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A conversation with Jake Meador - S10.E7

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WORLD Radio - A conversation with Jake Meador - S10.E7

We know what we're saved from, but what are we saved for?


Jake Meador Handout

I’m Warren Smith, and today you’ll be listening in on my conversation with Jake Meador. His new book is What Are Christians For? Life Together At The End of the World.

JAKE MEADOR, GUEST: On the one hand, you have a right to your own wealth, and you even have a duty to try and earn wealth, so that you're better able to give to others. On the other hand, you have a duty to give freely of what you have, according to the needs of others. And so again, it fits with this broader tradition I'm trying to gesture to, which affirms the right to private property, but also attaches a lot of expectations to that about how we will use that wealth and that property.

Most evangelical Christians can tell you what they are saved from. They are saved from sin, from death, from hell. But what are we saved for?

A surprisingly few Christians could give you a robust and biblical answer to that question. The Westminster Catechism provides one answer: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” The apostle Paul tells us that we have been reconciled to God so that we ourselves might be reconcilers. The ministry of Christians is to be reconcilers and peacemakers in a beautiful but broken world, God’s ambassadors in the work of restoring all things to Himself.

But understanding these ideas requires deep thought. Actually bringing these ideas to life at a time when deep thought is not encouraged, a time when public discourse thrives more on dividing and conquering than it does on reconciliation and restoration, is even more challenging.

And that’s why Jake Meador’s new book What Are Christians For? is so helpful. Jake Meador starts with first principles. He begins at the beginning, with the idea that God made the world, and He made it good. Yes, the Fall broke the world in profound ways, but by starting with the givenness and goodness of the world, we read both Scripture and history in new and helpful ways.

Jake Meador is a contributing editor to Plough, which has become one of my favorite magazines in recent years. And he is editor in chief of Mere Orthodoxy, a magazine covering faith in the public sphere. He has written for First Things, National Review, Christianity Today, and many other publications.

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Support for Listening In comes from Samaritan Ministries, a community of Christians who care for one another spiritually and financially when a medical need arises.

Members like Kelsie who was diagnosed with breast cancer. While she had many decisions to make, how she was going to pay her medical bills was not one of them, and she had the freedom to choose the treatment that was best for her. You can watch Kelsie’s story at samaritanministries.org/worldpodcast.

WS: Jake, welcome to the program. I already confessed to you before we turned on the recording that I'm a big fan of your new book, What Are Christians For? Life together at the end of the world. In fact, I was singing its praises to my wife the other day. And the thing that she asked me was, you know, hey it sounds really cool. And I love the title, What Are Christians For? - I just don't like the subtitle: Life together at the end of the world. Is he saying that the world's about to come to an end? Or what? And my answer was, you know, we're always living at the end of the world. We're always living in end times. So was my answer a good answer? Or was that, do you have something else in mind?

JM: I like that answer. I like that answer, actually. The idea I had in mind is that it's, it seems that we're living through the ending of the post-Cold War, kind of liberal Democrat open society world that certainly was dominant from like 1991 'til quite recently. But arguably, you could say like the Open Society, that's a term Rusty Reno uses, goes back to the 50s, where there is this kind of move to weaken national ties, emphasize kind of classic liberal rights, emphasize a high degree of individual freedom, kind of action in the marketplace. That's the world we've lived in for a long time. And I think between, probably starting in '08 with the stock market crash, and then you look at things like Brexit, Trump, COVID, January 6, now Ukraine, you just have a lot of different things that show that kind of value system and that more general world is ending. And we're now not really sure what's coming next. There's a pastor I listen to a lot named Mark Sayers who says we're kind of in a gray zone. So there's this moment kind of in between where you're transitioning from what was before to what's next. And when you're in the gray zone, you don't really know what's coming, you can just tell a lot is changing.

WS: Yeah, well, what you've just described is sort of the condition of the world and of course, Christians operate within that context, right? We live in the world right? But we're also called to be in the world but not but not of the world. And it seems to me that your book, Jake, and again, correct me if I'm wrong, if I'm not quite getting you right here. Your your book is really directed much more towards how Christians, how now should we live in this world? In other words, you're not you're not doing sort of a Fukuyama, The End of History, or Thomas Friedman, The Earth is Flat, kind of take. You're your do you're doing more of a, you know, hey, Christians, how, you know, what, what are we to live for? How now should we live? Is that fair? Is that accurate?

