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The Law of Love – Part 2 of 4

July 21, 2013

Our founder’s role

Unlike the youth he was reaching, our founder was born decades earlier and came from the conservative south. In his own words:

We were redneck Texans & we thought all hippies were Communist drug criminals who ought to be lined up against the wall & mowed down!–Ha! Can you imagine us, Texans, going out to minister to the hippies?! I was a little doubtful about it at first, but my Mother said, “You just don’t understand. These are good kids, a lot of them come from good homes etc., they’re just down & out & on drugs & whatnot, they just need the Lord.”

David did go, understood the situation and had a radical turn around. He later attributed his change to his encounter with us, the youth of the counter-culture, as well as to some spiritual experiences which he began to undergo. It’s from these that there came a series of “new wine” revelations, which had a profound impact on us. As wild and unorthodox as they were, to us they made sense, and lead us into a remarkable journey, individually as well as in global expansion.

Since then, many questions have been raised about the nature of such revelations, about the sincerity of David, as well as about the character of his leadership. With time, perspectives change and it is natural to question previous mindsets. From conversations, comments and posts that I read, from people who’ve been there through most of our history, I see that there are doubts about some aspects of his leadership. In spite of this, I also see that most people, me included, believe that he was sincere and that, somehow, God inspired him.

On the question as to whether David did succumb to personal weaknesses and to the temptation of power, it isn’t a matter that I can personally attest to. Those who’ve lived in direct contact with him might have more to offer on this. I can’t say, but I believe that TFI members, like me, who lived further from him, partook more of the effects of David, of what God inspired through him, and less of his human frailties.

In any case, we can safely assume that David would have had a mixture of motivations and not all of the noblest nature. That is to be expected but, normal as it may be, it’s obvious that negative traits would have been exacerbated by a monarchical structure. The lack of transparency and of a check and balance system, might have resulted in undue suffering for some.

While a prophetic style of leadership may have been necessary in the early stages, when most of our members were young and inexperienced, it was probably protracted too long. When David passed away, Maria and Peter naturally fell into the same role. Though a privileged position, it was also a most uncomfortable one, and at a most critical time.

I believe we’ve been spared from the details of the trials and difficulties that they had to face, most of which we couldn’t relate to anyway. All we can do is admire their sacrifice for the common good, but I can’t help but wonder if some earlier form of liberalization would have helped. Prisoners, as they were of their role, they probably did the best they could, but things were bound to change.

The inherent weakness of our old theocratic system was that it couldn’t allow dissent, nor accommodate differences, or encourage open dialogue. In political jargon, you’d say that it lacked transparency and a free press. Without broader participation, by resting mainly on the benevolent trust of its people, personal awareness and development were stifled; eventually it caused resentment, and this did us more damage than a bit of dissent would have.

Theocratic monarchies had their place in history, and might have had a role in ours as well. If God, however, was to always operate that way, then all directions and problem solving would also need to proceed in that same vertical, top-down, direction. This model can only be temporary, like that of a parent with a child, but if protracted too long it will result either in an immature baby-like adult, or in a resentful and rebellious one, both of which happened to us.

Group dynamics

In a group, personal motivation is never the same for everyone, at least not all the time. Personal problems become ever more of a challenge, when living communally. Freedom, nice in theory, becomes really hard to manage when building a society, and that’s what happened also with the LL; while at first it seemed simple and straight forward, eventually it ran into various misapplications. David, when explaining the simple premise of the LL, in 1974, had also foreseen this:

For where the spirit of the lord is there is liberty”–total and complete freedom from the bondage of the law into total and complete freedom of life and liberty through love!–It’s the liberating law of love that gives life–not the enslaving “letter of the law that killeth”.

Each age or generation of the church has taken another step or some new step toward such freedom from the harsh restrictions of the law to the total freedom of love through the grace of god; from material symbolisms and mechanised ceremonialism to spiritual realities and total spiritual liberty–“the spirits of just men set free!

