ISSUES OF FAITH: The sadness in bowling alone

THERE IS A determined expression on the face of the bowler who stands ready to strike. What will follow in a few heartbeats already plays out in his mind.

He stares down the bowling lane where 10 defiant pins radiate the confidence that nothing in the world will make them fall. But he will send the ball down the oiled lane and send those pins flying. But then the perfection of the mental image is destroyed as conflicting feelings bubble up. Self-doubt mingles with hubris.

“I can do it”, says the Freudian Uber-Ich.“I am the greatest!”

“No, you’re not!” says that part of the human psyche that continuously relives the countless humiliations it suffered. “You’re a loser, you always have been, and you always will be!”

As the heart rate goes up, the self-confidence goes out the door. But constant training taught the player to get his emotions under control. He breathes, he calms and he releases the ball.

Strike! In triumph, the man looks around, but there is nobody. Not a friend to share the joy, not an opponent to be intimidated by a perfect play. The man is bowling alone; as are all who fill the bowling alley.

That is the situation that Robert D. Putnam describes in his Book “Bowling Alone” (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000).

He writes “Once we bowled in leagues, usually after work — but no longer.”

Today we bowl alone. Putnam’s thesis is that American civic life is collapsing as fewer and fewer people join clubs, groups, fraternal organizations and churches. Today we are even more alone than at the beginning of the 21st century when the Economist hailed Putnam’s book as “a prodigious achievement.”

Marriage rates in the US are at their lowest point in recorded history and over 50 percent of Americans are single.

Loneliness is an epidemic, which is devastating to the soul of the individual and the country.

This trend does not exclude the churches.

Less and less people in the West follow the man from Galilee, who commanded his followers to love each other as much as Jesus loved them. That implies that they get together, overcome their animosities and grow into communities.

Christ calls us to love our neighbors, especially those we don’t like. It sounds counterintuitive, but to love someone is not the same as to like someone. Loving neighbors is not a feeling, but a decision to approach others with genuine goodwill and respect.

Community life might be one reason the worldwide church is growing. For us, it seems to be a contradiction, but in the global context, the faith in Jesus Christ is not just growing; it is growing exponentially.

Christianity is the largest religious movement on the planet.

Every year, more and more people follow the man from Galilee and expect the communities that meet in Jesus’ name to heal their broken hearts.

However, the center of Christianity shifts from the Western world to the global South. Where life is hard and uncertain, people turn to Christ. The Pew Research Center predicts that by the middle of the century, one in three people on the planet will be Christians.

Many Westerners expect nothing good from churches, but judgementalism, narrow-mindedness and science-defying superstitions. But thank God, Christianity is an extremely diverse movement.

Some research will point any lonely individual to communities that will not measure people’s hearts, control their lives, relieve them of their funds or tell people who to vote for.

In a society that suffers from loneliness, churches can give lonely souls a good place to belong. Most likely, that community will change your life in the same way that your presence will change the church.

Jesus’ command to love God, neighbor and self stood the test of time. And yet, if church is not your thing, fraternal associations, nonprofit boards and other organizations that need volunteers wait for you with open arms.

America has to get out of the house more and stop bowling alone.

________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Olaf Baumann, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), is pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. www.go2trinity.org, www.olaf-baumann.com.

More in Life

Clallam County master gardeners, from left, Keith Dekker, Tom Del Hotal and Gordon Clark will conduct a free fruit tree pruning workshop Saturday at the Woodcock Demonstration Garden in Sequim.
Pruning workshop set Saturday for Sequim

Master gardeners Keith Dekker, Tom Del Hotal and Gordon Clark… Continue reading

CutlIne: What beautiful long ears and adorable eyes he has! Meet Rio,  a mammoth donkey who grew to 16’2 hands tall.
HORSEPLAY: Want a donkey? A beginners guide to donkey care

GOT THE URGE to bring home a cute, adorable miniature donkey? I’ve… Continue reading

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith.
Unity in Port Townsend planning for Sunday services

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith will present “Heart Centeredness” at… Continue reading

A GROWING CONCERN: Good habits build character for your garden

LET’S RECAP WHERE we are so far this year. I am back… Continue reading

“Against all Odds: Abandonment to Olympian, A Tribute to Joe Rantz” by Catherine Bilyard is one of 41 quilts on display in Sequim Museum & Arts through the end of March as part of the “Inspiration/Exploration” exhibit. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Joe Rantz quilt highlighted at Sequim museum

Tribute among 41 pieces in show

Sunday program set for OUUF

Joseph Bednarik will present “Sex and the Dictionary” at… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Cut away what holds growth back

IT’S FEBRUARY AND time to begin pruning the vineyards in Eastern Washington… Continue reading

Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News

A perch on the bowsprit affords these spectators a wide open view of competing boats in a previous year's regatta on Port Townsend Bay.
Shipwrights’ Regatta set for Saturday

The sailboat racing season opens Saturday with the Port… Continue reading

Mason bee lecture scheduled

Carrie Morlag will discuss raising mason bees at 10 a.m.… Continue reading

Work to learn in Sequim Saturday

John Hassel will demonstrate how to prune roses at 1… Continue reading

Geology lecture set Saturday

Brian Sherrod will present “High-resolution dating of a multi-fault… Continue reading

Wool spinning demonstration set

Dean Hyden will demonstrate the use of a spinning… Continue reading