I’m always in the market for a cautionary tale, particularly one that illustrates the dangers that arise when an apparently good idea turns into a movement. Some movements become monstrous because the foundational ideas were not as good as they first appeared. But others become monstrous simply because they are movements, systems employed by men to take a good thing and build on it. The construction process itself repeatedly tempts the builders to unrighteousness; the builders yield, the central ideas behind the movement cannot hold, and things fall apart.
I don’t even rember the series of clicks this morning that led me to this particular cautionary tale where four principals in the home church movement call out a fifth principal, Gene Edwards, in what seems to me to be a restrained and moderate manner. There is surely more to the story, but I think it is fair to take some lessons from the events and behavior the essay describes.
I treasure cautionary tales like this one because much of my life has been caught up in exploring a good idea, namely agrarianism. I’m not even close to understanding the simple life, but my family and I have been greatly blessed by pursuing such an understanding, and so I have what I think is a loving desire to share those blessings with others. Fortunately for others (and for me) my understanding is still so spotty and shallow that I can’t bring myself to do the baseless speculation it would take to crank out an off-the-shelf system for living.
And that’s the lesson I need hammered into me repeatedly: don’t pontificate about what you haven’t lived. The danger isn’t that you’ll say something false. The danger is that you’ll say just enough true things to make others think that you know what you’re talking about in general. From there it’s very difficult not to yield to their encouragement to spout opinions about matters you haven’t actually lived out, that you know little or nothing about.
In my head I keep a list of good ideas, some inside the church and some outside, that were ruined by the movements built upon them. Those good ideas, sad to say, have been rejected by people who embraced those movements and were then burned by them. I hope that agrarianism doesn’t end up on that list, and I certainly don’t want to contribute to putting it there.