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gfcacha

Communal Living and Common Possession as a Key Christian Orthopraxis

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This is one insight that I just realized now as I write this. Jesus never wrote anything but he formed a community and gave us his spirit to ensure the continuity of his teachings. The early Christian community incarnated the full essence of Jesus' teachings and spirit and provided the alternative social, economic and political order that will realize the fullness of God's Kingdom on earth. The communal living and common possession of the early Christian community is a key orthopraxis of putting Jesus' teachings and spirit into life. Going back to this practice is critical in addressing the heightening social and economic injustice in the world. With the looming automation of much of the work in the world, humanity will face a situation in which there will be fewer jobs that will be available. We need to start forming faith communities that will also act as social, economic and political units to address this challenge. One of my insight in the rapid growth of the early Christian communities is that they provided an alternative social, economic and political system and structure that addressed the problems of poverty in the Roman Empire by creating communities of justice and peace in which the members of the community exercised common possession and sharing of resources. This is a practical solution to social and economic injustice, which addressed the issue of poverty in the early Christian communities. From a business framework, the early Christian communities provided the pilot and template for a just and peaceful social, economic and political order that could have been expanded world wide had the elites not hijacked the religion during the time of Constantine onward when Christianity has been established as the religion of the Roman Empire. I would like to read and hear your thoughts on this.

Edited by gfcacha

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You have oversimplified things a bit.  Jesus and his disciples lived simply, but they still had personal posessions and Jesus provided basic food and even the coin for the temple tax.  There was certainly no egalitarian political ethos, as Jesus controlled everything including who was invited to become a disciple.

Jesus was not a social planner.  He was about generosity and reliance on God and prayer, not politics.  Daily life and economics were recognized as requirements but Jesus was concerned with spiritual aspects.

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3 hours ago, gfcacha said:

One of my insight in the rapid growth of the early Christian communities is that they provided an alternative social, economic and political system and structure that addressed the problems of poverty in the Roman Empire by creating communities of justice and peace in which the members of the community exercised common possession and sharing of resources. 

Early Christianity's growth wasn't particularly outstanding prior to Constantine's conversion and making it the official religion of Rome.  Perhaps it offered alternate structures but other reasons contributing to its development included being the only missionary religion in the area, it was an exclusivity religion (converting to Christianity meant abandoning your old religion which wasn't usually the case for pagans changing to other gods), equal status offered to women (in a hugely patriarchal society), and lack of competition (e.g. in Israel it was only up against Judaism).  Constantine's conversion was THE game changer.

There were also lots of different types of early Christianity, so it is hard to imagine them all lining up to provide a better society (i.e. they seemed to argue more on theological grounds) - Ebionite Christians, Gnostic Christians, Docetists, Arian Christians, Marcionites, Roman Christians, and the later Melitians, Donatists, and Monothelites, to name a few.

I think there are commendable thoughts concerning Christianity proposing a way forward of fairness, but any detail of how to actually implement such seems to be fairly lacking for any real application which is where I see it falling down.  That said, seeds being planted concerning better ways to do things are of benefit.  The fact that 2000 years later we still lack  an alternative social, economic and political order that all would call fair and just indicates to me the impractical application of Christianity as a 'system' of governance.  But again, there are commendable aspirations in there that are of benefit I think.

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1 hour ago, PaulS said:

Early Christianity's growth wasn't particularly outstanding prior to Constantine's conversion and making it the official religion of Rome.  Perhaps it offered alternate structures but other reasons contributing to its development included being the only missionary religion in the area, it was an exclusivity religion (converting to Christianity meant abandoning your old religion which wasn't usually the case for pagans changing to other gods), equal status offered to women (in a hugely patriarchal society), and lack of competition (e.g. in Israel it was only up against Judaism).  Constantine's conversion was THE game changer.

There were also lots of different types of early Christianity, so it is hard to imagine them all lining up to provide a better society (i.e. they seemed to argue more on theological grounds) - Ebionite Christians, Gnostic Christians, Docetists, Arian Christians, Marcionites, Roman Christians, and the later Melitians, Donatists, and Monothelites, to name a few.

I think there are commendable thoughts concerning Christianity proposing a way forward of fairness, but any detail of how to actually implement such seems to be fairly lacking for any real application which is where I see it falling down.  That said, seeds being planted concerning better ways to do things are of benefit.  The fact that 2000 years later we still lack  an alternative social, economic and political order that all would call fair and just indicates to me the impractical application of Christianity as a 'system' of governance.  But again, there are commendable aspirations in there that are of benefit I think.

We have never lost the practical application of communal living and common possession. The monastic communities (both Catholic and Orthodox) and the Catholic religious orders and covenanted lay communities (Opus Dei and Focolare) are able to continue with the early Christian community practice of communal living and common possession. I am thinking of the Amish communities and Taize community as well for the Protestant Tradition. These models can be starting point for re-visioning and experimenting in new forms of living in communion that are applicable not just for consecrated religious but also for lay people. In fact, there has been an attempt to form a lay contemplative community in France (Le Pan De Vie but this was disbanded due to certain controversies). From a paradigm of flight from the world, contemplative community living needs to shift to a paradigm of alternative living in the world. Just imagine a contemplative community in which the members (both celibate and married) can work together in a community owned business and realize their full potential in the talent or discipline that they want to excel in the service of the community and the world.

