Friday, January 19, 2007

Organic || Manufactured

I was in the pub having lunch today, when I over-heard a snatch of conversation from the next table:
“…And did [that] feel as if it were manufactured, as opposed to real?”

That’s all I caught; and I have no idea what they were discussing. But it made me think of the current buzz around church needing to be ‘organic,’ and the implied dichotomy, where:
Something that is manufactured = false, bad, inauthentic, artificial, a problem
Something that is organic = true, good, authentic, natural, a solution

Of course, the bizarre thing about the conversation I overheard was that the two women were sat on manufactured chairs at a manufactured table, in a building constructed of manufactured parts; and had got there in a (possibly in two) manufactured car(s).

Community – the social bonds forged by living together in stability over time – does not ‘just happen.’ Likewise, communitas – the social bonds forged by living together through an intense period of crisis; the kind of shared experience, often task-focused, that happens outside of community but plays an essential role in re-invigorating and ensuring the ongoing survival of community – does not ‘just happen.’

To some degree, church – being church, doing church – has to be manufactured. I understand the need for ‘organic’ language, as a (necessary) counter-balance to some of the structures (of thought, word, and deed) of inherited church that restrict growth (both qualitative and quantitative). I also understand that when a pendulum swings, it swings as far in the opposite direction…and that there are certain unquestioned assumptions, and snobbery, at play: are bands that formed at college in response to the singer’s ad on the students’ union notice-board inherently better than ‘manufactured’ bands formed in response to a record producer’s national search?

But there are ‘good’ manufacturing practices, and ‘bad’ manufacturing practices; ‘good’ manufactured products, and ‘bad’ manufactured products. And there are practices, and products, that can be improved on – especially in response to, or anticipation of, changing circumstances…and practices and products that can become superseded, or even detrimental, especially through failing to respond to or anticipate change…


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