“All who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44)
In this chapter of Kluge’s article he more or less repeats some of the same reproaches as before which does not change the fact that they are false.
Living together in live-in communities, as has already been mentioned (II.), came about because many of us had already moved away from our home towns and villages because of our education or profession. Moreover this lifestyle has undoubtedly many advantages for community life. We can make much better use of our money and our time by living together in a larger household than in many separate flats. It also enables us not only to meet in the evenings but also to begin the day together in common prayer.
In the same way meeting with brothers and sisters from other towns or countries is beneficial and edifying for all of us. Our common talks about God’s word and our personal experience help us to get to know God and each other more deeply. Sharing our experience of nature also deepens our relationship with our creator.
There is nobody who plans who will walk with whom. We are adults and do not need someone to make our decisions for us “from above”.
When Kluge accuses us of not allowing married couples to separate themselves from the “Group” in any way he puts the cart before the horse. Someone who joined the community voluntarily does not want to isolate himself. The same is true for believing married couples. The relationship between the community and a family can perhaps be compared with the relationship between an extended family and a nuclear family, as was common in former centuries. The “nucleus” of the family was integrated into a larger circle of grandparents, uncles, aunts etc. In the same way, a family within the community is integrated into the community like in an extended family. This kind of lifestyle naturally requires people to overcome their selfishness and is only possible on the basis of a completely voluntary decision.
Our critic acknowledges that “community and the feeling of togetherness within the Group is therefore very intensive and dictated by great sincerity and honesty“, yet in the same sentence he questions “whether any real personal relationships can exist”. He does not explain at all how these two contradictory statements fit together.
Whatever he means by “real personal relationships”, such intensive “community and the feeling of togetherness … dictated by great sincerity and honesty” among people of such different backgrounds shows that God is at work here.
To which other groups which Kluge considers to be churches would he so confidently attribute these characteristics, not to mention all the official “church members” who live their own separate lives?
In response to the reproach that we require separation from all previous social networks, we want to make it clear that we distinguish between fellowship with believers and other relationships. 2 Corinthians 6:14 and the following verses speak about the impossibility of spiritual fellowship with unbelievers, but this does not mean separation from all previous social networks. Each one of us has many relationships with people in the “outside world”. We do not strive to break off relationships with parents and family from the outset. In many cases it is the intolerant behaviour of the family which makes any kind of relationship impossible. What is clear is that when a person’s priorities change the emphasis in his relationships will also change. A radical separation from all relationships, as was (at least in the past) demanded by some Catholic Monastic Orders, is not our aim and is something we reject.
It is not the “restriction of communication with the outside world” that enables us to focus more on “communication within the Group”, but setting spiritual priorities and experiencing fellowship with the brothers and sisters leads to a reduction of superficial “relationships with the outside world”. At the same time, we endeavour to put our relationships, which were previously built on a superficial base, onto a solid foundation. Personal relationships can only be deep when God is in the centre. That is the only way we can help each other even in our problems.
We endeavour, as Kluge correctly comments, to live a simple lifestyle. This is something he assesses positively in his closing remark as well. Contrary to some Catholic movements (like Francis of Assisi), we do not consider poverty to be an end in itself.
“… but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (1 Timothy 6:8-10)
“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24)
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
Since our treasure is in heaven the earthly things are not in the centre. We want to use all the material gifts with gratitude for a modest life. Poverty is not the goal of our life, but next to the great treasure that Jesus has given us the significance of the earthly goods fades in comparison.
We do not want to obey any human fashion-dictators but God, who “clothed us in garments of salvation” (Isaiah 61:10).
We do not have any secret sources of income. We live from what we earn. The fact that we share our possessions and live a modest lifestyle means that some money remains for greater purchases such as for our vans, which are necessary for our meetings. Even if this “raises some questions” for Kluge, we have nothing to hide. Such questions should rather be asked of the Catholic church and its history.
We greatly enjoy the creation with all its God given beauty. Our walks, described as being “extremely long”, usually last a little over three hours, and occasionally four to five hours (if there is an especially nice route). Brothers and sisters who find this too exhausting take a shorter route. Many of us have jobs where we sit for hours, and some are students. So some physical exercise combined with conversation and spiritual fellowship is very beneficial.
Concerning the rejection of festivals and celebrations – we have already explained our point of view thoroughly. It is inappropriate to compare this with Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose life is full of formalism.
The reproach that we proclaim our “lifestyle to be in accordance with the will of God and demand that each person adopt this lifestyle” is based on a false premise. The initial question always has to be: What is God’s will? This is the starting point for the way we live our lives. In the Bible we do not find any model lifestyle that could be applied unchanged to our circumstances. Instead, taking into consideration all the demands and requirements of our current situation, we decide upon the best way to live so that all are edified.