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The Bohemian Fantasy

There is counterfeit of the kingdom of heaven which exerts a powerful influence over a lot of people who are, like ourselves, unhappy with the world we presently live in. I have called it the Bohemian Fantasy. It was there behind the hippy generation of the 60s, where idealistic activists decided to make a better world, to usher in the "Age of Aquarius". Sadly, the hippy legacy is largely summed up in a worldwide drug abuse pandemic, increased incidences of sexually transmitted diseases (including AIDS), and high-priced designer jeans.

Many of the baby boomers think back nostalgically to the idealism of the 60s, when they were involved in protests against the Vietnam War, but if you look at them today, you will find that most have become what they protested against away back then.

We Jesus Christians have tried to keep alive the idealism, but without the drugs and sex that ended up sabotaging the earlier movement. Nevertheless, fantasies about Bohemia continue to plague us, both within and without. People dream of a world where they don't have to work, don't have to follow rules, where everyone lives together happily, and where they can feel spiritually superior to others just by doing nothing. If anyone could ever find it, then I would be happy to tear this article up and join them; but so far it has not happened.

Although we have tried to relate to the idealism of the hippy movement, we have to say that much of what happened in the 60s as well as much that seeks to imitate it today is just empty myths, counterfeits of the kingdom of heaven. Where there is a genuine hunger for truth, there has been a merging of beliefs and resources, but what we have found in many of the anarchists and left-wing radicals is really quite depressing when viewed up close.

While Jesus taught the need for us to recognise faith and sincerity in others who believe differently from ourselves, he also taught things which are anathema to so many of the Bohemian counterfeits. The most idealistic ones talk about helping the poor, and surely there are some genuine humanitarians out there. But Jesus said that the way to do it is to sell everything that you have, to give the proceeds to the poor, and to teach others to do the same thing. Yet even the idealists seem to trip over all three of those steps.

I believe that most of the opposition/persecution that we receive is directly related to the fact that we take the third part of the above instructions seriously. We teach that the whole world could live by faith if they would just turn away from trusting money to solve their problems and live each day in obedience to God. We could be running multi-million dollar charities if we would stop teaching that. There are queues of millionaires ready to donate out of their abundance to any form of charity work that is prepared to compliment them and NOT tell them to do what we ourselves are doing, i.e. selling everything they own and giving it to the poor.

The first step certainly does not sound very spiritual: "Sell what you own." People are forever saying that Jesus was only speaking allegorically, that he never really meant for people to take him literally. But how do you make a command like this allegorical? Selling stuff means advertising, setting a price, haggling a bit, and then someone handing over the cash. But the Bohemian fantasy says, "That's too much like hard work. I'd rather just walk away from it and then find stuff as I need it." If you live near a supermarket that doesn't lock their bins, and if you are prepared to sleep it rough, you MAY be able to survive. But what about the other two steps: giving to the poor and going into all the world to teach the theory to others? if you are going to genuinely help the poor, then Jesus asks you to at least start by doing it yourself. And he calls on us NOT to tell the government what to do, but to tell INDIVIDUALS what to do, i.e. to sell what they own and give to the poor and then start teaching others to do the same thing. It's a wonderful cycle for transforming the whole world into the kingdom of heaven; but who is doing it?

We sold what we had, gave it to the poor, and then moved on to teaching others to do the same thing. We did it by word of mouth, by example, and by using the media, but we also did it by putting the theory in writing and printing up thousands of copies of what we were saying. But, once again, we had possessions (except that this time those possessions contained the theory of what Jesus said). So all over again, we started to "sell what we have and give to the poor". Not only did we have, in the teachings of Jesus, the formula for reaching the whole world, but we also had something that would support us along the way. Those who preach the gospel, live off it too, as the Bible says.

Ah, but the Bohemians don't like that. They say why can't we just give it to them for free? Not just to the poor, but to the rich too? They tell us that they are too spiritual to ask for a donation for the message that we are giving out. And, as a consequence, they go back to telling the government to do it, and just concentrate on eking out an existence for themselves.

I don't know how many hundreds of times people have told us that if they sold everything they have and gave to the poor, they would not have anything left to give to the poor. Yet, we have not found that at all. The more we give, it seems the more we have to give. Why? Because we keep "selling" what we have... even if it just means politely asking for a donation from any who can afford it.

Yet this seems to be what even long-term members of our community still keep having a hankering to get away from. I don't understand why. We did the best we could to obey the teachings of Jesus, including searching our own hearts to ask if we are WILLING to give the stuff away for free (which we often do when we want to be sure that we ARE willing to give it away), and in the process we have found God providing our needs as painlessly as I could ever imagine him doing it in any feral camp or community drop-in centre. But still people complain and try to tell us that the answer lies somewhere else, somewhere more spiritual.

All I can say is that when they have found it, perhaps they can invite us along to enjoy it. In the meantime, we will just keep preaching and practicing what we have learned from Jesus.
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