It is the 13th of September 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Today we dip back into the mailbag for a question—granted, an open question, but the topic is fascinating, and so Trevor in Syracuse gets another suggestion and shout out- he wrote:
“Have you ever discussed the Bruderhof movement? I just discovered it and it is terribly interesting. I see they have German roots and were influenced by some Lutheran pietists.”
We have never talked about the Bruderhof specifically and this is a fascinating community that has been in the news in the past year or so- so, who are the Bruderhof?
Let’s let them tell us, this is from them:
“We are an intentional Christian community of more than 2,900 people living in twenty-three settlements on four continents. We are a fellowship of families and singles, practicing radical discipleship in the spirit of the first church in Jerusalem. We gladly renounce private property and share everything in common. Our vocation is a life of service to God, each other, and you.”
The group was founded in Germany in 1920 by Eberhard and Emmy Arnold. They had lived through World War 1 and suffered the disillusionment common to so many young people, especially in Germany.
Like many in Germany, the Arnolds became part of naturalist and youth movements which led them to purchase land and live in a small community of like-minded believers.
“Bruderhof” might sound familiar if you’ve studied Anabaptist history as this was the same name used by the Hutterites (named after Anabaptist Martyr Jacob Hutter).
On account of their pacifism and refusal to be conscripted they would be hounded by the nascent Nazi party and would flee to England. The problem was, however, that on the eve of World War 2 a German Community in England was not welcomed (and especially one such that practiced communal living).
The only country that would take in a group of German, English, and Swiss refugees during the war was Paraguay. In Paraguay, the mission of the community began to splinter. After the successful construction and operation of a hospital that served the Bruderhof and local population, some believed that they were focusing too much on external civic works and not enough on personal renewal. Many in the group would move to the United States where a number of communities still exist today (mostly in the Northeast). Over the past 2 decades, communities have also reemerged in Germany, England, and Paraguay.
IN the past year or so the British Media has been fascinated with the English Bruderhof communities. A BBC Special and a long-form article in the Guardian revealed an interesting look at how a secular media might look at an intensely spiritual community that at first glance might look like Amish at best or a cult at worst.
The author of the article in the Guardian wrote: In the radical religious community, no one owns or earns anything, everyone sings constantly and the booze flows freely. Where are the drawbacks?”
The BBC Documentary is a little more suspicious and was criticized by some in the Bruderhof community and beyond. The Bruderhof are careful with the technology they use, but I have found their Youtube page to have a surprisingly pleasant and professional collection of videos explaining their positions and reacting to recent media.
Back to the Guardian article, the author wraps up the theology and praxis of the Bruderhof nicely:
“In brief, it recognizes the Bible’s authority over everything, placing emphasis on the New Testament’s Acts 2 and 4 and the Sermon on the Mount, which direct followers to embrace communal living and lifelong service to others.”
I could not be a member of this community for many reasons. Many reasons.
I’m not sure where examples from Acts fit into the regulative life of the church. But rooting your theology and practice in the Sermon on the Mount certainly has a long tradition across Christian bodies.
Ultimately, Christians and Christian bodies tend to find their emphases by teasing out those verses and doctrines that they believe regulate the rest. All doctrines and verses are not treated equally, it would be impossible (and inadvisable) to try and do so.
“So you might ask, why is one/any group of believers so different from me?” Are they just wrong and dumb, or might there be a conversation about texts, doctrines, and authorities?
The last word for today is from the 9th chapter of the Gospel of John:
9 As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 Jesus’ disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?”
3 Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents. This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him. 4 While it’s daytime, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 After he said this, he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smeared the mud on the man’s eyes. 7 Jesus said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (this word means sent). So the man went away and washed. When he returned, he could see.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 13th of September 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man whose favorite “Hofs” include the Bruder, the Hut, and the Hassel, He is Christoper Gillespie.
The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.