It is common to hear criticism of the rugged individualism that has characterized much of the American experience, especially in light of the frontier days.  The increase of postmodern thought in America over the last two decades has increased such negative assessment as we study the nation’s history. However, we must be careful not to read this debate into other venues of discussion.  For example, in philosophy and ethics, individualism may simply be a way to affirm the moral worth of individuals.  Each man must be treated with dignity and respect on his own regardless of his community. 

To offset the American dependence upon individualism, the word and concept of community has been invoked as one of the important philosophical buzzwords of our day.  We need more community in politics.  We need more collaborative experiences in learning (note the approach of Wikipedia).  We need more community-oriented ministry in our churches.  While there is a touch of truth to all of these claims and across all disciplines, it is my judgment that we are at the current time overdosing on community and devaluing the individual.  One area which I am keenly watching is the political debate in the United States over direction.  We are at a crossroads.  Do the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many?  Or do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one?  Recall some of the earlier Star Trek movies which tried to deal with these themes and questions.  Right now a push for bigger government seems to downplay individual liberty for the sake of the collective.  On the other side is the push back (Tea Party, etc.) which wants to preserve the value of the individual and his freedom within a smaller government approach.  In one sense this can be viewed as a response to the criticism that has been leveled at rugged individualism in the American way of life.

However, the area I have the most interest in relative to such things is Bible interpretation or hermeneutics.  It is fashionable to assert that individuals can only interpret or study the Bible within the context of the religious community in which they take part.  We are prisoners, so to speak, of that community when it comes to how we read the Bible.  While we must not downplay the influence of the community, we must not let the community be a jail in which the individual cannot read the Bible for himself.  Some of the current postmodern trends in Bible interpretation seem far removed from the splendid Reformation cry to get the Bible into the hands of the common man so he can read it for himself.  Perhaps it is time to defend the individual once again.

One blog article I came across which I found interesting is