During our series on “Capitalism: A Bible Study,” we invited people in our congregation to tell a short story on what the Kingdom of God looks like on earth. This story was told by Tree on Feb. 25, 2018.
When I heard that the topic for Lent was going to explore Capitalism and the Bible, I thought that information about Gerrard Winstanley and the English Diggers or True Levelers should be included, and suggested that to Sheri and Joanna. Later, Sheri asked me to share a “mini-story” about the Diggers and what they mean to me.
In 1967 during the summer of love, I hitchhiked to San Francisco to visit my sister who lived in the Haight Ashbury. She wasn’t home, so I wandered down to the Panhandle in Golden Gate Park and hung out. I was hungry and at some point a big flatbed truck arrived with Country Joe and the Fish singing “one two three four what are we fighting for” (an anti-Vietnam war song that I loved), and the Diggers came out with spaghetti and fed us all.
The Diggers were a group of people in the early sixties who took their name from the English Diggers of 1649 who believed in a world that was free of private property and buying and selling. The San Francisco Diggers mainly fed people every day in the park, but also started free stores, free medical clinics, and the Haight Ashbury Switchboard. Today on bus stops you might see advertising for a Free City in reference to City College being free now. That was the last name and vision of the Diggers, the Free City Collective.
Visiting the Haight during that time and getting fed by the Diggers actually changed my life dramatically. I returned to San Francisco in 1970 to start my own Digger-like free meal program in the park and in the process of figuring how to do that I met a group of people who lived in an intentional community or commune, who loved my idea and offered to help me. I wound up living with them for 20 years and have stay connected with them still after 48 years.
We lived communally and shared all things in common, including money. I learned more about the San Francisco Diggers, who left behind a rich history. Gerrard Winstanley and his radical Christianity, which was influenced by the early Anabaptistists, won over my heart. Long before the Occupy movement or Standing Rock, the English Diggers occupied the common lands in England and started planting the land with vegetables and inviting others to come work together and eat bread together. It was such a radical yet simple idea that it was put down within 6 months (they were also pacifists and didn’t fight back when attacked). I am still inspired by both Digger movements and continue to believe in doing things for free… buy if you must, but don’t sell. I also embrace Gerrard Winstanley’s spiritual belief that God created the earth for all to share…a common treasury. I owe it all to that one meal in the park with the Diggers; it was like the Last Supper, it was that special.