Last week, we finally got to the Anabaptists in my History of Christian Thought class. Yes, the class is called "The History of Christian Thought," a grand attempt to condense two thousand years of theology, politics, history, scandal and dissent into two semesters.
Given the enormity of the task, I can understand why the anabaptists only got 15 minutes. We're small, radical, definitely out of the mainstream. Future Methodist ministers don't necessarily need to know much about us. But as we moved on quickly to Calvin and concupisence, I realized just how much of an alien I am here. Yes, next week we will get to the Pietists, and I will have another ten minutes of elation. But when I leave class, things will return to normal, my world will still be one where no one understands what I am.
This weekend I was among Brethren, and I realized that all of these theological discussions about community and identity, all of this time and effort I've spent in argument and attempts at explanation...they are all direct results of being away from that community. When I'm among these people, so many things are simply understood. Of course communities have to be small. Of course pacifism and non-violence are the way. Of course our identity comes from our tradition, our shared histories and stories. Certainly living simply is the only way. Yes, our lives are shaped by commercial forces and the force of the church should work to counteract them.
It is easier, not having to defend yourself at every juncture. But convenience isn't what makes the biggest impression. Being with these people gives me strength to continue my own small attempt at living in another way. Their humility, simplicity, compassion, great courage, and commitment strengthen me. As life revolves around me, people, places, things and ideas spinning through my vision, I know that this community, these people in whom my identity is wrapped up...this is home.