Greetings from Champaign

I’m writing this post from St. Jude Catholic Worker House in Champaign, Illinois. Yesterday I came up with some people from my house for a roundtable on radical Christianity and exploring Peter Maurin’s principles of personalism and the 3 C’s for the possibility of working to create a better world. St. Jude sponsored the roundtable, which was held at the Urbana Free Library, and the discussion was facilitated by Eric Anglada and Miranda Duschack, two of our friends from the Hope House Catholic Worker in Dubuque, Iowa.

The discussion covered a wide range of topics and some different perspectives were engaged. We spent some serious time discussing analysis, but unfortunately I felt like the discussion really only got about 2/3 of the way finished, because just as we seemed to be getting into practical engagement of the issues we ran out of time. I swear it was the fastest 2 hours of my life!

For those not familiar with Peter Maurin’s philosophy, he was heavily influenced by 2 things – personalist philosophy and French peasant worker culture. The 3 C’s are cult, culture, and cultivation.

Cult refers to religion and particularly religious practices. Maurin believed participating in Eucharist and in the life of the Church connects us with a wider tradition that has deeper roots than the culture of industrial capitalism that was dominant in his day. Worship gives us access to the channels through which God bestows grace upon us to make us into the people of his kingdom, people who can work out the vision of creating a world where it is easier for people to be good.

Culture particularly refers to the creation of culture, through arts and artisanship, both from the perspective of working and the gift of work, an opportunity for people to create rather than just merely produce, and also from the perspective of a culture that resists the mechanization that is forced upon us by the technological society – again, with the impetus for creation, rather than the consumption/production cycle.

Cultivation refers to agriculture, to organic farming, to working the land. Maurin said that if we lose our connection to the land, we lose our souls. Today most of us have no idea where our food comes from, how it gets from the fields to our mouths, and there is a very large extent to which we don’t care. Part of Maurin’s vision for the restoration of the world, for people’s working out of their salvation, involved getting back in touch with our agrarian nature, with the land, to fight against the displacement practices of the industrial empire.

The philosophy of personalism underpinned his development of the 3 C’s. Personalism is a school of philosophy associated with Emmanuel Mounier, Jacques Maritain, and other philosophers (Emmanuel Levinas is often cited as a later personalist). In very brief, personalism holds that the person is the highest aspect of reality, not abstract qualities of being, with the person being embedded in a relational network consisting of the individual in community and in the world. Personalism has strong Catholic roots, and was associated with various radical movements in early mid-20th century France. There was also an American personalist school that centered around Boston University. Personalism requires people to be valued over profit and property, and so it seems a pretty natural path to anarchic ideas to develop in a Christian context.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: