Christian Intentional Communities in Kansas

Social Justice

Social justice and charity programs are an integral part of many 21st century Christian intentional communities.  For many of these intentional Christians, faith is best lived through a commitment to caring for the poor.  Chris quotes biblical support for this idea, stating:

“The bible says if you have two coats, give one away. That was nonnegotiable. It wasn’t like, you should give some clothes or something. “You sort of grew out of this brand, so why don’t you give it away?” Its like no, if you own two of something, one of those things belongs to not you. You shouldn’t own more than those things if you see someone in need.” (Husbands interview, 2014)

While Chris’ thoughts about social justice are straightforward, and can be accomplished by an individual, other Christian intentional community members prefer more organized social justice programs.  Joshua Smith, when planning his intentional community with his wife, Alyssa, envisioned providing a free seminary as part of his social justice outreach:

“So I thought “How about Common Grounds Seminary of Greater Kansas City?” So we could get people together and do these little seminars, and have professors come in, but gear it toward people who are maybe not inclined to pursue a really expensive seminary education, make theology more accessible. And that fell through as well, just lack of interest and lack of support.” (Joshua Smith interview, 2014)

Alyssa Smith, however, echoes her support for Chris’ style of social justice and charity work—she envisions social justice as a “natural outpouring” (Alyssa Smith interview, 2014) of forming relationships within a community:

“I also have a lot of admiration for communities like Lotus House, where they sort of impact the community just by existing in it. They develop relationships with the people in their neighborhood, and if their neighbor can’t pay their electric bill they come to them and help them out—it’s not so formalized. Or, systemized in that way. It’s a more natural outpouring of the relationships that they have with those people.” (Alyssa Smith interview, 2014)

For 21st century christian intentional community members, much of the importance of social justice comes from a desire to live as Jesus did, and to see Jesus himself in the “the poor, the destitute, the outcast” (Lonnie interview, 2014).  Lonnie, of Cherith Brook, elaborates on this idea:

“Part of it is just the—we try to see Jesus incognito in everyone. We try to see Jesus in you. But most of all, I can see Jesus in the poor, the destitute, the outcast. Which…Jesus was homeless. He was homeless too. He was beloved by the poor. It’s an amazing thing. A lot of the people who come in here are in a bad space. Their camp was raided maybe, someone came in and stole from them, maybe it was cold and they had no place to get warm, it was raining and so they were wet and cold, maybe they couldn’t get to another food kitchen for supper so they come in hungry. Maybe their last pair of shoes fell apart on the way here. These are people who are on the edge of life. And no matter what their mood, we realize that Christ is at work behind their eyes. So I’m gonna do what I can.” (Lonnie interview, 2014)

Ultimately, the majority of this new wave of christian intentional communities can be characterized by a concern for social justice and charity work.  Though the incarnation of these programs differs, and each group may have a specific ideology about how best to provide for the poor, the commitment to improving the lives of the poor remains the same.

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