I applaud those who want to make their community a better place to live. Followers of Christ are called to do just that. But how? Ah, that’s where the responses get interesting.
Historically, America has been a breeding group for utopian communities, groups working to build a perfect society from the ground up. Between 1825 and 1860, America had close to 100 utopian communities, each one built on different ideals and principles. But where are they today? The one consistent thread tying all these communities together was failure. Sociologists can give you their reason for failure, but I want to look at their history from a biblical perspective.
This is the third of a three-part series, looking at three of these utopian societies.
In my two previous posts about the failure of these utopian societies, I noted that, despite their strong desire for harmony and unity, they failed. We can give lip service all day long to the notion of harmony, but human nature, being what it is, always leads us into selfishness and self-centeredness. Instead of harmony, these communities in the first half of the nineteenth century broke apart with a good dose of conflict and hostility.
I’m not the only one who has watched these social experiments with both curiosity and a conviction of why they failed. Two men were contemporaries of those who attempted these utopian communities. From a distance, they watched with interest and formed their own opinions on how to succeed. They agreed with utopian leaders like Robert Owen and Charles Fourier that capitalism was the root of greed and employers were atrocious in the way they treated their employees. These two young men drew their own conclusions, so they put their heads together and crafted a document that was read by more people than all the utopian leaders combined could ever hope to reach. They wrote the Communist Manifesto.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ answer to the ills of society was just the opposite of the utopian dreamers’ answers. Instead of harmony among the people, they preached conflict. They promoted overturning society with its class structure. By their reasoning, society’s leaders can then force people to live and work together.
There was nothing utopian about their beliefs, and we have over a century of history as proof that communism doesn’t work. When communism reigns, its leaders try to force people to see themselves as equal—all working for the good of the state—but this approach breeds a dissatisfaction that communism has no answer for. People may live in a “communal” structure where they are forced to share, but they do not share harmony or contentment.
So what’s the best way to structure society? All forms of government are flawed. Even ours. Wait! How can you say that of the good ol’ US of A?! We’re the greatest country that ever was!! At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, I will admit our form of government—a democratic republic—is also flawed, but it’s still the best form of government we’ve got. It’s flawed because its leaders are flawed, voted on and put into office by flawed people.
There’s only one form of government that is truly good, and that is a theocracy: a nation where God is the rightful head and lord. It is a dictatorship, but it is run by a “dictator” who loves us supremely and provides for us the greatest good. We will not experience this perfect government and environment for communal living until Christ returns and sets up His eternal kingdom.
I will not go searching for the ideal community in this life. It doesn’t exist. The love of Christ compels me to work for the benefit of others, and as I do so, I will point people to the ideal, perfect community they can experience one day in Christ.
“Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).
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