Community and just conviviality
Ruth and her husband belong to an intentional Christian community, Casa Adobe, in Costa Rica. The community is learning what it means to live as actors in a story of a good creation in which all forms of life can flourish, by sharing meals, relocating refugees, gardening in an urban setting, getting involved in community organizing and hosting music nights. She says,
If we had to title the predominant story people around the world live today, it would be called ‘Global Consumerism.’ The love of stuff justifies consuming people in the name of production, progress, and the maintenance of privilege. It also justifies the voracious plunder of our planet with no regard for the delicately balanced web of life, its most vulnerable members, or for the living conditions of future generations. And it eats away at our very soul, deafening us to the cries of the people, the cry of the earth, the cry of God’s Spirit in us. It shrivels up our imagination, so we succumb impassively to the status quo.
When the gears of global capitalism smash the great majorities, when the aridity of consumption calcifies hearts and incinerates consciences, when the agro-industrial machinery grinds down forests, commodifies water, and enslaves entire people groups, when structures of repression fabricate a world of superficial make-believe and ignore the crude reality, we need to tune into God’s Spirit. The Spirit is the revealer of truth, singer of life, denouncer of death, who shakes the sleeper and awakens dreams. The Spirit names and, in naming, discovers, uncovers, and reveals the heart of darkness under the varnish of our ‘developed’ world. God’s Spirit hovered over the waters breathing creation into being. God’s Spirit inspired and empowered the prophets of old to tear off religious facades and call God’s people back to their true identity. God’s Spirit anointed Jesus to tell and live the truth of God’s love all the way to the cross.
That same Spirit of truth is in all Jesus’ followers today. The Spirit of truth makes Jesus present for his followers today so that we too might tell and live the truth of God’s life-giving love amidst our self-filled, hate-filled, and fear-filled world that is blindly running itself off the precipice.
Living justly together as part of the living planetary community requires both concerted counter-cultural action and a re-casting of our imagination: not one without the other. How we respond to questions like ‘What is life for?’ ‘What is the good life?’ ‘What and who is valuable?’ determines our practices. And our committed practices nourish the necessary questions.
In Casa Adobe, patterns of communal prayer disquiet our natural tendencies to conform to the status quo and send us into action. Reducing our carbon footprint by sharing household appliances, limiting consumption and simplifying our lives, gardening, and organizing the community to carry out a river clean-up, all these actions push us back on our knees in humble acknowledgement of our limitations.
I am convinced that the re-casting of relationships between us as humans and of humanity with the rest of the living community requires that we step out of the individualistic matrix of single homes and private property. Far from slight tweaks here and there, the condition of our planet demands re-casting and embodying diverse forms and experiments of community sharing. Will you dare to imagine living a new story with me?