Have you ever eaten blue grits? Have you even heard of them? Of course, they are made from blue corn. I bought some this week that were freshly ground at a gristmill, brought them home, cooked them for breakfast this morning, and they were over the top delicious! I'd never tasted blue grits before. They taste pretty much like their yellow corn cousins, particularly the stone ground variety. But then, there's the color.
On our way back to Galveston, Gay and I spent the night with friends Bill and Mary Hearn in Waco. The next morning, we went out to visit Homestead Heritage, which is a short drive north of Waco and west of I-35. That's where I bought the blue grits. Another friend, Harley Tripp, told us about this place and recommended that we take a look. Harley studied furniture making there before his retirement from Shell Chemical Co. several years ago and he owns a longleaf pine wall clock that was made there.
Homestead Heritage is a Protestant Christian community where about 900 members live on 500 acres and commit themselves to living a traditionalist "back to the land" lifestyle. We enjoyed meeting members of the community, touring their woodworking shop, pottery shop, forge, gristmill, and had lunch at the restaurant, where natural and organic foods are served. They produce a wide assortment of items and conduct numerous workshops. Their breads and cheeses are delicious.
I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes a community authentic. There are all sorts of communities and most of us have a longing to belong to a community that is healthy and authentic, one that both enfolds us in its corporate life and encourages us in our individuality. Many people have found such an experience in their religious community.
From time to time, critics have expressed reservations about the Homestead Heritage community. I found an interesting and balancing point of view in an article on beliefnet. Rod Dreher cautions those who read stories about the communal life at Homestead, "All I'm saying is that we should read stories like this critically, aware of our own biases. Most people, I think, have a favorable view of the Amish as pastoral agrarian separatists, which they are. But it is also a fact that some of the problems that critics have identified in Homestead have also been identified among the Amish. It is impossible to escape sin. At the same time, I am unpersuaded by those who point to problems with communities like this as conclusive evidence that the only sane way to live, therefore, is like everybody else."
As we sometimes say in Texas, "There's a saddle for every seat." My community may not work for you or yours for me. And, we know all too well that some communities are unhealthy and destructive. It is fair and prudent to ask questions and investigate any community. But before we rush to judgement about anybody's community, religious or otherwise, let's take the time to seek understanding. Maybe we'll encounter some values in another community that can be brought to our own and advance its authenticity.
Blue grits may not be for everybody. I probably won't make them a staple in my diet and will most likely stick to the grits I have come to know and love. Still, I am grateful that I live in a world that has blue grits in it and I'm better off for having acquired an appreciation for them. So, I'll offer a berakhah: Blessed are you, O Lord our God, Soverign of the universe, that I should have lived long enough to experience blue grits, (and the community that produced them)!