The Amish – the subject of a previous
post – are not the only religious group whose values have helped them in
are essentially co-operatives, but the shared religious commitment of their
members usually enable them to avoid the disputes over strategy and structure
that break up many of even the most well-meaning secular co-operatives.
The irony of the worldly success of organisations set up to
help members reject the world has a long history. Most famously, the Cistercian Order made a
point of building their monasteries in wild places, fit only for sheep, far
from distractions. However, such was their work ethic that it was hard for them
to avoid making a profit from the wool of those sheep, and their monasteries
became some of the biggest and most profitable businesses in medieval Europe.
Other orders continue that tradition today. Another irony is
how many monks have thrived by producing alcoholic products: the Trappists brew
strong beer, the Carthusians invented Chartreuse, and the Benedictines of
Buckfast Abbey developed a tonic wine.
Buckfast is a peaceful place by the beautiful River Dart in
Devon where it is not hard to think of another world – perhaps a better world –
a better world, certainly, than the mean streets of Glasgow, probably the
hardest city in Britain. Buckfast and Glasgow have nothing in common – except
the tonic wine.
For some reason, the tonic wine developed by the innocent
monks, who probably thought it would be used as a healthy digestif, has become the tipple of choice for Glaswegian drunks.
The monks themselves are not to blame for this. For one
thing, they are no longer directly involved in the production of the tonic
wine. More importantly, if the tonic wine did not exist, it is a fair bet that
dipsomaniac Scots would find something else to drink.
In any case, the monks set a good example by running their
own businesses. In doing so, they demonstrate that their commitment to live a
life of prayer is not motivated by a desire to live off the backs of others.
One feels that the small businessmen who founded the Church – Jesus the
carpenter, Peter the fishing boat owner, and Paul the tent manufacturer – would