JM: Yeah. I mean, my kind of earliest influences when I first came to faith and was trying to think through things for myself, were Schaefer and Lewis. I haven't read as much Schaefer in a long time. But that imprinted pretty deep, I think. So that's always been a concern of mine.

WS: Yeah. And one of the things that you say early in the book, it may even be in the introduction, about Lewis is that is that too often, I don't know, I'm going to use some words here that are probably imprecise and you can help me… Evangelicalism, the modern Christian subculture, you know, American Christianity, but I think it might also apply to parts of Europe and other parts of the world as well, follow what Lewis described as Christianity and. That the that we do not embrace a mere Christianity, you might say. Is that a fair critique?

JM: Um, yeah. I can talk most knowledgeably about the U.S. context because that's what I know best. I think for a lot of the folks in the kind of world I grew up in, which was conservative, basically fundamentalist. We were kind of a MacArthur-ite type Church. The good life required a certain income level. It required a certain kind of home. It required the husband and wife to have certain kind of work and home arrangements, the kids to have a certain level of accomplishment and respectability. To make a certain amount of money once they were out on their own. And all of that stuff was really the foundational thing we were chasing. And once all that stuff was secure, okay, now we can start talking about how Christianity shapes our day to day life. But what that means is questions like, ‘where should I live?’, don't really interface with Christianity very much, because where should you live is answered by the kind of upwardly mobile lifestyle you're after. And that stuff is not, it's kind of untouchable, and can't be questioned. And so, as I've, I mean, I've been kind of thinking about this stuff for 20 years now, because I had a really challenging time trying to think through this stuff coming out of that background. It makes it very hard to discern some of the ways that Christianity ought to shape our day to day lives because there's so many things that are just assumed to be non-negotiables. And so it creates this kind of Christian faith where the gaps that exist within that lifestyle can kind of get filled in by Christianity. But the lifestyle itself exists in this kind of religiously indifferent or religiously neutral space.

WS: Well, Jake, let me gently push back on that and ask you to, to respond to what I could imagine might be a listener right now saying, I don't recognize myself in that description that you just gave. Sure, I'm affluent, but Jesus is first in my life. Sure, I drive two big cars. But Jesus is first in my life. Yeah, I live in a home three times bigger than what I really need for myself and my family. But that doesn't mean that Jesus was not first in my life, does it?

JM: Each person, each of us will give an account to God for our choices, what we do, how we use the resources He's given us. And so it's not for me to be someone else's conscience. What concerns me, so here's an example. So Martin Bucer is another hero of mine. He was a reformer in the 16th century. Friends with, for his part, friends with Martin Luther. Very close friends with John Calvin. He actually is the one who set Calvin up with his wife. And Bucer did a lot of writing about Christian society, because he thought a Christian society was a desirable thing. It was a good thing. It was one of the ways that we can love our neighbors well. But when you actually read some of his writings about poverty, for instance, when he's dealing with Christian society issues, it's pretty unrecognizable compared to what happens in the U.S. right now. So for Bucer, he would say that if you live in a society where people beg, because they feel like that's the only way they can get what they need to live, you cannot possibly call yourself a Christian society in any kind of way. If you live in a society that tolerates poverty of that kind, you're not a Christian society, period.

I also think of I believe it was Basil the Great, one of the Capodocian church fathers, who was also involved with the Council of Nicea, defined the Nicene Creed many of us still say in our churches to this day, he had some genuinely radical things to say about property, that would be very, kind of unsettling for a lot of people today. He had a line about how, if you keep two coats in your closet, and you only need one, then you've stolen the other from the poor and the cold and the hungry. Whatever wealth you have, that you don't need, you have taken from people that need it. Now I know there's, I understand why people would object to that I'm just telling you like, that's what Basil, who is a bishop in the church, who was prominently involved in articulating what Christian orthodoxy would become, in the early days of the church, that's what he said about wealth. Calvin will say similar things. He talks about, there's not really an absolute right to property. There's a relative right to private property that is in a relationship with your neighbor's right to eat, and to have shelter. And so in all of these different ways, I think you can find the Christian church, across time, has had a far more radical relationship or assessment of private property that a lot of Christians in the U.S. do. And if people are comfortable with disagreeing with all of those people, and I, again, I can't be somebody else's conscience, but when I consider those words, I consider the examples I see in scripture of what God says about those who hoard wealth, I personally feel very nervous about ever having the kind of wealth or affluence that a lot of American Christians just kind of take for granted.

