Communism, Socialism or Capitalism – The Moravian Answer

I do plan to take a more in depth look at these three economic systems and how they were expressed in history and currently around the world, but for now lets take a quick look at what the Moravians found and applied. We are again quoting from Prof. William J. Danker book, Profit for the Lord – Economic Activities in Moravian Missions and the Basel Mission Trading Company.

The first twenty years after its founding in 1742, Bethlehem had a thorough communal economy. Even the meals were taken together; instead of by families…these communal practices were adopted because they implemented spiritual objectives, especially the mission to the heathen. Interestingly, while Russian communism had an avowed program of moving through socialism to pure communism, the Bethlehem Moravians moved in the opposite direction. After twenty years of pure communism, they dropped back to socialism, and eventually assimilated themselves to the economic development of the surrounding capitalistic culture.

Bethlehem became a beehive of activity and in pre-revolutionary Pennsylvania a craft center of no small significance. They were clothed with textiles their own hands and machines had woven, among them no less than eleven qualities of linen. Outsiders eagerly sought the products of their large pottery at standard prices. Their brewery was able to supply their neighbors with plenty of good beer. The tannery was particularly profitable. They knew that their labors at Bethlehem were part of a general Moravian mission effort supporting missionary endeavors in the West Indies, Nicaragua, Greenland, Suriname…and in many other regions and countries of the world.  

The followers of Zinzendorf sought to develop economic bases to support the Moravian community life and a large number of missionaries.

And next week we will take a closer look at the Basel Mission Trading Company that became a financial engine to fund the Moravian missionary movement and help it become the greatest missions movement of all time.

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3 Responses to Communism, Socialism or Capitalism – The Moravian Answer

  1. Thanks for this! My wife and I recently visited “Old Salem” and are learning about the history of the Moravians. I was already familiar with their general history, but was shocked to learn of their theocratic communal society.

    • briansauder says:

      Yes…they were quite entrepreneurial and had such a passion to direct the finances in to missions.

      • Out of curiosity, do you know why they transitioned from a communal society to socialism to capitalism? And did this happen mostly just in the states, or are there still Moravian churches anywhere in the world that practice this form of communal living? I mean, I can see where in the United States it might be very difficult to do under our current legal system (although a co-operative might make it somewhat possible to implement to a degree.) I’ve been trying to look for any information that explains the how and why they transitioned from a communal society, and if there is anything that documents their struggles on these issues.

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