The idea that we exist primarily in relationship and not as isolated anomic individuals is quite against the prevailing wind of Western Thought since the Reformation. At least since Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes invoked the essential self-ishness of every creature culminating in a war of “all against all.” This notion was modified slightly by Locke, and embodied in much of the thought and writings of both announced “revolutionaries” and professed “conservatives”.
It is, in fact, the foundation of both particles of modern political version, whether “individualist” or “collectivist”. It has led to Communism and Fascism and Corporationism. It has brought us under the tender mercies of Left-Nihilism and Right-Nihilism. In the USA, it is the mainstay of argument between the Red Tribe and the Blue Tribe. But, it is a flawed perception of reality. It is flawed because rooted in Sin.
Looking at the Trinity, the highest ideal for a Christian, we see something different. In the Trinity, the characteristic observed is relationship. God the father is Father only because of relationship to the Son. God the Son is Son only by way of relationship to the Father. The Holy Spirit is the relation between the Father and the Son.
But, see this. There is no rupture between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is no competition, any more than (for a different reason), there is competition between God and the Universe.
If we admit this nature of God as a Good to be emulated (and the very name “Christian” indicates Christ-like-ness), then we must reorder our incorrect and sinful relationships with each other. Instead of conflict, co-operation. Instead of indifference, compassion. Instead of hate, forgiveness. Instead of rapine, non-violence.
These are not “socialist” or “collectivist” ideals, for both Socialism and Collectivism are attempts to reconcile and neuter, at least to mute, the raging war between individuals. On the other side, Individualism and Libertarianism are laudatory exhortations promoting the war of all against all.
But, if we believe in Christ, in the Church, in the words of the Bible, in God, then it is time to realign our thinking with our confessed belief.
The parable of the laborers in the vineyard is instructive in that it cannot easily be reconciled with either collectivist or individualist theory.
A vintner goes out in the early morning to hire day laborers. He returns to the labor market throughout the day, and keeps hiring more workers. At the end of the day, he pays them all – the same.
This is incompatible with the Individualist ethic because the laborers are not paid according to their work, but according to the generosity of the vintner. It is incomprehensible with collectivist theory because he gave freely and without constraint. Neither mode of thought is sufficient to explain the parable without making impossible stretches across gaping canyons of difference. (It is, nonetheless, amusing to observe theoreticians in their extravagant gymnastics gyrate, and declare the matter resolved according to their limited lights.)
What truly explains is only by way of the true and proper relationship which ought to – as it was intended to – exist between human beings. In poor imitation of the relationship in the Trinity.
To be (________) is to believe that somethings are worth conserving, that some other things are worth reforming, and that all is resolved in the hands of God.
To be (_________) is to believe in the community of humanity, of family and friends and neighbors, and that our communion reaches from our long forgotten ancestors through us to our descendants of the far-distant future.
To be (_________) is to believe we ought to live in accord with that good nature which God has given us, and not according to that fallen nature we show every day, to live in relationship, and not animosity.
Fill in the blanks with whatever label tickles your tonsils. Just be aware that categorization tends to hinder and confine thought, and to promote unnecessary adversity with other abstractions.