WS: Right. Well, there is that. And Martin Bucer, is that how do you pronounce his last name? Sir? Boots, sir. Wow, what fact that's one of the things I was gonna ask you, Jake, because one of the things I love about your book is you introduced me to theologians that I either didn't know at all, or had only a passing acquaintance with. And Bucer was one of them. And the words that you just quoted from him about poverty and wealth, have particular weight when you know something about his biography, right. I mean, this guy was a guy that was extraordinarily generous and practiced pretty radical generosity in his own life, at least according to your account of his life.

JM: He is he and his wife, Elizabeth, were remarkable people. There's a quote, I unfortunately, I couldn't include it - I think I did include it in the book. But the footnote was ambiguous, because I couldn't get into the research library to like check the footnote because of COVID. But there was a quote I remember seeing from a Catholic cleric who had passed through Strausberg and stayed with the Bucers for a little while. And he said something to the effect of, what I saw in your home is the best argument I've seen for having clergy marry. Because they were taking in refugees, they were taking in ministerial students, because this was early days of the Reformation. We didn't have seminaries up and running yet. So the would-be pastors lived with the people already pastoring and just learned on the fly as they observed ministry,

WS: Right, like an apprenticeship almost - on the job training, an apprenticeship.

JM: Totally.

WS: Yeah.

JM: And so it like there's a letter… Martin wrote it to a mutual friend of theirs. And he had a postscript on it that said something like, Elizabeth sends her love as well. She's not able to write and she doesn't much like writing anyway. And then there is a second postscript on this letter in Elizabeth's hand, which says, I like writing just fine, but these urchins never stop.

WS: She was extraordinarily busy in the house. Yeah, yeah. looking after kids. And so yeah, listen, I wanted you to share at least a little bit about Martin Bucer because, you know, his words, like I say, do have much more weight, when you know a little bit about his story, that he was truly practicing what he preached in a lot of ways. I do think, though, that it's important to note that at least two of the 10 commandments do relate to property of some kind: thou shalt not steal, and thou shalt not covet. I mean, that many Christians would say, while that might not necessarily be an absolute right, and that we have to define, you know, what, just as we have to define the difference between killing and murder, we have to define the difference between, you know, stealing and taking and, you know, other kinds of maybe legal distinctions. However, I do take your point. And I'd like for you to say more about it, because you are not saying that we should read that we should wholesale reject personal property, that we should wholesale say wealth is evil. But I think what you're saying, though, is that as Christians today, we have become far more comfortable with it than our spiritual forefathers were, and even than scripture would have us be. Is that a fair assessment?

JM: Yeah, um, I mean, it's even interesting you bring up to the Decalogue, because one of the things that will sometimes come up when I'm talking about these things with people is they'll bring up the Eighth Commandment, Thou shalt not steal, and say, Well, you can only steal if there's such a thing as private property. True, that's yeah, yes, that's correct. But what's really interesting is if you start actually looking at how the church has interpreted that commandment historically, you can really turn the screws here. Because in my home communion, the Presbyterian Church in America, the Westminster Longer Catechism is a binding confessional standard that you have to agree to to be ordainable in our communion. And in the longer catechism, it asks the question, what are the duties required in the Eighth Commandment? And I'll just read some of what it talks about here. What it requires of us is faithfulness and justice in contracts and commerce, rendering to everyone their due. Restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners. Giving and lending freely according to our abilities and the necessity of others. Moderation of judgments, wills, affections concerning worldly goods. You get the flavor for it. Later on, it says frugality is another requirement of the Eighth Commandment. And then it will also say an endeavor by all just and lawful means to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own. So it's the kind of answer that no one's going to be totally happy about, in kind of the conventional framing of these conversations. Because on the one hand, it is saying, like, yes, you have a right to your own wealth, and you even have a duty to try and earn wealth, so that you're better able to give to others. On the other hand, you have a duty to give freely of what you have, according to the needs of others. And so again, it fits with this broader tradition I'm trying to gesture to, which affirms the right to private property, but also attaches a lot of expectations to that about how we will use that wealth and that property.

