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January 29, 2009

Christian Communists and the battle over life insurance

Filed under: Uncategorized — kevinocoin @ 6:43 pm

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A few weeks ago, my wife and I applied for life insurance, and just yesterday the nurse came to our home for the routine physical examination.  As innocuous as such an application may seem, as a member of the MB Church it would not have been that long ago that my actions would have been denounced as being opposed to the hope of the Gospel.  In the early 20th Century all North American Mennonite groups were opposed to life insurance, and even as late as the 1950’s the MB church still formally prohibited its members to purchase policies.*  The argument was that this placed trust in humankind rather than God for our protection and sustance.  Opponents might ask, “Has it not always been the role of the Church to help out its members who are in need?  Does buying a policy not deprive the community of even the possibility of providing aid?”  The more practical of us would say that it has not been our experience that the fellow Christians even in our own church community would go to that length to help us were we to find ourselves without a spouse and in debt (they might shake their heads and wonder why we didn’t buy a life insurance policy, and then go about their own business), and it is hard to argue with experience, so what’s the big problem? 

The idea that the Church should take care of the needs of its members is certainly not a new one — we see it in Acts 2.  And at various points throughout history, individuals have attempted to resurrect that type of unmitigated generosity.  One particualrly interesting example is that of Hans Hut, the Sixteenth Century Anabaptist leader who ended up running a Christian commune in Moravia (currently the southeastern portion of the Czech Republic).  His followers became known as Hutterites, and are still in existence today in Canada and elsewhere.  He proclaimed his radical conviction that there can be no Christian love among those who do not voluntarily give up all they have in order to share it with one’s Christian brother or sister, should he or she be in need.  For Hut, the mark of the true Christian was a rejection of all personal property; instead, the faithful ought to hold all things in common, for the benefit of all people.  Despite being less than enthusiastic about endorsing such an ideal, I can’t help but think that he, too, would have been against life insurance for many of the above reasons.  

Now, I am not saying that we should have no life insurance or that we ought to renounce all our posessions, but it is sobering to think that we would not need insurance if the Church worked in the way in which the Lord had intended.  The wealthy among us would pay off the mortage that the widow or widower could not afford himself or herself, and step in with the funds needeed for the support of the children.  Could this ever happen?  I cannot categorically reject the idea, but I think it is safe to say that any church that practiced that kind of radical generosity would definitely be a growing one.

* Taken from a 1958 article on life insurance from the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO).

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