All that is not given is lost. If everyone gave everything they had, everyone would have everything they need. After many years living among the homeless we have been given the solution to the problem. This solution, of course, goes way beyond most Liberal thought and beyond even the urge to communism, (though we have been called that). (“Why is it when we help the poor they call us saints, but when we ask why they’re poor they call us communists?” –Dom Helder Camara). All of this goes far beyond where most people are willing to go, we know, and that is just the problem with Utopia.
The social and political approach to Utopia has left the idea dead. No wonder modern writers trend toward dystopia – all that can go wrong will go wrong (and just when I thought it was going so well). And, looking at the long history of religious Utopia – the Puritans; the Shakers and so on, we see that that idea is also dead.
This leaves only one possibility – the Utopia of the Kingdom of God.
I once wrote an article that was rejected on the basis that, according to the editor, “The Church is not about Kingdom work, but about gathering for worship on Sundays.” This reduces the church to a worship center and as my wife said, “That’s just plain wrong.” Whether or not Christians are willing to come together once a week for an hour to worship God leaves the world unmoved. The only way for things to change is for us to lead in changing them. In addiction recovery groups I have run we said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.” Well, that seems to be what most people expect. “If I vote once every few years, everything will change. If I go to church on Sunday, everything will change. If I buy guns to protect myself and my family, everything will change. If I spend lots of money this Christmas season, everything will change. If I give a little to the poor this year, everything will change.” Here’s a news flash: That’s what has been happening for a long long time, and nothing has changed. Nothing will change, either.
Utopian thought as it grows from the Kingdom of God is not about wild-eyed revolution with blood running in the streets. (Nothing changes that way either). It is, rather, the growing up of the new within the shell of the old – eventually bursting its desiccated skin and sloughing it off – as a new order emerges that is not based upon certain rules or religious dogma, but which is based upon the actual ‘laws’ of love. Love others as you love yourself. Do to others what you would have them do to you. Easy to say. Not so easy to do.
I live in a Utopia that actually works. When I and others like me were ready to stop living the way of insanity and to actually live the way of change in the world, we stepped across some invisible barrier that had previously held us in place. Through our work with the poor we came to know the problems of the world first hand. Poverty. Selfishness. Addictions. Violence. All have been a part of our daily lives for many years. And we have found that the only way to solve these problems is to ‘be’ the New Testament Church. Only in self-suffering nonviolent love can we find the solution to these problems. If we are to solve the problem of war and violence, we must live the way of nonviolence in our own lives. (We have not solved the world’s addiction to war, but we have solved it for ourselves – we do not participate). If we want to solve the Gulf oil spill, we must drive a small car or walk or ride bicycles. If we want to solve the problem of resource shortages, we must recycle everything and touch the world lightly. If we are to solve the problem of hunger, we must grow and share our food. We conserve water by capturing rain water and using it for the garden. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
If Utopia is ever to be anything but an abstract idea, we have to begin to actually live it. By my experiences I am in a unique position to write about Utopia from direct experience. I intend to use these experiences to illuminate the final volume of my novel in four parts.
I do wish you a Merry Christmas and the best for the New Year. I know I have not convinced you with this argument. (How few have actually listened to us over the years – sigh). But if you would drop everything and begin again, sharing everything… Well, your world would change today.
Love to you, Jim
I am not copyrighting this piece so that you may spread it far and wide among your friends if you wish. I do invite your comments or further discussion. I’d like to hear your thoughts on Utopia. Thanks.