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A Desire for Community

What Parks and Rec can teach us about those around us.

I’m a bit late to the train, but I love the TV show Parks and Rec. In fact, as I am writing this, the first episode of season three is humming away happily in the background. Not much gives me more joy than considering that I get another 5 seasons of joy readily available on Netflix.

Why do I love Parks and Rec? Well a myriad of reasons to be honest. First, is probably Ron Swanson. Almost everything he does make me laugh, from his love of bacon to his eclectic hobbies such as smooth jazz and woodworking. Second, Tom. Aziz Ansari plays the character flawlessly. Every time he says a witty one-liner, or has a relational disaster when trying to woo the opposite sex, a wry smile comes to my face. But the most important reason I love Parks and Recreation, and what I would attest is the reason of why it is such a popular show, is the community represented.

As humans, we long for community. We are made to be in relationship with one another. Whether in Church, neighborhoods, sports teams, or interest clubs; the common factor across 99% of humanity is the desire to belong (and yes I made up that percentage completely).

The first season of the show was pretty awful. It wasn’t very funny, Amy Poehler’s character was more annoying than humorous, and the characters were all a bit exaggerated. But friends kept telling me that if you could power through a mediocre six episodes, you would fall in love. And it is true. From the first episode of season 2, you really start to get a feel for the characters.

Part of this might just be that the acting got better. The director smoothed out the annoying parts, and watchers begin to expect the characters to fulfill certain niches. Periphery characters began to be stars in their own sense, bringing in that perfectly timed laugh, or the joke that is only funny because it was referenced 10 episodes ago briefly. As more of the characters became three dimensional, it began to feel more real. And in doing so, watching the show began to feel like being apart of the community it represented.

Only one other television show has ever accomplished this in my opinion: Chuck (if you haven’t watched it, go do that now. All five seasons). Just like Parks and Rec, it started off slow, because the beauty of the show wasn’t supposed to be the action, but rather the chemistry of the characters. It is the same in Parks and Rec. The show hits its groove because the producers know that long-time fans don’t stick around because of great one-liners and individual shows. They stick around for the picture that takes form after the show has been airing for a while. After you get to know the characters. It isn’t one individual episode that makes Parks and Rec great—it is the show in it’s entirety.

I know it may be a little weird that I feel this way about a show. But at the same time, isn’t this draw for community the same thing that makes us love many things in life? We enjoy doing a lot of activities not just for the activity itself, but for the way it brings us together with a group of people where we feel like we belong. Parks and Rec has created a space in which viewers can feel, for 20 minute episodes like we are apart of something bigger than ourselves, and that is extremely special.

I realize that some of you reading this may be wondering why this is featured on a website called My Big Jesus. I’ve yet to mention anything explicitly Christian the entire time. Yet, I don’t think when explaining community I have to use loaded Christian slang, or key phrases to convey that it is a principle that Jesus was about. Here at MyBigJesus, we believe that the Lord is in the business of not only redeeming individuals, but culture itself. And just like when C.S. Lewis states that as we thirst there is water, and as we hunger there is food, that the desire for a God of joy and fulfillment means that there is one. God puts in us Holy Desires that will lead to Him. One of those desires is community. In Genesis, God states that he did not create us to be alone. Throughout the Bible, He is in the business of redeeming nations and communities of people. The culmination of the Bible is the promise that one day, Christ the bridegroom will join with His bride: the Church. We are meant to be in the community of the Church. And as such, every inkling we have for a community, every desire we have to be apart of something greater than ourselves is a small reminder hardwired into us that it is not only out of vain desire or folly that we want this, but rather we were made for this. When Parks and Rec makes you feel like a part of the community, I hope it makes you think about why that is a desire.

This week I want to challenge you. Consider the things you love in life. Walks in nature, singing in a choir, your favorite novels. Think about what it is that makes them special. In doing this, you may very well discover that the things you love and care about, are simply reflections of who we are created to be: a body of believers in love with and serving the God of the Universe.

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James Harris

James is probably the 3rd or 4th funniest guy you know. Funny enough to invite to a party; not witty enough to talk about later. Co-Founder and Content Editor of Everyday Exiles, Director of College Ministry at Reynolda Church, EPC, and husband to Meredith. He has a dog named Calvin, a cat named Opie, and a robot vacuum named Alfred.

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