Where Community Is No Cliché
Homestead Heritage theology is generally evangelical but without system or speculation. They choose not to have a creed or a written confession. The focus is on conversion to Christ by faith and self-sacrificial discipleship within the body of Christ. Each member is accountable to the community and learns what Christian living means in and through that context. They love Jesus Christ and worship him as God and Savior.
Rather than produce systematic works of theology, Homestead's elders are voracious readers and prolific authors, producing home-schooling curricula and other print materials on organic farming, peacemaking, and agrarianism.
Homesteaders emphasize the nuclear family and the rights of parents to raise and educate their children without interference. But they do not reject the world. A philosophy professor, a medical doctor, a lawyer, and an insurance adjustor are among their members. They frequent restaurants and stores. On the other hand, babies are typically born at home, and the sick and elderly die there as well. Prayer and medicine are combined for health and well-being.
The women of Homestead Heritage make their own clothes, often from cloth created on looms in the craft village. They never cut their hair but wear it up in the old-fashioned style often associated with Pentecostals of an earlier era. Most of the men shave and few wear broad-brimmed hats in the Amish style, but their dress is plain and their hair short. Most of the Homesteaders wear no jewelry, including wedding rings.
Use of cosmetics is virtually unknown among them. On the other hand, they own cars and keep in touch with the world by reading numerous publications at their community library. They do not serve on juries, and they register as conscientious objectors to the military. And yet Homesteaders have become well-known, liked, and valued members of the greater community. Members of Homestead Heritage built President Bush's ranch house near Crawfordonly a few miles from Brazos de Dios.
What makes this Christian intentional community tick?
They say it is self-sacrificing love. They make decisions by consensus. Individuals are accountable to the group, but the group exists to serve each individual. They focus much attention on child rearing and practice the idea that "It takes a village to raise a child." They view themselves as an extended family and call each other "brother" and "sister" regardless of blood relations.
In their view, they share a spiritual DNA provided by Jesus Christ, who is the focus of everything they do. One prospective member (raised in an Israeli kibbutz, but found it disappointing) asked the elders if their lifestyle could be replicated without Jesus. Their answer was a confident No. He joined and found Jesus.
Roger Olson is professor of theology at Truett Seminary, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.
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More about Homestead Heritage is available from their website.
Other CT photo essays include:
Saving Strangers | The journey of one Somali Bantu family in the largest group resettlement of African refugees in U.S. history. (July 02, 2004)
River Deep Mercy Wide | A medical journey on the Rio Negro in Brazil's Amazon Basin (Feb. 06, 2004)