9/1/06

Jesus People USA

Just heard about Jesus People USA from a co-worker of mine, Tom, who knows a few of the people that were closely involved with starting it. They're a community of evangelical protestant Christians who live together in common, all ~500 of them at one address on the north side of Chicago in the Uptown neighborhood. Very exciting to discover them, though disappointing to also discover that with all their inclusiveness, they are explicitly sola scriptura (disclaimer: I haven't read through that wikipedia article, though I do lend the site some trust).

Intentional community is the phrase that gets touted in groups like this and the People of Praise. It has intense meaning within it, first hinted at in the Acts of the Apostles, and still very much counter-cultural. It toys with your definitions of freedom and responsibility, ever whispering in your head, "Not enough!"

That said, I google-datamined the site in an attempt to learn more about it's stance on other Christian denominations, ones who profess a belief in some truth outside of scripture, and was mildly relieved. In various instances of their past, JPUSA has learned from Catholicism, and seems to be easing towards something of a limited relationship with that theology, moreso than the nonexistant one in their earlier years. Here is one excerpt:

Jean Vanier, leader of the Catholic community L'Arche, was later quoted in Cornerstone to illustrate true community versus sect:
A true community becomes more and more open; a sect seems open, but over time in fact becomes more and more closed. A sect is made up of people who believe that only they are right. They are incapable of listening; they are enclosed and fanatical; they find no truth outside themselves. Their members have lost their capacity for individual reflection; only they are elect, saved and perfect; everyone else is wrong.

Communities are also distinguished from sects by the fact that the members of a sect focus more and more on a single reference--their founder, prophet, shepherd, leader or saint. It is he who holds all the temporal and spiritual power and keeps all the members under control. They read only his writings and they live from his words alone. This false prophet refuses to allow anyone but himself speak to the group; he dismisses anyone who could threaten his all-powerful authority. He surrounds himself with people who are weak, incapable of any personal thought ("Community," Cornerstone 9, no. 5 [1980]: 37).


Emphasis mine. Regardless, it's exciting to see such a devoted group of Christians learning to think of others more than themselves. It would be great to visit them and work with them sometime.