9. What Was Their Crime?
They were not satisfied with demands that the government do something about rectifying the imbalance of wealth in the world. Instead, they said that it was the job of individuals to boycott the entire economic system, by refusing to work for money. They said that a person's real faith in God would be evidenced by a willingness to trust God to feed and clothe them. By doing this, individuals would be making the strongest possible statement in favour of truth and justice; and they would find the time themselves to provide assistance where and when it was most needed, such as in the Third World.
They presented abundant evidence that their philosophy was supported by Jesus Christ himself, and they had the audacity to say that it could be practiced by anyone and by everyone.
"Men like Gandhi, Socrates, and Christ have had a mighty influence on history because they believed some things were more important than life itself," they stated in one of their most popular pamphlets (A New Economic Policy). It went on: "Just one such individual in the world today could make a big difference; and two or three... or even a dozen may be enough to start a spiritual revolution that could change the entire world."
These were fighting words to a world committed to a materialistic lifestyle. Even people who claimed to support their interest in justice were not prepared to make the kind of changes that the Rappville Christians were calling on people to make. The Rappvillians wanted people to put truth before their wealth, before their jobs, before their families, and before their reputations. Consequently, people who were not prepared to be that fanatical in their fight for justice and truth needed to come up with an answer for what the Rappville Christians were saying.
Some argued that they were crazy, that they were ratbags, that they were out of touch with reality. The churches argued that they were heretics, because they dared to pass judgment on mainstream Christianity, or because they were teaching more discipline than was spiritually healthy. But most chose merely to excommunicate them, and thus avoid the problem of debating the momentous issues that they had been trying to raise through all of their various "publicity stunts".
Excommunication, for the media, meant simply not covering anything that they did or said. Excommunication, for the churches, meant pretending that they did not exist, while quietly warning people to stay away from anyone handing out literature on the streets (especially if it contained cartoons, something for which the Rappville Christians had become famous).
For private individuals (including relatives and friends), excommunication meant avoiding contact with them, changing the subject if it touched on sensitive issues, and ignoring letters and phone calls. For many, it meant participating in the whispers and smears that have been used to label them a cult.
All of this combined to make the excommunication complete. It has happened many times throughout history. A group has been kicked out of the mainstream, and then been condemned for being "exclusive". And if the group has tried to work in with the mainstream, it has been accused of trying to infiltrate, and been kicked out all over again.
If the excommunicated group has tried to speak up in its own defence, what it has said has been labelled as propaganda. If the excommunicated group has shown signs of unity against the criticisms, it has been accused of being brainwashed, manipulated, and under the control of an evil leader. If there have been divisions within the group, they have been held up as evidence that the group's cause must be wrong.
And under it all has been the continuing dilemma that the microphone is totally controlled by the excommunicated group's opponents. The out-group has no way to communicate its position. And this is what the Rappville Christians were up against. The fact that they managed to say as much as they did was nothing short of miraculous.