The book begins with an explanation of the Hutterite worldview, which permeates just about every single aspect of the Hutterite individual's life. Life is dualistic, sharply divided between the natural and the supernatural, the carnal nature of man versus the spiritual nature of man, the order of the communal colony versus the chaos of the outside world, the divinely ordained order of God versus the world of darkness outside the colony. The worldview is also hierarchical, with the superior always commanding the inferior. God commands Man, Man commands Woman, humanity commands nature and the animals. The younger obeys the older, the holier commands the sinful. The divide between the secular and spiritual is enforced even by language itself in the Hutterite community: In church, everyone speaks and reads and sings in German. In secular affairs and in dealing with outsiders people speak only in English.
While much of the above is not new to us s there re many Christians who believe in those things, there are three things that make the Hutterite worldview distinct. The first is the enforcing of shared property as opposed to private property. The second is the enforcing of agrarian and communal living. Meetings are held before any new technology is introduced, and it can only be introduced on the basis that it will not corrupt the commune (new agricultural technology is allowed, but TV's, the internet, etc are not). The third is the total reliance that the individual has on the community as a whole. The individual does not identify with his nuclear family, or his peer group, as much as he identifies with the community as a whole. This is similar to the Marxist doctrine that the family is a bourgeoisie institution that must be obliterated in favor of the individual seeing everyone in his commune as his family.
The second chapter goes into the day-to-day life of the Hutterite colony. They have a very regimented life, filled to the brim with work. The days go by very quickly. It's the practice of what the author calls "Protestant Ascetism" (hard work for hard work's sake and for the sake of the community and God).
My favorite chapter was the one on socialization. At this point in the book the author tells us that the hutterite individual is eager to go to church, enthusiastic about labor, afraid to be alone, always has a kind word to say to his neighbors, and rarely expresses any deviance in behavior. This chapter explains how they do it, with the entire life of the hutterite individual being a process of changing the natural human tendency of self-preservation into self-sacrifice. Repetition, a disciplinary school system, and religious hysteria can make a person into anything, I guess.
What follows is a chapter explaining why the Hutterites have outlasted other Christian Communal groups such as the Community of Brethren, the Shakers, etc. A clear system of how to form a Hutterite colony,self-sufficiency, and reverence for the Hutterite ideology are how they do it.
This book desires to explain how the Hutterites live and why and achieves that task perfectly. The information is great and it isn't a boring read.
The whole time I was reading this book, the question that kept popping up in my mind was: "Are the Hutterites happier than modern people?". They are closer to nature, to each other, and to God than we are. I consider all of those to be major factors in human happiness. They are also disciplined and, by all accounts, compassionate.
However, the lack of individual expression must, I think, be very hard on the Hutterite. The Hutterites have no literature, no music, no distinct forms of dance, etc because these are all consider forms of individual expression that must be crushed.
I think if the Hutterites would just relax some of the harsh oppression of individuality, they really would be a near-utopian society.
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|Title||The Hutterites in North America|
|Author||John A. Hostetler|
|Publisher||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P|
|File size||3.1 Mb|
|eBook format||Paperback, (torrent)|
|Book rating||3.17 (29 votes)
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