Hunting and Gathering

Back in my early undergraduate days, when I first really started questioning how the world got to be the way it was, I read a book called Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn. The book based around a Socratic type dialogue between a man and a gorilla (weird, I know, but trust me, you should read the book!) The gorilla, who the man accepts as his teacher, makes the argument that society and the environment began to go downhill when humans became “takers”. By this, he means when mankind began to make permanent settlements and began to hoard or have excess of the things they needed to survive. Essentially, this is the move from having enough resources to survive (like hunter/gatherers) , to our culture today, where it is seemingly impossible to ever have too much stuff.
I tell you all of this about Ishmael, because I have been thinking about a lot of the factors that caused that change in humankind. Anthropology tells us that small, community based groups like hunter/gatherers were and are more egalitarian, power is shared more equally across genders and there is less stratification. When you are living in a community of 50 people, it makes sense that your voice can be heard more clearly than if you were living in a community of 100,000.
I got thinking about the differences between hunter/gatherers and our modern nation-state structure because I have thinking a lot about the church, size and difference. I think you can compare the modern church establishment to a nation state. In a lot of churches, you do not know everyone’s name, you have a “voice” in the form of a vote (only if you are a member) and the organizational hierarchy of the church is generally quite established. Much like in a nation state, it is very hard for the average citizen to solicit any type of drastic change. Not to say that it is not possible for citizens to mobilize and join their voices together to get the attention of those in power (ie– the entire decade of the 1960’s) – but…it is difficult. It can be said, that I have very little say in the “mission statement” of Canada- I do vote, but I don’t even like any of the options available to vote for.
I know it is impossible to know what it is truly like to live in a small, unstratified community- because all of my experiences are here, but I imagine that it is easier to mitigate 50 people’s opinions, visions and mission statements than it is to accommodate 35 million- or 4,000 for that matter.
In Acts 2, we read about the early church – and the people who lived, shared, ate and served together. In Acts 2:41, it says that 3,000 people were baptized in one day. However, in the next paragraph, it goes on to talk about how the believers would meet in each other’s home and eat together. It’s fair to assume that no where near 3,000 people were meeting together in one person’s home. This is because the early church was made up of local communities of people that met together- not giant stadiums full of ALL the believers. Smallness in community allows for people to have a voice that is heard. It allows for the group to share a “mission statement” – for lack of better terminology. I don’t think that homogeneity amongst a group is necessary, or good- but I am starting to think that whatever community that I find myself in, and call my own- I want to know that we are striving for the same thing, with the same values. Christianity is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide array of people. In some cases, I know that my values more similarly resemble the values of those who do not even consider themselves “Christian” at all.
So, maybe it is time to get small. Big and developed, much like the nation-state structure, have perks. It looks more enticing, there is more money to make it look appealing, there is something striking about feeling like you are part of something “big”- Jesus had 12 friends that were His inner community- and no one can argue that He wasn’t part of something big. Maybe having a community that looks appealing is part of the problem- not only because its a waste of resources- when so many people out there have so little, but also just the desire to make the community look esthetically pleasing is problematic and says something about what the members care about.
If the Way is narrow, lets not dumb things down or make things easy so people will join us- I want to be a part of a community that is willing to be real and to the best of our abilities, live the way I think we are called to live I have a feeling that it’s not going to look cool or hip- I have a feeling its going to need to be small, if I am hoping that we will share a perspective on living and loving and sharing.
Too bad that land is all owned now- hunting and gathering is out.


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