The problem with Christianity is not that it has been tried & found wanting but that it has not been tried.
There are any number of interpretations of this tongue-in-cheek quote, but I was thinking about it today as I was reflecting on a book that I have just started reading and which I bought at the gift shop at the Quinta last week.
Entitled God’s Revolution, it is authored by John Howard Yoder (the author of The Politics of Jesus) but is actually a selection of quotes, selected by members of the Bruderhof movement, from the work of its founder, Eberhard Arnold. I have only read Yoder’s foreword so far. Like Bonhoeffer, Arnold is a really scary writer – demanding to a degree that makes our flabby modern Christian lives look very meagre. But, unlike Bonhoeffer, whose Lutheran background and circumstances kept him closer to a pietist tradition, Arnold understood that the implications of the Sermon on the Mount and its first century interpretation in the book of Acts was a radical communal lifestyle that would impact society in a strongly political way. I warm to this way of thinking, and seek glimpses of it wherever I can. Much of the creation-stewardship teaching of Wendell Berry leans this way, and certainly, any evangelical faith that does not impact on the political life of the culture around it is questionable, particularly in the west where we have amazing religious freedom.
Looking into the Bruderhof a little more, I had not really clocked that one of the links we have with them in school is that we use a lot of their furniture in our Foundation classes, designed and made by Community Playthings. Community Playthings are one of the oldest companies still supplying furniture to UK schools, and are rooted in the community living that Arnold espoused through his radical exposition of the Sermon on the Mount. It made me glad that we had supported this company and hopeful that we could do so again in the future.
Today I had the opportunity to pray for a child in some distress, helped by a Christian lady who volunteers at our school. It was a glimpse for me of what might one day become a reality – of a school, bearing Jesus’ name, able to be a channel not only for education but also the power of God into the broken communities we are trying to serve. This might be too radical for some. For Eberhard Arnold, I suspect it was just a toe in the water.
I am looking forward to reading the book, but may have to take it more slowly than I had hoped. The teachings may be more in the line of an assault than an encouragement!