An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
You ever notice how generally when it comes to BIG MONEY items people tend not to want to deal with friends? You know, "don't mix business with pleasure" is the old "adage".
For instance, consider how you would market a product you are trying to sell to a stranger and then ask yourself if you would market it differently if you were going to sell it to a friend. Would one receive a slightly more fair price than the other? Would one receive perhaps a tad bit more information from you with regard to the item? Be honest now...c'mon.
When you sell a house you are asked to fill out a "Disclosure Form" in which you go through a long litany of items that may or may not be wrong with the home you are selling. For good Christians like myself (choke...gag...puke) I of course was completely honest with everything...but do you suppose everyone else in the world is? But if you were selling your house to a friend, a friend with whom you will likely be coming over to dinner with from time to time, then you would likely be even more pressed to let them know EVERYTHING there is to know about that home. Furthermore, you'd also feel bad if something major went wrong - even if no one could have foreseen it. On the other side of the coin, if you are selling to a stranger who you will likely never ever see again...well who cares, right?
Exploitation of community happens in this way. Someone outside of the community markets something to the people inside the community and this person couldn't give a rat's ass for anyone who lives there..at least for the most part. He can sell them crap, leave his grabage there, offer a product that wipes out their salmon runs...etc etc etc...and being outside of that community why on earth should he care? Yes yes, we Christians, of course being far superior would of course feel terribly guilty and would never do such a thing...but the fact is we now participate in a "global economy" wherein not only ARE we doing that, but more than that the odds are we could not possibly grasp the far reaching effects of what appears to be the simplest of economic decisions that we make day in and day out.
Cram us into urban sprawl and it becomes even more difficult. Odds are many of us live with a 1/4 mile radius of more people than we could possibly meet and befriend in several lifetimes. Thus, there is no community accountability to our economics...the community has long since vanished.
So...all of that said, one small step toward trying to create an intentional community is to try and participate and KNOW your local economy. Imagine...hard as it might be...the ethics that naturally existed (without need for laws or lawsuits) by simply participating in a local economy. Of course, as many of my friends have done, you will be quick to point out the numerous items that cannot possibly be bought within a local economy...yes you will revel in catching me in hypocrisy...but keep in mind these are the same arguments sinners make for not even trying to change.
James, you sound like you've been reading Wendell Berry, a Kentuckian I have only just recently come to be aware of, but who has for years been writing essays much along the lines of stuff you have been saying lately. If you have not yet dones so, check him out.
James, I must say I am thoroughly enjoying your musings on the concept of "community" and the thought provoking ideas you've been posting about. It's certainly making the itch to move out of the urban sprawl into a much smaller community that much more present. My local library has a number of Wendell Berry books that I'm definitely going to check out when I return the few that I have at the moment.
Not sure if this is the right place for this comment, but since this is your most recent post about intentional community:
Do you think it's responsible, considering the relative obscurity of Orthodoxy in the U.S., to attach any non-religious strings to the faith? I mean, I'm Orthodox, but I detest agricultural work. What if your community's Orthodox church is the closest to me? Do I have to raise pigs to attend the church in your community? Will my public-school kids be accepted by the homeschooled kids in their Sunday school class? Or would we be expected to either drive past your church to one in the city, or accept our status as barely-tolerated outsiders within a church we're told is universal? I realize that your community might not raise pigs, or homeschool, but the very nature of an intentional community means there has to be some criteria for membership. And at least one of those criteria will be something that has nothing to do with Orthodoxy (location, agrarian lifestyle, politics, etc.).
Here is where I think the comparisons to the Amish fall short. The Amish lifestyle, while not inherently religious (anyone can live like that, regardless of religion) is an integral part of their religion. There are no Amish who live in the city and drive cars. You can't be Amish and do those things. There's no such link between lifestyle and Orthodoxy. There are Orthodox peasants and Orthodox yuppies. But to outsiders, your community is going to present Orthodoxy as tied to a specific lifestyle. Is that responsible?
Having experienced it personally, I am strongly opposed to Christianity being tied up with anything extra-religious. And despite your best intentions, I have to doubt that you could balance your idea of intentional community with any meaningful evangelism, since your evangelism would be severely limited by the non-religious criteria you'll have for inclusion into your community.
Please read VERY carefully what I am saying about community. I am not starting an intentional community...rather I am advocating that we all be far more intentional about our community. Please note the difference.
With that said, what I am asserting - arguing for - is decidedly religious, decidedly Christian. As surely as alms and tithing are. I am not saying you need to grow your own food - though I will laud such a thing as being profoundly good for the local economy, and you and your family.
Also, note precisely what I praised about the Amish, as opposed to asserting that we ought to be just like them. The Amish give a good deal of weight to the effect that any given thing will have on their community, which they cherish. Most of us hardly even know our neighbors who eat, sleep, make love, and raise their families within a few feet of us. Heck, we might as well be an "intentional Orthodox community" living in the hills as a sort of hippie commune for all the evangelism we are doing with our neighbors. I have been hypocritical in judging monasticism in the past for being isolated from the world when all the while my neighbors had no idea what god I served.
But again, read me carefully: not "intentional community" but "be intentional about your community."
But to outsiders, your community is going to present Orthodoxy as tied to a specific lifestyle. Is that responsible?
Having already clarified (3x in true Orthodox fashion) what I mean as opposed to what you seem to think I mean...let me ask anyway with regard to your statement: Don't you think that Orthodoxy does and should be tied to a specific lifestyle that most of the world frowns upon?
Assuming we have a lifestyle that differs to some dergee from non-Christians. That being said, again I implore you to read me carefully and see that the criteria for membership in my "intentional community" is simply that you happen to have purchased property within a somewhat influential distance to me - in other words that we have opportunity to nurture community together.
Real Community, as I am defining it is - I believe - a fabulous form of evangelism. If for no other reason than it proceeds quite naturally from caring for your community and it does not found itself upon isolation - subversion maybe, but not isolation.
If you do not presently live in an "intentional community" then you have rendered it thus....you needn't move to start one.