Take, for example, the popular program “Breaking Bad.” In an early episode the main character takes an instant dislike to someone he does not know. Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer, has become a producer of methamphetamine, an addictive illegal drug. “Why” is the haunting question that gripped huge audiences for five years.
The answer surfaces when twice Walter sees a BMW convertible with “Ken Wins” on the license plate. While Ken shouts into his phone, full of self-importance, Walter sets a windshield washer on the battery. This produces an explosion that incinerates the BMW. Walter leaves with grim satisfaction on his face.
Both his trail of destruction and the show’s appeal crystallize in that scene. While claiming to seek money he can leave to his family, Walter’s motivation is revenge. He is tired of seeing other people win. He is convinced that he is smarter and should have been recognized adequately. He won’t rely on anyone again. He will outsmart everyone and even use people. As he slowly dies, he will create drugs to destroy others. Such is the depth of his anger.
Evil takes root in isolation and in feelings of being overlooked and dismissed. As Walter’s evil grows, alongside his cancer, he hides the secret of his drug production. Human contact becomes incidental to his obsession.
Belonging, as congregations encourage it, can counter such isolation. Worship, prayer, group discussions not only shape personal faith, they shape character. Here there can be reality checks. Here people can be honored and welcomed. Here you no longer feel alone or overlooked. Here you can learn that your actions affect others.
In congregations you can be forgiven and healed, especially amid crisis. That is the magic of belonging. Everyone can win.