Another fine reflection with Desperation. The bottom line seems to be what we do to create an alternative lifestyle so that Christianity can survive in our life. What alternative can we offer to secular society?
The most “intensive” kind of Christian community is the monastery, typically following the Rule of St Benedict and financing itself through running a business, getting tax perks and donations from the few old ladies who are still of this world. Communities for married people and families? There seem to be a number of Evangelical and Charismatic communities dotted around, depending on various institutional Churches and served by their priests and pastors.
It (Christianity) must offer an alternative to the West.
Perhaps there is no room for Christians in the west. If not, where? I have always been attracted to the ideal of alternative and micro economies. The trouble is that many such communities fall victim to malignant narcissistic personalities and become cults. Many intentional communities have democratic systems of government to prevent that happening. Such communities would have to be strictly lay, because having them run by priests would link them to this or that institutional Church and therefore with the said malignant narcissistic personalities. Such an idea implies the basic ecclesial community popular in South America and linked with Liberation Theology.
My own intuition is that intentional communities are better based on practical considerations rather than religion or political ideology. There is nothing wrong with a priest deciding to live that way of life as a private individual and not hiding his priesthood, going to the extent of building a private chapel in or near his lodgings and allowing people to come to services if they want to. Surely, some of us need to get out of the modern world and live at the edges of the “grid”, take people as we find them and be very discreet with our religious and political messages. I am frankly very sceptical about any Christian communities other than monasteries and democratic lay systems. Monasteries are totalitarian and radically communist societies, which is fine if the monks accept that as their way of life and asceticism. The quality of a monastery depends on the personality of the abbot. I’m not sure there were any in the early Church, merely people living in towns and going to services where they were held.
Another way of thinking about this whole thing is continuing with modern life and living in the world, and going privately or secretly to the hidden churches wherever they might exist (priests’ homes perhaps). Forget about changing political and public institutions. Another way is to leave where we are living and go and live in Africa until the Muslims take over the entire continent – but be prepared for culture shock and racial discrimination!
Perhaps the kind of community I could relate to would be non-denominational and would come up with a line something like: We are Christians of different backgrounds and traditions, and only ask for people to be open to the spiritual outlook of life and respectful of those who are believers. Priests who belong to this or that institutional church are simple members like any other and have no authority by virtue of their priestly calling. They may be asked for their advice on the basis of their experience of life and knowledge of things useful to the community. Perhaps something like that might work. I would welcome ideas.