Friday, December 25, 2015

The need for affiliation - communities of kindness

I belong to the Gay Men's Chorus of South Florida, which completed a series of five Christmas season concerts over the past two weeks. Singing in these performances, and doing a piano duet accompaniment for one of the pieces, I was exhausted for several days. Being in the chorus reminds me of church and boy scout groups of my youth. It is a communal setting where there is a sense of family, laughter, love and community. I am struck by parallels with Mark Oppenheimer's description of another secular equivalent to church communities, the CrossFit gym movement.
A for-profit gym franchise founded in 2000 that now has 13,000 licensed operators serving at least two million exercisers, CrossFit — like television, sports fandom and health fads — has become the focus of study by researchers trying to pinpoint what constitutes religiosity in America.
Members speak about their "box," or gym.. others might speak about a church or synagogue community. The same is true of some 12-step program members, and devoted college-football fans. In an increasingly secular America, all sorts of activities and subcultures provide the meaning that in the past, at least as we imagine it, religious communities did.
The article outlines several parallels between CrossFit and religious communities. From one member:
What really struck us was the way in which people were bringing their kids to their box...or the way different workouts of the day were named after soldiers who had died in battle. So there’s all of these things you would expect to see in a church — remembering the dead through some sort of ritual, and intergenerational community.
In a similar vein, David Brooks writes about educational communities of character. He cites a number of examples of secondary school settings that emphasize kindness, respect, and responsibility in binding together a learning community.

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