WS: Yeah, well, Jake, in some ways, the last maybe five to eight minutes of our conversation has been a little bit unfair to our listeners, because we've kind of jumped into the middle of things in some ways. So I'd like to return if possible to some first principles, because I think that the conversation that we've had for the last 10 minutes or so makes more sense whenever we understand, so a couple of the first principles that you do a brilliant job of unpacking in your book. One of those principles is, is just this idea that we need a more robust doctrine of creation. That we need a robust, more robust understanding of place, which is, you know, related to that. One of the things that you point out in your book is that, you know, God is a worker Himself. When He created, it was the Bible explicitly defines it as work and, and that the the product of his work was not monetary. The product of God's work was a good in and of itself. In fact, at the end of each day of creation, God defined his work as good, it was not defined in the context of any economic value. And secondly, it was a gift, that creation is a gift. That God made creation as a gift, it, at least in part, to us, and that one of the reasons that we get it wrong when it comes to money and wealth, and work and all that kind of stuff is that we define the value of work based on money, and not based on the fact that it is a good in and of itself, that if we're making something, that we can make it to the glory of God, and that it should serve our fellow man. That it should serve our brothers and sisters - it is a way we love our neighbor as ourselves. So, you might be justified in saying, so Warren, is there a question in this somewhere? So I guess my question is, have I properly summarized, characterized your argument? And can you say more about it?

JM: Yeah, one of the things I try to do in one of the early chapters, is just highlight some of the trade offs that happened for people as a result of the Industrial Revolution, and how it changed the way we think about work. Anytime you adopt new technology, it's never all good or all bad. It's always trade offs. And so my point in the chapter is not to like say the Industrial Revolution was just bad and shouldn't have happened. My point is to highlight these were the trade offs we made when we adopted these kinds of technologies. And now we're 200 years out from it, and it's so natural to us that we don't even recognize any other way of doing it. So one of the people I use in the chapter is a historian named Christopher Dawson, who worked in the early 20th century. Tolkien was a big admirer of his. And he talked about how prior to industrialism work was construed and understood as fulfilling a social function. So my trade or the work I do on the land as a farmer or whatever, it exists within this broader network of relationships. And it fulfills a function within these relationships that makes our life better - or possible, if you're growing food. And what Dawson argues is that what happens in industrialism is basically that whole network of relationships in which our work made sense gets blown up. And what's left behind is work for a wage.

WS: Well, yeah, in fact, you even say at one point that that industrialism, while at at one level, it is instrumental, you might say, that it is a way we make things it is a way we do things. But that in the end, industrialism becomes the culture. It becomes who we are, or at least what we have become. It's a complete reordering of relationships. Is that, is that accurate?

JM: Right. That's right. And it leaves us with a world that is just shockingly inhumane. I mean, I even think about, we just ran an essay at Mere Orthodoxy recently about Christian anthropology and Down syndrome. And that's something we've published on a number of times over the years, because one of the places where the inhumanity of our current regime is so clear, is how we respond to disability. There was a study that some, I think it was Senate Republicans put out just recently, I'm pulling up the text of it now, because it was just kind of shocking. All of the babies that are tested and likely to have Down syndrome that have been aborted in the U.S. over the last several decades - if we removed selective abortion from the picture, we would have 80% more babies with Down syndrome every year. It was hundreds of 1000s of children, who never were given the chance to exist outside of the womb, because we simply had no place for them in our world. That's horrifying. I think sometimes, we kind of Western progressives with this idea that history just keeps getting better - and thankfully, people are abandoning that idea now - kind of congratulate ourselves on how we have transcended all of these past evils. But when I see something like that I'm just filled with a mixture of rage and despair. It strikes me as being absolutely demonic. And yet, that's the world that we have chosen to make, is this world that does not have a place for the weak, for the disabled, for those who need care. We don't value caring work, we don't value people who can't make a living for themselves. We see them as kind of the way that Scrooge does in the Christmas Carol. Just hurry up and die and reduce the surplus population, right? I mean, that's the way that our Western world treats thousands of human beings. And it's a crime that cries out to heaven, I think. And it's something the church needs to be, and I think, thankfully, many places has been very serious about addressing, but we need to keep doing it, because we we've created a very inhumane world over the past several centuries, and I think we're seeing some of the fruits of that now.

