Last week, in my post entitled,An Avalanche of Apples, I used a quote that I had read in a book by Jane Kirkpatrick: Aurora, an American Experience in Quilt, Community and Craft
From each according to his ability
To each according to his need.
The quote was one of the many meaningful texts and proverbs that were found embroidered on the colourful quilts and samplers preserved and displayed in a museum commemorating a Christian utopian community of Aurora Mills, founded by Dr.Willian Keil.
A commenter wrote:
This quote today surprised me. I wonder if you know that quote is from Karl Marx? It was used a lot by Lenin and Stalin as part of the platform they developed for building a communist state? I've heard some say that Jesus was a Socialist. Do you also hold this view?
I had not realized that the quote originated with Karl Marx, but it did lead to one of my friends calling me "Comrade Belinda" last week. :) And my curiousity as I pondered the commenter's question led me to read about some of the Utopian Communities that rose and fell during the 19th century all over the U.S.
The Christian commune led by William Keil flourished until his death, and was a blessing to the surrounding community, becoming known for their excellence in cooking, herbal healing and crafts. They shared the abundant fruit of their hard work with the "outside world" and as a result, members of the commune were held in high regard. Before he died, Dr. Keil began to transfer land into the names individual families, and after his death, the community peacefully worked out the remaining details of their dissolution.
As with some other similar Christian groups, the commune was held together by a leader with a charismatic personality, which was a weakness, but there were many strengths; and the descendants of the Aurora commune, many of whom still live in the area, tell of many years of peace and harmony, which ended well, by mutual assent, as if the experiment had run its course.
In contrast, I recently listened to Animal Farm on CD. The satirical novel by George Orwell was published in 1945 and reflected on the Stalin era.
"The novel addresses not only the corruption of the revolution by its leaders but also how wickedness, indifference, ignorance, greed and myopia destroy any possibility of a Utopia." (Wikipedia)This morning at church, our pastor gave more insight on this topic as this was his text:
The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind! They didn't even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, "That's mine; you can't have it." They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them.The footnote in my Life Application Bible says that:
And so it turned out that not a person among them was needy. Those who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it. The apostles then distributed it according to each person's need.
Joseph, called by the apostles "Barnabas" (which means "Son of Comfort"), a Levite born in Cyprus, sold a field that he owned, brought the money, and made an offering of it to the apostles. (Acts 4:32-37, The Message)
None of these Christians felt that what they had was their own, and so they were able to give and share, eliminating poverty among them. They would not let a brother or sister suffer when others had plenty...The early church was able to share possessions and property as a result of the unity brought about by the Holy Spirit working in and through the believers' lives. This way of living is different from communism because (1) the sharing was voluntary; (2) it didn't involve all private property, but only as much as was needed; (3) it was not a membership requirement in order to be a part of the church. The spiritual unity and generosity of these early believers attracted others to them. This organizational structure is not a command, but it offers vital principles for us to follow.Thank you to the anonymous commenter who gave me so much cause for reflection this week! I have to conclude that "Utopia" ultimately evades us no matter how close we come, but the heart for true community is is in Jesus's prayer for future believers--and maybe community is truly in the heart.