Comic-Con International day three: ‘Be excellent to each other’

Unexpectedly, a sense of koinonia.

By Michael Parnell

What happens when you gather over 120,000 people in one place? What kind of problems occur in putting that many people together?

One is the logistics of moving that many people from one place to another, which offers opportunities for friction.

The amazing thing about Comic-Con is they do not. There is a feeling here different from any other massive gathering I have attended.

There are long waiting times to get into some events. Hall H, where all the big announcements and panels are held, has people lined up overnight just to assure a place inside. With those lines, one would think there would be huge problems with cutting in line or pushing and shoving to get in and secure the best seats.

That does not seem to happen here. A local television reporter did a voiceover of an overhead shot of the line moving into Hall H. She said the people looked well mannered and considerate of each other. Her remark about it set me on a thought pattern.

There is a real feeling of koinonia here. People have taken the quote from "Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure" of “Be excellent to each other” and put it into practice. And koinonia is reflected not only in how people act in line but to the way people look after each other.

Karen Hallion, an artist that was part of a panel called “How to Be a Nerd for a Living,” spoke of how koinonia happened to her. Hallion is at Comic-Con without her usual traveling companion, her sister. Sitting alone at her table, she was surprised when someone came up to her and gave her a protein bar and then disappeared. That act of kindness overwhelmed her.

With this many people who would identify themselves as geeks or nerds, and with most of them probably introverted, you would think people would stay to themselves and not engage. Yet, there is a spirit here of acceptance where people go out of their way to be kind to each other.

Another example of this was in the same panel. A person asked how one breaks into marketing in the nerd industry. Another person in the group said he needed help with marketing a convention in another part of the country and requested her information to set up an interview.

When the church was in its infancy, that was the Spirit that flowed through it. The book of Acts tells us that they shared what they had and if anyone had a need, the community met the need.

The current church could take a page from what is happening here in San Diego. We have moments when we do not do well with the issue of koinonia.

Several years ago, I went to a new church. My wife entered the sanctuary and, upon sitting in the pew, was informed by someone she needed to move. She was sitting in that person’s “seat.”

Churches tend to be introverted. Their focus can be inward. The concern is not on others but on the individual.

On reflection of the group at Comic-Con, I realized many of them know what it is like to be shunned. One panelist told of his childhood, being the “weird kid” who stayed in his room and focused on what became his craft. During those days he did not feel part of any group.

Growing up not being thought of as “cool” or not being chosen in sports gives this group a vantage point of sensitivity to the needs and feelings of others.

The early church knew this. Its own shunning combined with the teachings of Jesus made them concerned for others and showed compassion for those in need.

With the trend toward the marginalization of the church, it could be the greater sense of koinonia for those outside the walls that may provide a way of finding a renewed sense of mission.

— Mike Parnell, who writes commentary for ABPnews/Herald, attended Comic-Con International, a multigenre entertainment and comic convention held annually in San Diego. The year’s event, which ran July 24-27, was expected to draw more than 120,000 people.

Previous columns:

Comic-Con International day three: ‘Be excellent to each other’

Comic-Con International day two: ‘God is disappointed in you’

Comic-Con International day one: The day of greed

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.