Eberhard Arnold titled Why We Live In Community last night. Arnold was a German who lived in the later 19th to early 20th century and was the founder of the Bruderhof commuities. His small book, one of his many writings, dealt with the question of why he and others lived in what we might call intentional communities and you can read it for free on an e-reader or .pdf file.
Arnold’s vision is far more radical than anything you see in most of the church. It seems odd and more than a little threatening. It almost seems….alien when compared to our prevailing church culture.
Arnold’s vision combines the familial nature of the church with an emptying of self that pivots around the community of goods. He bases this not only in Scripture (Acts 2 and 4 specifically) but also in human nature and experience. For example, Arnold retells the story of two monks who live without possessions. The story is not terribly interesting but his point is:
Most important – the real theological content of the story – is that what really starts fighting is possessions. And people get into fights by preferring things to people.
Think about that for a minute. Preferring things to people. How many unnecessary things do each of us have laying around the house that we couldn’t live without while other Christians go hungry or can’t pay their heating bills or can’t afford medical care. This is not crackpot leftist dogma. This is really happening all around us but suggestions that we as God’s people give up some of our creature comforts to benefit a brother, even very modest suggestions like those in David Platt’s book “Radical”, are met with a firestorm of outrage.
Eberhard Arnold realized that living in the sort of community that the Bruderhof communities do is not necessarily the calling of all Christians nor do I agree with all of his points (although the ones I do have issues with are more pragmatic than Scriptural) but it does raise for me some troubling questions. Most importantly, why don’t we live in community? Could it be that we love our autonomy, our freedom, our wealth and possessions more than each other? Is the idea of that sort of closeness and openness in this life scary to people who affirm in theory that sort of relationship in eternity? Perhaps most troubling, could it be that we fear living community in whatever shape it takes because we don’t really believe what we read in the Bible, just as we don’t seem to believe so much of what Jesus taught or how He lived or what He commanded? Is it just easier to live lives of religious observance and to find ways to nitpick and divide from one another so that we can justify our disunity? These are troubling questions but they are hammering me.
I have a lot more to say about this but it will have to wait to tomorrow when perhaps I will be less fired up.