Edited by gfcacha

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4 hours ago, gfcacha said:

We have never lost the practical application of communal living and common possession. The monastic communities (both Catholic and Orthodox) and the Catholic religious orders and covenanted lay communities (Opus Dei and Focolare) are able to continue with the early Christian community practice of communal living and common possession. I am thinking of the Amish communities and Taize community as well for the Protestant Tradition. These models can be starting point for re-visioning and experimenting in new forms of living in communion that are applicable not just for consecrated religious but also for lay people. In fact, there has been an attempt to form a lay contemplative community in France (Le Pan De Vie but this was disbanded due to certain controversies). From a paradigm of flight from the world, contemplative community living needs to shift to a paradigm of alternative living in the world. Just imagine a contemplative community in which the members (both celibate and married) can work together in a community owned business and realize their full potential in the talent or discipline that they want to excel in the service of the community and the world.

I don't disagree that they're nice thoughts and that they work well for some, but I would suggest that they only work well for a minority, hence why Christianity (or this style of society) just hasn't caught on in the last 2000 years across the globe.  There are elements of Christianity within most societies, but I don't think there is a single 'way' that works across the globe that would be very practical or easy to implement (and history would seem to support that).  The communities you mention are by far a minority in the world - there is a reason for that - probably because it just doesn't work for the majority, for whatever reasons.

That said, I do think capitalism has taken mankind down a path where not everything coming from it is beneficial to society's well being and communal growth.  I just don't think 'Christianity' is the panacea, per se.  But, there is much that society today can take from Christianity.

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On 1/22/2018 at 7:27 PM, PaulS said:

I don't disagree that they're nice thoughts and that they work well for some, but I would suggest that they only work well for a minority, hence why Christianity (or this style of society) just hasn't caught on in the last 2000 years across the globe.  There are elements of Christianity within most societies, but I don't think there is a single 'way' that works across the globe that would be very practical or easy to implement (and history would seem to support that).  The communities you mention are by far a minority in the world - there is a reason for that - probably because it just doesn't work for the majority, for whatever reasons.

That said, I do think capitalism has taken mankind down a path where not everything coming from it is beneficial to society's well being and communal growth.  I just don't think 'Christianity' is the panacea, per se.  But, there is much that society today can take from Christianity.

I understand where you are coming from and agree that currently, this kind of way of life has become a minority. But if you go back to pre-agrarian and pre-industrial societies, I would think that this is largely the norm when the tribe is the focal community in which people live. Generally, in tribal cultures, especially the hunting stage, there would be almost no concept of private property as people partake of the bounty of nature. I would also presume that communal living (and probably communal possession) is much more ingrained.

I would be curious on reading researches on how humanity is wired to live: are we wired to live in community? or are we wired to live as individuals? Humanity has to find a balance between individualism and communitarianism. But I observed that we are veering more on extreme individualism even in the spirituality. This has created a culture of egoism and selfishness that is slowly destroying the common good. 

My theory is that we might be individual in terms of physical body but we share in one field in the soul or spiritual dimension of life. In Kabbalah, there is one concept called Adam ha Rishon. This concept states that the one soul of Adam breaks into pieces to become our individual souls. The correction of the world involves integrating these pieces back together as our one oversoul. 

We always think that we are complete by ourselves. But I think that we are just part of a larger organism (I call earth humanity) like our organs are part of our body. From the eyes of God, salvation or Divinization is not by individual person but by the larger organism (or earth humanity). The individual is part of the whole; and the whole is part of the individual. God will "save" us not as individuals but as one humanity. I might even think that this is an all or nothing thing since we are just one soul, the Adam ha Rishon. This is the reason I think that God commanded as to love one another and be each other's keeper, because we will be saved as one humanity. The level of our evolution or Divinization will depend on the spiritual level of the lowest evolved individual consciousness. This is the reason why we need to help and support the evolution of the bottom people so together we can be "saved" or Divinized together.

Remember the prayer of Jesus in John that humanity may be one as God and He is one. As I see it, there is only One Life, and we are part of this One Life, and we will grow and evolved together as One Life in realizing God's Kingdom on earth. And part of realizing this is to be one mind and heart in communal living with common possession with God of the bounty of nature. This is probably the essence why the key orthopraxis of Jesus is the formation of the messianic community through the apostles and the early Christian communities.

Edited by gfcacha

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Gfacha,  while, again, some of what you write is intriguing, I questions its practicality or need. We will never go back to anything close to pre-agrarian and pre-industrial societies. Plus, if Christianity is viable, and I believe it is, it should be able to reach us where we are. I value community over individual but believe it is possible to live this in our present circumstances.

Not sure how we can say much 'from the eyes of God'  but I hope that in addition to the whole, God 'is interested' in the individual: the actions of Jesus recorded in the NT might speak to how the whole should act but his actions and 'miracles' were focused on individual people. For me, 'we may be one' but it is timshel (thou mayest see Steinbeck's East of Eden): it is a decision that must be made, a way that 'may' be taken up. We may become one but it is the many who decides to 'love' - to treat all 'as does God,' to treat (and make) all as One.

"Egoism and selfishness that are slowly destroying the common good" have been with us from the beginning; it is the 'original' and the only sin. It is not merely the present culture, it is all cultures. And deification is the overcoming of sin/selfishness by Love (God).  

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