This article is Lillian Daniels’ response to Marcus Mumford’s (of Mumford and Sons) claim that he follows Jesus, but doesn’t call himself a Christian. While I deeply respect the talent and intellect of Mumford and Sons and think their songs speak to a young generation of Christians trying to live out their faith as “works in progress,” I’m deeply disappointed by his statement. Lillian Daniels’ response highlights some of the reasons why community, (in our case, intentional community), is so important and yet so risky. Does the Christian Church have problems? Absolutely. It’s full of humans. Can we know Christ apart from a community of other people? If there’s a way to do that, I don’t know it.
Is it possible that intentional community is an antidote to the problems Lillian Daniels outlines in her article, “Spiritual, But Not Religious? Please Stop Boring Me” (find the full article here: http://www.ucc.org/feed-your-spirit/daily-devotional/spiritual-but-not-religious.html). Namely, the problem Marcus Mumford illustrates, that the younger generation is having a harder and harder time claiming their identity as part of a religious group. They (I suppose, we) don’t want to be associated with the mistakes of the institutionalized church, but have not given up on God. However, as Daniels says, “Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn’t interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself.” And, to put it more pointedly, “Thank you for sharing, spiritual but not religious . . . person. You are now comfortably in the norm for self-centered American culture, right smack in the bland majority of people who find ancient religions dull but find themselves uniquely fascinating.”
Intentional community is, at least, an antidote to the perceived “dullness” of ancient religions. There is very little that is “dull” about living intentionally with four other people (I recall with a shudder our chore chart debacle). It may be frustrating, excruciating and exhausting, but it’s also rich, provocative and very, very human. With all the work that we’re doing simply to live together, and the richness and the beauty that comes from our prayer, our meals and our work together, I simply don’t have time for people who tell me they are individually spiritual. After all, we’re reminded every time we take communion, “we who are many are now one body.” Jesus asks us to be one, together. Not to be the same person, mind you, but to knit our individual selves together, with all of our opinions and beliefs and baggage, into one body through the cross. Is it costly? Yes. Is it risky? Definitely. Is it painful? Sometimes. But living in community has sparked in all of us a rich and deep longing to be pulled deeper and further into the body of Christ, together. And I’ll take that aching longing over safe and easy individual spirituality any day.