WS: Yeah. Well, Jake, let me pivot if I could in our conversation and talk, because I think that, up until now, most of our conversation has been, I guess, I might characterize as a diagnosis of the problem, a diagnosis of the sickness, you know, that that we find ourselves in the midst of. And just by the way, for the record for our listeners, there's a whole lot more here. You you've got a chapter on the unmaking of the body, which I found particularly helpful, because it addresses very directly the sexual revolution and, and in part kind of, if I could use the theological term, the modern Gnosticism, in which we find ourselves. I mean, we read the book of Colossians, for example, and we or you know, those of us who study that that part of Scripture are introduced to the notion of Gnosticism. But in reality that heresy is alive and well today. And it's alive and well, at least in part in the unmaking of the body. Is that a fair assessment?

JM: I would agree with that, yeah.

WS: And then the other part of the book that I was particularly fond of, as well was a chapter called The Unmaking of the Real. Because I think that one of the things that you do in that chapter is that you root our pathologies, in a false notion of reality. It's not just it's not just sort of a difference of opinion, or even a difference of morality, as important as that is, but it is really a false ontology, a false understanding of what is real. First, again, is that accurate Jake? Can you say a little bit about that notion?

JM: That's correct. Um, I think what the way that many people today engage with the world is virtually all of our engagement, kind of womb to tomb is mediated to us via these large scale institutions. So you're born in a hospital, then you're in a daycare, then you're in a school, then you're in college, then you're working for a large faceless corporation. And then you die in a nursing home or hospital again. Everything gets mediated to us through these institutions that we have very little control over, for the most part, that kind of dictate what our life will look like to us, that dictate what reality is to us. And so what I say in the chapter is they kind of place reality in a box and present, present the box to us. And that's the world as we encounter it. And what I think gets left out is you you lose a sense of agency, because you don't have a lot of control over what your day to day life looks like. And you lose, more importantly, I think just a basic sense of kind of going out into the world and encountering it as this thing that is outside of you, and that is strange, sometimes dangerous, and yet somehow also beautiful. And you have a sense that there's a good life for you to be had in the world, in this place, perhaps that you belong there in some sense.

Some of the examples I gave in the book is I think about, like, what's lost when children no longer have unmediated, undirected play outside? And there's tons of studies that have been done on what's lost in such a situation. The answer is a lot is lost. And the frustrating thing is very little is being done to try and do anything about this because our schools are overtaxed, our like, teachers are underpaid and overworked. And there's just no means of doing anything about this. And so you just get kind of the doubling down of the kind of warehousing of our children. But I also wonder, like what happens when you lose the kind of entrepreneurial sense of self ownership, encountering the world, discerning needs in the world and finding ways that your talents can meet that need and provide a living for you.There's a lot of creativity that's lost when that way of working is replaced by sending out your resume until you get a hit after you graduate college.

There's also a lot lost when we segregate our elderly, in nursing homes and hospitals. I will never forget I was with a couple of pastors and we were, this was just an early exploratory kind of trip we made to an Indian reservation, a couple hours north of Lincoln, where the Omaha nation live. And we were just, there was a mainline Church on the reservation that we had a relationship with. And we had talked to them about going up there. And we thought, sure, it's two hours away. Let's see what what's going on up there. And we met with elders from the Omaha community there. And one of the women was just kind of livid that these Christians would come in and, and like doing the things that a lot of Christians have done on reservations. And she looked at us and she said, you Christians stick your elders in homes and forget about them. But we revere our elders and it is our honor to care for them. She was right. But that also goes along with kind of this institutionalizing of care and of life that removes us from those direct encounters with reality. When you are caring for an elderly person, or somebody in poor health or disabled, for long chunks of time, it kind of changes the way you see the world. You find yourself relying on God more to equip you to do what's necessary. But it also, I think, softens you in certain ways. It gives you a tenderness and a mercy, because you know that you will one day be in some kind of similar position, and you hope that somebody will be there to care for you. When we lose all of those things, and everything just happens in these designated institutions with professionalized supervision, there's just so much that gets left out. And I think that also feeds into that kind of inhumanity....

