Camus’ Community

In a recent article in the New York Times,* translator Laura Marris recounts a speech that the Algerian author Albert Camus gave in 1946, after World War II. Against the “plague” of Nazism and totalitarianism (one of Camus’ greatest works was the novel “The Plague”), Camus called for 

“. . . communities of thought outside parties and governments to launch a dialogue across national boundaries; the members of these communities will affirm by their lives and their words that this world must cease to be the world of police, soldiers and money, and become the world of men and women, of fruitful work and thoughtful play.”

Ironically, sadly, what Camus sought already existed. But perhaps not where Camus ever lived – perhaps he was never exposed to her. Her – this community of thought, that draws its thought from the most ancient of wells. This community that is free of being co-opted by any political party or government, yet which is bold enough to speak of the truth to any power. A community that has members across every national boundary – that when you meet another authentic member, though culture and language may separate you, it seems as if you’ve known each other forever. 

A community that indeed affirms, with its lives and its words, that this world is more than law, power and stuff – that there is another world, where anyone can become truly man or woman – can become truly human. Where people learn the role of work and creation, and how to truly enjoy the things of earth, and the people that inhabit this planet. 

Ironically, sadly, what Camus sought already existed – the church. Not the buildings, and not religious institutions, but the church – the people of God, united together by being united to Jesus Christ, the human, by faith. 

There is one beautiful half-error in Camus’ call. He pits a world of police, soldiers and money against that of humanity, work and play. But the Christian knows, from her Bible, that Camus is half-wrong and and half-right. He is half-wrong: we know that God works now, in this sin-stained age, by sovereignly ordering events through the means of police, soldiers and money. But we also know that Christ will soon return, and then Camus will be half-right: we will no longer require police, soldiers and money. Because Christ will be all we have, and in him we will have all – heaven will become earth, and we will reign with him, fully human, fully glorified. 

Do you know all you have, in the church?