For the next week, a group of likeminded people will be gathering at Tamera in southern Portugal to discuss what they call “sacred activism.”
Tamera isn’t simply an intentional community, but rather a research organization that, with its 170 or so residents, studies how we humans can best live in community. The organization isn’t a new kid on the block: the “peace research village” has been around for twenty years, and founders Sabine Lichtenfels and Dieter Duhm have been honing their message for even longer. The two began their project in 1978 with the goal of finding solutions to the problems inherent in modern society. What they quickly determined was that the failures of society weren’t just the result of the usual culprits—war, capitalism, the degradation of the earth—but could be traced back to intrinsic failures in all of us. To figure out how to heal from within, they set up what they call “healing biotopes,” communities that engage in practicing what they study.
There are a few key ideas that lie at the group’s foundation. To build a better world for all, we must scuttle capitalism, honor all living creatures, and shift our paradigm from that of war and fear to solidarity and trust. One of the ways of accomplishing this is by stripping all love relationships of jealousy and fear. Yes, this requires some out-of-the-box thinking regarding human sexuality.
By contrast, during my family’s time at the Bruderhof in the 1950s, we encountered a culture that fiercely retained the conservative values of husband and wife. Even though my mother railed against what she saw as the Bruderhof’s arrogance in demanding brotherhood and community over the nuclear family, at its core, the Bruderhof was stalwart in holding to the traditional idea of marriage.
In other respects, though, the values Tamera holds overlap with those we encountered at the Bruderhof—both are staunchly anti-violence, and both believe in living in community. There are a few updates, more recent worries that weren’t a concern in the 1950s. One major focus, as with many of today’s intentional communities, is the issue of sustainability. The Bruderhof, as was the custom of the time, shaped the natural environment of Primavera, the three villages, to meet the needs of its human inhabitants. Little regard was given to safekeeping its ecology, which was radically changed during the community’s two decades there.
The biggest difference, though, is that the Bruderhof did and still does revolve around a shared spiritual belief, and Tamara doesn’t. There’s some debate about whether an intentional community can endure without religion as the keystone. Are humanitarian goals of social justice and the ecological health of the planet enough to sustain harmony in a community? Is “sacred activism” an adequately robust substitution for religion in an increasingly irreligious world?
Apparently so, at least for now. The organizers of this week’s gathering in Portugal created a crowdfunding effort to pay for more than a dozen invited speakers, many Native American, others from Africa, South America and elsewhere. Their goal: $47,000. They overshot that by several thousand dollars.
Which proves that, whether based on religious beliefs or secular, people are hungry for change.