Yesterday, I wrote about the practice of religion and how we’ve strayed from the original template. At the end, I promised a look at how to make that original template work in today’s world. Before I do that, however, I should make a disclaimer. In keeping with the sentiment on my “Why You Should Listen to Me” page, there is no reason you should pay attention to what I’m saying. I’m not a trained theologian, social scientist or any other “expert” with a whit of authority in this, or any other subject. While what I say here is my opinion, I do always try to back it up with reputable sources. That said, let’s see whose feathers I can ruffle today.
In review, I said that religion was the lens through which we see God and that because the lens is man-made, it gives a distorted view of God. Figuring that might raise some hackles, I pointed out that very little of current Christian faith practice mirrors that found in the Bible, using this passage:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
I put special emphasis on the verses detailing how these early Christians all lived together and shared everything and asked how many of us would stick around if our pastor asked us to do that. I said this is what Jesus asked of His followers and ended with a promise to share my ideas about how to do this. So, here goes.
There are several ways to do this and we’ll start with the one that bears closest resemblance to the church in Acts: intentional communities. Intentional communities take a lot of different forms. They can look like the communes set up by the hippies back in the 60’s (like The Simple Way) or be much more low-key like Bart Campolo’s Walnut Hills Fellowship. What it boils down to is a group of people who have made a conscious decision to live together in close community, sharing their stuff, their skills and their lives with each other. Usually, these communities are set in lower-income areas and work in the community to improve things for their neighbors. Like I said, it looks like the church in Acts 2.
I realize the intentional community thing isn’t for everyone. It takes a special kind of person to give up that much individuality. If that’s you, there are other options. First and foremost, quit bitching about paying taxes. Look, no one likes paying taxes, but if you want services (and we all do), you have to pay for them. If some of those services don’t benefit you directly, suck it up and understand they are benefitting you indirectly. If people have enough to eat and a safe place to sleep, they’re less likely to try and take those things from you. Second, quit supporting politicians whose idea of balancing the budget is to cut social programs while maintaining low taxes for the wealthy and spending billions to kill people. Third, give. Give to anyone who has need and do it without condition. In fact, be ready to give everything you have, just like Jesus told the rich, young man who wanted to follow him. It ain’t easy, but nothing good ever is.