Challenges faced by Hutterian Brethren
Written by: Hutterites on Monday, June 4th, 2012
This post is not about King Ranch Colony or our non Hutterite friends. Its about the real challenges that we the Hutterian Brethren are facing today.
Before continuing, I would like to present a qualifier. An interpretation of a people by a person from outside of the group has certain dangers, even if the outsider is sympathetic, as some outsiders most assuredly are. However, I know of the dangers of outside interpretations from reading Hutterite history and sociology. Some interpreters are sympathetic but their reports are still quite skewed. Others are less than sympathetic, and obviously highly biased. Interpretations of those from within the group may be sympathetic or negatively biased, but they carry the weight of experience that an outsider cannot bring to the discussion.
The Hutterian Brethren’s vision is to live a meaningful community life as Christ did with his disciples, attempting to live out our lives being forgiving and tolerant towards our fellow man, which is something that we live towards, but which is not always achievable. I’d like to say that we too are human and an imperfect people who from time to time make mistakes and we certainly don’t claim to be utopians.
To understand the Hutterite culture, it is helpful to understand the foundations of the system. Above all, Hutterites try to be true to their understanding of the Gospel. Hutterites are New Testament people and their ideal is to live by the ideals of the Sermon on the Mount. An examination of one of their earliest proverbs will help in this understanding. “Die Gemeinschaft wär nicht schwer, wenn Eigennutz nicht wär.” (Community and fellowship would not be hard, if self-seeking were not there.) The early Hutterites regarded personal private property as the greatest enemy of faithful discipleship. Discipleship meant following Christ in the church, with your brothers and sisters. The purpose of life of individuals was to serve each other and the “Gemeinde”. This would bring glory to God and be a witness to the world. All of life was to be brought under the rule of Christ. By serving each other, Hutterites, and other Christians, served God. The question here is this: are we this light on the hill which does good deeds so that Gods name will be glorified?
Yes, good or bad, I am born and bred Hutterite, with some of my ancestors having arrived here in 1874. Between the age of fifteen and twenty five I read the Bible through from cover to cover and was left with many questions. My Father was my mentor and I think two things were instilled in me by him: a love for God’s word and an understanding that every verse has both a practical application and a spiritual lesson. My Father’s conservative approach towards life reminds me of my childhood and is comforting.
The Church needs to be led by the Holy Spirit, needs to consider many factors, but first and foremost must be God’s Word, then the convictions of its members, the lessons of history, traditions and practices of godly forefathers, and present dangers and trends. But the individual must yield to the brotherhood or there can be no New Testament (Christian) Church.
The big challenge is to maintain faith, order and discipline. If these disappear, ruin is inevitable. A church that loses its members is a sign of a dying church. The foundation of Hutterianism is wholly religious. The practice of having all things in common is a success so long as faithful life in the Brotherhood flourishes and Christian Love prevails and manifests itself in a spirit of humble service. When true Christianity is permitted to wane and depart, the community life becomes an unbearable burden and fails utterly. Love is important at all times—especially in times of need. There is in Hutterite theology the potential to challenge the human family to address one of the issues that has caused enormous grief and warfare among the sons of Adam. The battle between good and evil forces is ongoing: which side will win? The forces that tear down or the forces that build up. How the story will end is left for each succeeding generation to determine.
My issues is not with the individuals but with the weak Church. I can simply not understand how when something is written as clear as day in scripture, that an eight years old can understand it, how they teach the exact opposite. People will do as people do and each will stand alone on judgement day, but what hope do they have in a dying church. As leaders we should be inspired to teach our children what’s morally right, of our faith in Christ, great traditions and heritage, so that they will not be a burden to family, society or to God.
Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). Without knowing our faith we don’t understand our purpose, and without purpose there is no future. The future of the Hutterite people depends on their ability to use all that God has given them (including technology) in harmony with their pure church vision and on their commitment to being God’s faithful people in a wicked world.
I understand that some Hutterites, or many, as the case may be, will not be strict in observing God’s word, we are but human and we live and die in the blink of an eye. But the church and its teachings remain and so long as that is unchanging and steadfast, each generation has a chance to repent and return to the Word, but when the church falls and becomes worldly, what chance does the next generation have? You can’t return to what does not exist.
So my concern would be the defense of the teachings of the church, to contend for the faith once delivered, to ensure that people do not corrupt the church with false teachings and cause the church to fall and become a synagogue of satan. How people live their lives is their concern. God in His wisdom has given us freedom of choice and I certainly do not have permission from God to remove their freedom or to enforce God’s word. This task has been assigned to the church as a body and not to any individual like the pope or such like. But I believe the word of God instructs us to stand firm on His Word and not to compromise it with false teachings. I try to point out error in false teachings to the best of my limited knowledge and if people feel that I am trying to force them into doing something against their will, they should know, it is not I but the word of God.
So yes based on my upbringing and my life experiences, I think I have a very good understanding of Hutterites and the Christian Hutterite way of life, which may not be perfect, but it certainly is the way I and many other faithful have chosen to live. I am not sure what is the best way to communicate that living on a colony provides for our most basic needs, to belong and contribute to something larger than ourselves.
I know for some this may not sound very appealing, but really we are all the same just living out the challenge in different ways. We labor, worship, relax, chat and have fun wanting to live in peace with our loved ones, as well as our neighbors. I would like for my comments to reflect the similarities of the human existence that unites us. We are all God’s children looking for ways to support each other through life’s journey. When we behave this way we feel more connected to our Creator and that is truly the only way to experience any degree of freedom. Isn’t that what you would want for your children?