Thoughts on Loneliness and Christian Community

The Confession of Robert E. Lee: Pastor Jeff on Dr. Leonard SweetI am a self-avowed practicing “news junkie”. If I really want to get in touch with my soul I have to take a media fast. Some of you, if not many of you, know what I mean. Sometimes, the news  is overwhelming because of the intense emotion it evokes.

Loneliness is Now More Deadly than Obesity

Recently, I was struck on many levels by an article written by Keith Ablow, M.D. Dr. Ablow is a practicing psychiatrist who frequently appears on Fox News. He also writes many articles and recently wrote a piece titled, “Loneliness Is Now More Deadly than Obesity.”

Read this opening excerpt from Dr. Ablow’s article:

“Speaking recently at the 125th annual convention of the American Psychological Association, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, wisely focused on the toll that loneliness is taking on Americans.

Dr. Holt-Lunstad presented findings culled from two massive 2010 analyses of data from hundreds of studies involving millions of individuals. Among the data: Social isolation, loneliness or living alone was each a significant factor contributing to premature death. And each one of these factors was a more significant risk factor for dying than obesity.

Think about that: Loneliness now eclipses obesity as a cause of premature death in America . . .”

If this article intrigues you like it did me, please click here to read the rest of his piece.

Why Dr. Ablow’s words made me sad, mad, and eventually glad

First, this article made me sad because the universal church has opportunity to step into the gap and provide genuine community. We are obviously missing the boat, so to speak. Community is essential to well being and to growth as named by the research on how loneliness is deadly, literally. Furthermore, we cannot grow spiritually apart from the experience of genuine Christian community. It is by God’s design that we are to journey together. The solution is not to make sure everyone marries. There are single persons who don’t feel lonely and there are married persons who do. But, that is a topic which deserves a blog of its own another time.

Secondly, the article made me mad because technologically we are communicating more than ever (texting, email, Facebook, etc) but that doesn’t ensure connection. There is a critical distinction between communication and connection and our culture, generally speaking, has yet to learn that texting and email do not replace personal interaction.

Finally, the article eventually made me glad that somebody is naming what I often hear from parishioners and those who do not claim to have a faith community to which they belong. It is time for the Body of Christ to take seriously the vision as practiced by God who lives in constant community and connection through the Holy Trinity. The Trinity is not only a Christian doctrine – something we hold to be true – but is an experience that God desires for each of us – mutual respect, mutual admiration, mutual honor, and mutual submission.

Stay Tuned: The Good and Beautiful Community

This fall, I am going to preach a series of sermons on the book by Jim Smith, “The Good and Beautiful Community,” because of this deadly epidemic called loneliness and because it casts the vision that we belong to Christ and we belong to each other.

–Rev. Jeff Gannon

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