It’s like giving a growing child a little more liberty at each new stage of development, a little more complicated and possibly even more dangerous toy, ushering in a new stage of growth and responsibility to see if he can be trusted with it.

Can you be trusted with it, or will you abuse it and use your liberty as license to do wrongfully and lustfully instead of rightfully and lovingly? Will you use it to heal and help, or harm and hinder? The answer is up to you: Are you so ruled by His Love that He can liberate you from the rules, or do you have to be kept under the law of works because you cannot be trusted with the liberty of His grace? The answer is up to you!

That question was actually harder to answer than we thought. As our group became bigger, more varied and complex, what seemed nice in principle became practically unmanageable. That’s what usually happens to social theories that work well on paper, or in a small group; when you actually apply them on a larger scale, they don’t. Such was our case, and though freedom and love remained our theoretical goal, because of human nature, we had to eventually regulate everything, to the tiniest detail. Paradoxically, having theorized about the Grace of the LL, we where then forced to write its Law.

Because no two individuals are ever at the same level of maturity, or share the exact same motivations, there obviously need to be some common standards for all. The question is which, as what may be right for a person, at a certain stage of life, will hardly translate into a rule for everyone else. That, in fact, was the next problem we ran into… legislating the LL in order to make it safe and applicable to all.

Just as the Old Testament laws could not force people to love God with all their hearts and minds, and New Testament doctrine could not produce perfect Christians, neither could the legislated LL produce the type of society we had envisioned.

Love and freedom are interdependent, mutually sustained, but neither can be legally imposed. Laws are default systems, safety nets under the trapeze, where love and freedom can fly. They are there to ensure the proper functioning of society, where love and freedom are not constant, but are personal matters and seldom apparent.

Laws have a shadow of the ideals that inspire them, but cannot contain the reality of it. The tendency, however, is to confuse the two and to think that the law will bring about the ideals it refers to. This was the mistake of many political systems, who thought that by forceful persuasion, rules and re-education, they could bring about heaven on earth. It usually resulted in the opposite.

All societies, who tried to create uniformity of thought and behaviour, through legislation, found dissent intolerable, heretical, subversive and contrary to the “good of the people”; they banned, prosecuted, exiled, and excommunicate dissenters and, to a lesser degree, it happened also with us.

As we met problems, in our experimenting with the LL, we defaulted to creating an ever increasing number of rules. Our motives were right, which were to prevent people from getting hurt, so we developed a legal safety net around the LL. The fact is that such measures existed already, in the legal systems of most countries we lived in, to which it might have been better to defer. By developing our own laws, instead, we solved some problems but created bigger ones, because we further institutionalized that which should have remained a question of faith.

In our effort to create the perfect society, we had become very inward-looking. David’s writings had been very central, our main source of guidance and inspiration. Some were purely theoretical, spiritual and inspirational, others were detailed instruction on how to run almost anything. Since the idea of the LL had come from David, we naturally thought that any corrections should come in the same format.

Now, I think that it would have been best to lessen that institutional authority, and consider the LL a doctrine, an idea, a theology, a compass for life, a goal to aim for, but letting love and freedom be matters of personal choice, to be applied with discretion and within the framework of existing legal systems.

Instead, we created a complex system of rules, aimed at making the LL socially viable and safe for all and, by so doing, we actually embedded it into a constitution of sorts. The rules, plus the peer pressure associate to it, rendered it almost a compulsory practice, which denied its very essence.

It was that age-old endeavour to replicate the kingdom of God on earth, an old pitfall, in which many have fallen before us. It is that discovering of a brilliant idea and thinking that, of course, everyone must like it; it only takes the proper indoctrination, a cultural revolution, a little legislation and then everyone will wish to do it right from the heart. Nothing further from it, “a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”, and that’s exactly what we discovered with our own children. After all, if that’s how God wanted things to be done, he would have done it long ago, and the world would be different.