WS: Yeah, well, well, as you said that, it sort of reminded me, what a wise person once told me about marriage many, many years ago is that marriage is not for our satisfaction, but for our sanctification, and to give us an opportunity for service. And I have, you know, I've come to believe, as I now approach my 40th wedding anniversary, that there's a lot of truth to that. And it also reminded me to ask you about one particular story that you told, and that is about a stroke that your dad had. We can't recount that entire story. But how's your dad?

JM: He's at home. You kind of, when you're recovering from a brain injury like that, most of what you recover is going to be in the first 12 to 24 months. And we're now almost six and a half years out. So barring something unlikely, he's probably recovered as much as as he's going to. And so he's pretty limited in what he can do. And there's a lot of difficulty in that. And COVID was very hard, especially because both my parents were high risk, and we live in a red state, where a lot of Evangelicals just didn't want to do anything to try and be careful about it, which was awful for my parents. Made me very angry at times. But no, I mean, I think he is, I know, he's a picture, to me, and to my mom of how God sustains us amidst pain. I think my mom has a picture of that in a different way, being a full time caregiver. And it is very important that we recognize that there are some of us who have a vocation to showing the sufficiency of Christ amidst loss. We all probably have that vocation to some degree, but some, I think, are uniquely called to it. And that seems to be what God has for my parents during this phase of their lives. And they have fulfilled that vocation in really beautiful ways.

And I wanted to talk about it in the book, because it's easy to try and develop a really robust kind of natural law doctrine and talk about nature in a way that can seem kind of idealized. And so I wanted to kind of flip that around and say, like, okay, even here, is it all still true? Yeah, it is. But yeah, I mean, it's, it's hard. There's a sense of loss and grief that doesn't fully go away. Lewis talks, I think it's Lewis in A Grief Observed, talks about losing his wife kind of being like an amputation. And, yeah, eventually you kind of adjust to the new normal, but you're missing a leg. And I think that's what a lot of tragedy is like for us prior to the resurrection and Christ's return, is that you can kind of adopt new routines and new normals and you can discern the hand of God in ways that you wouldn't have before. And there's great goodness in all of that, but you're still missing that leg. And so you still rely on God to sustain you every day.

WS: Well, it was a very moving story in the book and your epilogue to that story just now, Jake, was very nourishing to me, especially since I read your book and know the beginning part of that story. And probably 10 minutes ago, I said I’d like to pivot in our conversation and we still haven't done that yet. But I do want to have sort of one final, I guess you could say, chapter in our conversation, Jake. And that is to talk a little about solutions. I think in some ways, you've already done that with the story of your father and sort of the, the sufficiency of Christ, even in the midst of that brokenness. And we live in a beautiful but broken world, and part of our calling as Christians, in fact, the name of your book is, What Are Christians For? A part of our calling as Christians, what we are for is the restoration of all things. That we are called to restore the good, the true and the beautiful in the midst of that brokenness. And we can't go into everything that you've mentioned. But I would like for you to mention two things. One was you mentioned family. And you had an expansive definition of family, not the nuclear family that we think of when we, when we, you know, think about Ozzie and Harriet or ‘50’s sitcom television. You also mentioned the Bruderhof community, which I know a bit about the Bruderhof community, but maybe many of our listeners will not. And I realize that the way the Bruderhof communities, and there are several of them around the country, around the world, live may not be for everybody. But I do think that their vocation might provide lessons for everybody. So can you say a little about them?

