March 18, 2006

Utopia

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.

This brings to mind the book by Thomas More, Utopia. The book, which was somewhat based on Plato's Republic and which was said to be the inspiration for Marxism, depeiced a communal, democratic, religiously tolerant and pacifist society that has done away with poverty and persecution ... they were also much influenced by the fact that Christ had encouraged his disciples to practice community of goods.

That Utopia had its problems, of course, and in its own way was as tyranical as the meieval European monarchies to which it was it was compared. As one page about Utopia put it ...

It is an insidious kind of tyranny which works by persuading the people that it is all for their own good, and proceeds almost to enslave them to the state and remove as many elements of choice as possible ... Religious toleration exists, so long as you don't want to be irreligious. You may travel wherever you please, so long as you get permission ... You may train for more than one job, and, once trained, may do whichever of them you please, except when one of them is more necessary than the other. You are quite free to hold political opinions, except that the penalty for discussing affairs of state away from the `senate' is death ... And Shakespeare, less than a hundred years later, understood that a system which allows no flourish, no splendour, and, ultimately, no beauty, could never be a spiritually rich one: Allow not nature more than nature needs, / Man's life's as cheap as beast's, cries King Lear, and it is hard not to agree with him.
- source

Why did the communism of the early church fail? On the one hand, a working example of communal life does exist ... religious orders. Within those orders there's still excellence, diversity and individulaity alonside love of others and a cummunity of goods. But I'm not sure this kind of lifestyle would work in the greater world where people live as families ... the desire, almost compulsion, to protect and perpetuate oneself may contradict the desire to perpetuate the community as a whole.


5 Comments:

At 8:29 PM, Blogger david said...

The connection to Utopia raises an interesting qyuestion for me. Was Luke being an historina here and reporting on what he knew -- or was he being an architect -- creating a mythical past as blueprint and incentive for future church plants?

Possibilities. Thanks Crystal.

 
At 9:19 PM, Blogger crystal said...

That's an interesting thought, David.

 
At 5:48 PM, Blogger julie said...

I wonder if it has to do with size? A communal communism might work better in one small meeting in Jerusalem, if the members their membership in that meeting to be their primary identity. I have my doubts as to how well it would work in a larger setting, or in places (like America) where we try to think of ourselves as meeting members and workforce members and family members and theater group members and volunteers with the local softball team and so forth. Finding one's primary identity in a small group would be much different than finding a portion of one's diffuse identity in a large group- or worse yet, a denomination.

 
At 3:04 AM, Blogger crystal said...

I think you're right. Utopia took place on a small island. Of course, there's the larger secular version ... the communist countries.

 
At 7:43 PM, Blogger Larry said...

Crystal, the communist countries were by no means communist, except in the name, just like a dictatorship referring to itself as "the democratic republic". Pure communism has never existed in any country that I know of.

 

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