Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Serving Communal Meals

240,000 Americans lost their jobs in October 2008. Unemployment is now at 6.5%. There are numerous ideas floating around but most of them do not make any economic sense. I have noted that the only solution that will work when the economy has a debt crisis is the forgiveness of debt. Another stimulus package merely creates more debt. Hopefully the politicians are studying the solutions that have worked in prior debt crises. However I am more interested in what the response of the church will be and whether or not the response will be theologically motivated.

Rodney Stark in The Rise of Christianity discussed the impact of Christian theology on the growth of the church. The Jerusalem community survived the famines of the forties no doubt due to the unusual kind of love it practiced. This radical idea is that God loves and cares for people and thus they are expected to love and care for each other.[1] Stark does not connect the practices of the Jerusalem community depicted in Acts 2:41-47 and 6:1-6 with the practices he described as attributing to the growth and success of the Christian Church. These practices included “making sure everyone had enough to eat, rejecting abortion and infanticide, nursing the sick through plagues and epidemics and the physical hazards of ordinary urban life simply meant that more people survived and had longer life expectancies than the general population.”[2]

Finger quoted Stark: “It was not simply the promise of salvation that motivated Christians, but the fact they were greatly rewarded here and now for belonging. Thus while membership was expensive, it was, in fact a bargain. That is, because the church asked much of its members, it was thereby possessed of resources to give much. For example, because Christians were expected to aid the less fortunate, many of them received such aid, and all could feel greater security against bad times.... Because they were asked to love others, they were in turn loved.... In similar fashion, Christianity greatly mitigated relations among social classes --- at the very time the gap between the rich and poor was growing.”[3]

Finger has thoroughly examined the Jerusalem “community of goods” tradition, challenging traditional interpretations of the Jerusalem church and proving that the communal sharing lasted for hundreds of years longer than previously assumed.

Restoring the practices discussed in detail by Finger and Stark is something the church ought to consider. The church that implements such a radical act of love deserves to be called a community of love.

Copyrighted 2008

[1] Stark, 86-88.

[2] Finger, Of Widows and Meals, (2007), 142.

[3] Stark, 188.


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