JM: Yeah, so the Bruderhof is a community of radical Anabaptist Christians, who, when they join the community, are re-baptised and take lifetime vows of poverty and obedience, and live in community with one another. And they have communities all over the world. There's a handful in the Northeast. And then there's also some scattered across Europe. I think they have some elsewhere as well, I don't recall, I'd have to check. But they share their work in common. They share their wealth together in common. And so one of the things that that allows them to do is they, if they have a business that is doing well as they do right now, they have a few that are relatively profitable, that can subsidize a lot of other good forms of work around the community that aren't profitable. The Australian community, for instance, they have a sign-making business that generates most of the income that community needs to live. And they live very frugally, so that helps. But they have had a farming enterprise that they've been trying to kind of build up for about 15 years. And I talk about it in the book. You can look on, if you search 'beating the big dry’, and maybe you just include like ‘Plough Magazine’ or something like that, you'll find the article online. And you can see the before and after pictures of this land that they have farmed for the past 20 years. It's some of the most remarkable stuff I've seen.

WS: Let me interrupt you, because one of their enterprises is Plough Magazine, which is a magazine that I've discovered over the last couple of years and just become a huge, huge fan of that magazine. It's beautiful. In fact, I've got the the inside back cover of Plough Magazine usually has a drawing with a quotation from somebody. I often tear those out, I've got three of them hanging up on my desk, over my desk right now. It's a very beautiful magazine. And so I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt. But I just wanted…

JM: What it means is that the work of the community really can be ordered around what, not only what is best for us as a community, but what best serves our neighbors. It's funny, it's kind of counterintuitive, because you hear like radical Anabaptists, lifetime vows, yada, yada, yada, and you kind of picture this very cloistered community. But it's quite the opposite of what they really are. They're very connected to the towns around their communities. And they are involved in many different ways. They actually now sometimes have people from the surrounding towns send their kids to the Bruderhof schools even. And it's because of how strong the community is that they're able to do that kind of outreach. One of their pastors has said, the stronger the center, the more daring the outreach can be. When you have a Christian community that takes care of each other, looks out for each other, shares what they have in common, so that everyone has enough, a lot of the fears that drive the ways we behave, kind of dissipate. Because we know someone will catch us if we fall because we have this really strong community behind us. And that makes you less afraid of falling. It makes you more willing to try hard things to serve your community and serve your neighbors.

WS: You know, Jake, I knew something about the Bruderhof community in part through Plough Magazine, but also more reading that I've done. One of the things that I really loved about your book was that you actually visited one of those communities and you encountered, we were talking about disabilities earlier, and the fact that we as a culture tend to devalue people with disabilities. We don't appreciate the contributions they can make and the value that they have just inherently as human beings, and I was very struck by your description of walking through the Bruderhof community and noticing that there were chairs and work benches and tables that did not look like normal chairs and work benches and tables. And the reason they didn't is because they had been customized for folks who maybe couldn't sit up straight, couldn't elevate themselves up onto a bench, but needed to work closer to the ground. That they had, they had taken into account even the folks who had disabilities, desire and giftedness for doing work, and that they had made some real world accommodations for them. That was a pretty cool thing.

JM: Yeah, architecture can communicate care. It communicates that you are desired here, you have a place here. There's one of our other PCA churches in town. Not long before they actually, they knew they were going to have to move out of this building because they were outgrowing it, but they decided to install an elevator in the building, because there was kind of a split level. And from the parking lot you entered in the basement, and so it made it hard for people in a wheelchair to even go to church because of the way the building was positioned on a hill. And somebody asked the pastor about like, we're putting all this money into building these, putting in a handicap accessible bathroom and an elevator, and we're about to leave the building. And his comment was something like, well, it allows us to be more welcoming to any disabled people who want to worship with us. And I also think the building looks more like what Jesus would want the building to look like, for even after we're gone. And I loved that way of talking about it.

That brings to a close my conversation with Jake Meador. We were discussing his new book What Are Christians For? Life Together At The End of the World.

Listening In comes to you from WORLD News Group, and this program is just one of the many benefits that comes with a WORLD subscription. To find out more visit WNG.org/subscribe.

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Tune in next week to hear my conversation with author and speaker Laura Beth Perry. Laura was born a little girl, but lived for years trying to pass as a man before an encounter with Jesus transformed her in ways her gender reassignment surgeries and hormone treatments could not. If you are a regular reader of WORLD Magazine, you may have seen a profile of Laura there. Next week, we hear her speak.

The producer for today’s program is Leigh Jones. Johnny Franklin is the technical producer. And Paul Butler is executive producer for WORLD Radio. I’m your host, Warren Smith. And you’ve been Listening In …

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