I recently saw the trailer for a documentary about "Bronies", the self-given title claimed by teenagers and adults who share a passionate obsession for the children's show My Little Pony. They have conventions. They have art. They have costumes, with rainbow manes, pony ears, and all.
Fans claim they love the show because of the art, the vocal talent, and the music. However, it doesn't take much digging to find the deeper reason Bronies love the show: the resulting community.
Near the end of the trailer, we see teenage boys and men talk about how lonely they felt before they started watching...but now they have hundreds of friends due to their common love for the show.
I think I have a decent understanding of the movement because I have friends who would call themselves Bronies or belong to similar movements (such as Whovians or Sherlockians...speaking of which, I also have been Sherlocked and I hope the con comes to Tampa!)
In my freshman year of high school, I hung out with the self-titled "Narutards": a large group of intelligent, Japanese-culture-obsessed students who were addicted to the anime Naruto. I've never seen an episode of Naruto---I've actually always detested anime---but I still gladly chose to be "one of them" because of the practically unconditional love and acceptance I found in the group.
We would sing loudly together in the cafeteria, we would share Pocky with each other, we would break social norms together, and united we would refuse to cower at the judgmental stares or whispers of our classmates. In that year I experienced solidarity like never before. I loved my friends...and they loved me. It was an amazing feeling.
I suppose my involvement with the Narutards faded and my friendships became more mainstream until recently as I became a mom. I got breastfeeding support from La Leche League, which helped me get plugged into the local cloth diaper group, where I again enjoyed finding solidarity with others, this time with the "crunchy mamas" who have home births and nurse their toddlers and babywear and try not to give their kids processed foods. Again, I didn't possess some of the stereotypes (such as composting or the Positive Parenting philosophy), but I loved being a part of the group because I was truly accepted by others who also receive a lot of negative feedback from relatives and strangers about our atypical styles of life and parenting. (By the way, I love you, mama friends!)
The common theme I see through all these groups---be it the crazed fans or the crunchy mamas---is the desperate cry for community. Everyone has been given this innate desire to be loved and accepted by those with whom they can celebrate and grow in common interests. For most this need will be more obscured behind "being normal", but groups like the Bronies, with their colorful stuffed horses and songs about magical friendships, make the human heart's universal desire for community loudly pronounced.
God's gift of the Church is exactly what the Bronies---what we all---need. Ephesians 2:19 should pique the interest of the lonely, outcast soul:
"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God."
Christ has made it possible to find acceptance and unity and membership within the most incomparably important and satisfying group there could ever be: the household of God.
1 Corinthians 12 also gives us a glimpse into what it should be like as a part of this Body of Christ:
"If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together."
Recently I found myself grasping this more deeply than I realized. A couple Sundays ago I knew that it was my week to take care of the infants so I would be missing the service; but nonetheless I asked my husband "Which songs are we singing this morning?" We, even though I wouldn't be there? I feel like such a part of the church that I subconsciously include myself in that group even when I'm not present.
The "one another" commands of the Bible are an incredibly attractive component of the Christian faith...as long as you're committed to a body of believers who is seeking to do these things.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
Bear one another's burdens.
Accept one another, just as Christ accepted us.
Be kind to one another.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the LORD.
The list goes on and on, but even these brief commands, if taken seriously, seem to prescribe just the kind of joyous community that all souls desperately need (whether they realize it or not.)
I'm seeing this to be completely, fulfillingly true as I'm blessed enough to be a part of an incredible church that does this well. Yesterday in the short time span of our morning gathering, at least 7 or 8 people gladly held my 3 month old baby for me...even during the entire service! I love my daughter tremendously, of course, but it is unspeakably refreshing to be able to have both hands for dealing with my son and or taking notes during the sermon...or just having my arms free for a couple hours. Even more amazing was how our church joyfully provided meals for us (I wrote about that experience here.)
Despite the fact that churches are made of sinners who will undoubtedly be selfish and fail to offer perfect community, Jesus runs His church well.
We can be sure that where the Spirit truly is dwelling in a group of people, there will be rich, biblical community.
If you're not seeing this in your church, maybe it's because so many nominal Christians who do not truly know the Father have squeezed into your faith family, slapped on the title "member", and with their lukewarmness have confused everyone about what Biblical community has been designed by God to look like.
May this bring Christians to be grateful for God's provision of the church. For far too many, "church" is just an obligatory place to go and be entertained for awhile and the people in the church are nothing more than nosy hypocrites that don't need to be any real part of your life. That was my ecclesiology for many, many years.
But that is not the Church as the Bible describes it.
The Church is a blood-bought people, the most privileged people in literally the entire universe, because they are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession" (1 Peter 2:9.)
The gates of hell shall not prevail against this Church (Matthew 16:18.)
Christ loves, sanctifies, nourishes, and cherishes this Church (Ephesians 5:22ff.)
This Church has been buried with Christ in baptism and raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God (Colossians 2:12.)
I really could go on and on and on and talk about things that I am just scratching the surface of beginning to comprehend. But one thing I know is that the Church is a gift from God, and Jesus takes His blood-bought people seriously, so I should too.
Everything changes when you realize the other people in your church have more in common with you than the fact that you heard the same sermon on Sunday. If you and they are truly in Christ, then you have everything in common.
That video clip of obsessed male adults singing in unison about magical ponies barely serves as even a .001% opacity glimpse into how joyfully unified Jesus has made the Church to be.
Acts 4 is a great example of this as we read that "the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul", echoing Ezekiel 11's now-fulfilled promise that God would give us "one heart."
May we hold out the beauty of the Church to those around us who are not part of it. In John 6:37 Jesus said "All that the Father gives me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out." Nobody on this side of eternity has to fear being rejected by Jesus; the only problem is that the human heart---though desperately in need of Him---does not want Him (see Romans 3.)
So we as ambassadors, as if God is making His appeal to others on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:20), can openly talk to others about the beautiful community we have found in Christ (and most of all, the beautiful Christ that our community adores!)
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a rad guy, and raising three little people ages 1,3, and 5...and I'm now expecting my fourth. I like lime green, Coke icees, and I wear my Crocs until they have holes in them...or melt.
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Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today