This morning I watched a program on a community I thought you may be interested in. The Bruderhof are a protestant Christian community living in England. They were formed in the 1920s in Germany by Eberhard Arnold and live a strict enclosed life similar to the Amish.
I recall a family who went to a Latin Mass here in Ireland where the father wanted to build something similar. There was a lot of red flags about them and their bad moral theology was reminiscent of the Jansenism heresy that plagued Europe and influenced much of the physical, sexual, mental and spiritual abuse of minors in Ireland. That’s ultimately where a strict mindset leads, perhaps not in that exact order but one or the other.
Apart from the calling to monasticism, I always strongly disagreed with enclosed communities of the general public for the obvious reason that it serves no purpose in evangelization. The Family unit is supposed to be engaged with the world. I want my sons to be in the world, but nevertheless separate from its devious ways. This can be achieved without having to runaway into the woods to form a small community in hiding.
It is important for my sons to live a balanced life where they live in similarity to the world providing them with abundant opportunity for evangelization. St.Paul did this with the Jews where he tells us that he became a Jew to save a Jew. It’s very difficult to leave a good impression of Christianity on a modern world when you approach them with an image of the middle ages (and I’m not insulting the middle age fashion, they were once a modern fashion in their own time).
Conversion is made much easier when you mirror the people you’re converting. As a sales person I’m hired to sell only locally because people generally trust buying from people exactly like themselves and from the same community. You see? Mirroring others is even important even in business.
I can’t help but look at enclosed communities of married couples with children as nothing more than selfish. It serves them and their weakness or incapacity to function in the world not the Lord. It shows a lack of faith in Gods merciful power to lead them through the modern day Sodom and Gommorah.
It’s like the people who convert to another religion simply because the traditions there are more strict and appealing. They do it convincing themselves that they’re only looking to serve the Lord in greater capacity in their lives. The truth is they do it because they’re indulging in their own selfish desires for something more sparkling than what they’re experiencing.
I allow my kids to watch TV, to play videogames and to wear the latest fashion within reason. I do this because it’s absolutely vital they be able to connect with the sinful culture around them. Doing this provides them with ample opportunity to engage with their peers in an irreligious society; it’s a culture in desperate need for someone to reach out and give them a helping hand. It is an action and calling enclosed cults cannot perform.
Some communities like this one feel they are protecting Christianity for another generation when in fact they’re destroying it. The devil wants that divide because mixing the two is troubling for him. Having the Christians tucked away in the countryside somewhere serves the Devils needs perfectly. This thought that one is protecting Christianity also shows a lack of faith in God who alone is the guardian and protector of Christianity. It’s certainly not the other way around.
I would invite anyone no matter what Christian tradition they’re from to ponder these things carefully. You can’t bring the light of Christ into the world by running away from it unless you’re single and have got that calling to go and do battle with Satan which requires those vows of celibacy be in place. Married families were always apart of every public life throughout the centuries, and the status quo should remain because there is much fruit to be had of it.
There is no fruit to be found on the tree of a family who runs off to hide in a community. Like the fruit on the forbidden tree in the garden of Eden, it may look good on the outside, but a bite of it reveals the snake behind the temptation.