political posts on Facebook can’t make too much of a difference. Even this article you’re reading (which, thank you for reading) can only inspire. It won’t make lasting change by itself. It is you and me, working together for the greater good—that’s how we change the world.
Emily Clary has worked in Catholic education since 2005. She has worked in parish Faith Formation for the Diocese of Providence and the Diocese of Charlotte. She has taught middle school Religion and worked in Catholic School Campus Ministry in Woonsocket, RI and in Raleigh NC.