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Communistic Societies.

1. Religious groups that sought to organize their life and property according to collective ideals were in existence in Palestine (Essenes*), Egypt (Therapeutae*), and other lands at the time of Christ. The collectivism practiced in the early ch. at Jerusalem was not an absolute, total, or compulsory community of goods. The individuality of each mem. was guarded (Acts 5:4). Love was the only law by which each was bound.

2. Beginning in the 3d c., Manichaeans (see Manichaeism) practiced a type of communism assoc. with asceticism.* Benedictines* observed communistic practices, and strong communistic tendencies marked the (Cathari,* Albigenses,* Waldenses,* Beghards* and Beguines, Lollards,* Taborites,* and Bohemian* Brethren. In the days of the Reformation, Anabaptists often formed communistic societies (e.g., at Münster).

3. Few religious communistic groups have existed in modern Eur. F. N. Babeuf* advocated communistic theories (Babouvism) during the Fr. Revolution; R. Owen* was active in Eng. in the 1st part of the 19th c. Am. has seen many such experiments, some primarily religious, others only soc. and economic. Most of the largest successful ones were of Ger. origin. A few existed over a c.; many dissolved sooner for various reasons (failure to solve the problem of family life, the injunction of celibacy, secession of the young, lack of personal liberty, killing individual initiative and endeavor, etc.)

4. The first communistic organization in Am. was formed by Labadists (followers of J. Labadie*) who settled 1679 on the Hudson in New York and ca. 1683 at Bohemia Manor, near the present site of Elkton, Maryland, but soon sacrificed their religious convictions to the profit motive. Johann Kelpius (1673 to 1708) led the followers of Johann Jakob Zimmermann (1644–93) from Rotterdam to Germantown (Philadelphia). They called themselves the colony of the Contented of the God-loving Soul; others called them the Soc. of the Woman in the Wilderness because they aspired to become the beloved of the woman in Rv 12.

5. The more important Am. socs.: Amana* Soc.; House* of David; Oneida* Community; Rappists*; Shakers.* The Ephrata Community, near Reading, Pennsylvania founded ca. 1732 by J. C. Beissel,* dissolved 1814; the remaining mems. inc. as (Ger.) Seventh Day Baptists (see Baptist Churches, 17; Brethren, 1). Icaria was founded 1848 by Fr. settlers under E. Cabet* in Texas, later moved to Nauvoo, Illinois, then to Iowa, where a division in 1879 gave rise to New Icaria; Icaria soon dissolved, New Icaria in 1895. In Württemberg, Ger., those who separated from the State Ch. under leadership of the mystic Barbara Grubermann founded the Separatists; after her death the group, under Joseph Michael Bimeler (Bäumeler; Baumeler; 1778–1853) emigrated to Am. and founded Zoar, Ohio, 1817; dissolved 1898. The Bethel. Missouri, and Aurora, Oregon, communities were founded 1844 and 1855 resp. by Wilhelm Keil of Nordhausen, Prussia; dissolved 1880 and 1881 resp. Many communistic socs. resulted from, or were influenced by, plans promoted by François Marie Charles Fourier (1772–1837; Fr. socialist); best known: Brook Farm (1841—47; at West Roxbury, Mass.; known for its prominent mems., and visitors, including R. W. Emerson,* N. Hawthorne,* and H. Greeley*) and the North American Phalanx (1843–56; near Red Bank, New Jersey). The Adonai Shomo (Heb. “the Lord is there”) community (Adv.) was formed 1861 by Frederick I. Howland, settled first at Athol, then at Petersham, Massachusetts, chartered 1876, dissolved 1896. Swedes emigrated to Am. 1846 under Eric Janson (see also Sweden, Lutheranism in, 5) and founded the Bishop Hill Colony, Illinois; Janson, who claimed to be Christ reincarnate, was assassinated 1850; the colony was dissolved 1862. Perhaps the oldest communistic socs. are the Bruderhof communities founded by J. Huter*; Huterites migrated from S Russia to S Dak. and settled at Wold Creek and Bon Homme 1874 and Elm Spring 1877. Koreshanity was founded 1886 at Chicago by Cyrus (Heb. Koresh, whence the name) R. Teed; moved 1903 to Estero, Fla.; principal divisions: Ch. Triumphant, Coll. of Life, and Society Arch-Triumphant.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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