Living Naturally

Eberhard Arnold writes about what it means to live simply and to be genuine. These are topics of importance anywhere, but perhaps especially in communal life.

To be simple, to be genuine, to have nothing to do with anything forced, unnatural, or artificial – these things have been of consuming importance to us from the very beginning of our life together. We wanted to live close to creation and nature. We longed to be so natural in our belief in God and in our understanding of his creation that no religious influence of any kind would be able to divert us from a childlike and simple way of living.

We realized that life in church community is not possible unless it is completely natural. We knew that the common life would be lost if it were lulled into some form of artificial piety, if we were to adopt a language full of pious words that did not spring from deep roots, did not come genuinely from our hearts.

As with language, so it is with everything else. One legacy of the Youth Movement is our attitude to nature. It was not just romanticism that made us rejoice in meadows and flowers, woods and mountains. To experience nature helped us to come closer to the beginnings, to creation itself. We would have nothing to do with anything that did not spring straight from the inmost source.

Now it is my sincere longing that our common life spring directly from the ground of the heart, just as it is given to each one of us; that all false piety, all hypocrisy, be ruled out and what is natural be allowed to grow. We ask God to grant us a life full of this inner vitality, as alive as the plants, the stars, and the animals; as full of vitality as the birth and development of a child. May this be given in the life of each one of us. Then we shall know true faithfulness.

We should appreciate work on the land, especially in farm and garden, because of its closeness to nature, its intrinsic genuineness. It provides us with our daily food from God’s hand, which gives us strength to cope with all that the heart and mind are called to do.

Adapted from God’s Revolution (Walden, NY: Plough, 2021). Read the original meeting transcript from March 24, 1935, in our digital archive.

Article edited for length and clarity.