An imposed LL, by whatever means, becomes and unbearable duty, or a law of lust, an excuse to dispose of an unwanted mate, to abdicate responsibility towards others and so forth. When institutionalized, it becomes something else and is easily misunderstood. Strange ideas can suddenly appear legal, or allowed, if sanctioned by “authority”, and personal conscience becomes easily overridden.

Thus, the LL met its religious clone, an institutional rendition of it, and this is what brought its demise; not because it was wrong, as an ideal, as a compass for life, but simply because it could never be imposed, through persuasion, legislation or any other means. It was, it is and could only continue to be a belief and a vision for a better life, one more fit for the world to come, than for this one. It was something good, worth knowing, understanding and growing towards, even in this life, but nothing more.

Religiously speaking, that’s what we do in so many ways, like loving God with all our hearts and minds and strength, or loving others as ourselves. You can’t impose that, no matter how many commandments you write; it’s simply something we aim for, those who want to, but which nobody ever reaches to completely. That’s what many things are for, to be visions that propel us onward, towards being better people, but which would disappear at the very moment in which one tries to recreate them with their own tools.

Positive effects

There is a bright side, even to our failed experiments. If we believe that God has a plan for this world, it shouldn’t be difficult to believe that He had one for us too. It is up to us, now, to understand it and realize it.

What is clear is that none could have foreseen all the effects and consequences that we came across. We had a romanticized idea of ourselves, but success and failure are part and parcel of any endeavour, and ours was a daring one. Yes, some might argue: “That’s exactly the problem! We shouldn’t have been so daring, but should have stuck to the Bible alone and to orthodox theology”. Well… if we did, we wouldn’t have been at all.

Unless we had stepped out of the box, we wouldn’t have known what’s out there. Now we know that there is plenty more, and that the box it’s not where it’s at. Unless we had theorized and experimented with the LL, failures and all, we would have never known what it was. We would have never had the opportunity to see God work through it, to know that it was His idea, even if some only experienced the counterfeit part and got hurt.

IF we hadn’t tried, we would have never gotten out of the ditch into which Christianity got stuck. We would have never recognized the absurdity of so much that is deemed “Christian”, but which is merely human tradition and binds people to unnecessary burdens. We would have never discovered the joy and freedom into which the love of God can lead; we would have never conceived it, much less begun to grow towards it.

Traditional religious schemes would have never allowed us to try that, not even theorize about it. In their order of ideas God is a book, a tradition, a system and not really love. Love is listed as one of His attributes, but only way down the line, along with wrath, justice and a host of other traits. In their inflexible orthodoxy, one cannot even be a Christian unless he first subscribe to their schizophrenic image of God, an endorser of Jewish tribalism, religious genocides, Roman imperialism, as well as of the gospel. Orthodoxy, their form of it, is their God, and they can’t even imagine that He could be different, that he could actually be Love, and that from that could flow His other attributes.

In their orthodoxy, love has limits. God’s love cannot win in the end, but sin and death will. Most of humanity will cry forever in eternal flames, without hope of redemption, and only a few will experience God’s eternal (sic) love. That because the wrath of God is made out to be bigger than His love and His justice is denied. I thank God that, in our particular experience, that monstrous religious box was broken, that Love regained its primacy and led us past the old religious schemes.

Good or bad or a bit of both, it matters not. What matters is that God used David to free us from many negative by-products of religion, such as hypocrisy, false humility, pretended spirituality, ritualism, literalism, legalism, and many others. It is true that we did also turn our new-found liberty into a legalistic religious form, that we also began to develop our own version of these, but that was to be expected. In any case, in spite of whatever new boxes we did also construct, the old one was broken for good and could no longer fool us.

Even our mistakes outside of that box allowed us to grow further. It is now up to us to see which of our own boxes need breaking as well, and find the way to go.

(End of part 2 of 4)

From → David, Law of Love

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