Wednesday, March 09, 2005A few weeks ago I discussed Andrew Sullivan's views on the new iPod world. Since then I found this post over at Crux Magazine's Signs of the Times blog. I took particular interest in the closing passage:
That might, incidentally, be all it takes: a willingness to stop off at a bar occasionally for a drink. If many people did that, maybe the yarn of society would start meshing together and something better would be knitted from it. It beats all the individualistic strands lying around in a heap today.
Just a few drinks at the bar. In what other era has civic mindedness made such an easy and enjoyable request?
Reasonable people will differ on the merits of stopping off at a bar, but let's keep the point intact. If needs be, substitute the word "coffehouse" for bar. Or maybe deli. Or cafe. Etc. These establishments become what Russell Kirk called "little platoons," place of voluntary communion among neighbors. This is why some of us are so upset to see Best Buy replacing the local record store and Home Depot replacing the local hardware. Think of the hardware store on a television show like Home Improvement or the coffee shop on Friends. Yes, those are television shows, but I think we all know that such places exist. I can think of several in my own community. Yes, the free market is good, but if we don't work to preserve local institutions, we'll lose them. Just imagine a world where the local barbershops are replaced by MasterCuts.
I know I treasure my mornings spent at the Crimson Cafe here in Tuscaloosa, and I know that countless friendships have been formed by the cafe's patrons. (Even better, I know of several Christians who are regulars. Their friendships with employees and other customers is likely bearing fruit for the Gospel.) Whatever we think about the drinking of the characters on Cheers, the fellowship they shared was a good thing. These institutions are good for the community and, I would argue, for the church, as well. Our bonds with our neighbors should, as much as possible, pre-exist before we decide to evangelize.