The National Catholic Reporter’s cover story is about the Agape community in Massachusetts:
Agape was founded in when Brayton and Suzanne Shanley and a few friends decided they needed to live their Catholicism according to the uncompromising dictates they understood from the Gospels.
“We had a strong conviction that we didn’t want to go the mainstream American way. We had a deepening understanding that we had to be voluntarily displaced, you need to live differently to really follow Christ,” recalled Suzanne Shanley, former teacher and now a hearty woman in her early 60s with a wise bearing. “I didn’t know how that would become concrete until I started studying my Catholicism through Daniel Berrigan,” she said, referring to the Jesuit priest, poet and longtime antiwar activist. “What did it mean to be a Catholic teacher, to be a Catholic person? It was a series of movements and revelations about what my faith really is. It was reading scripture in a true and unvarnished way to find my faith.”
The Shanleys and cofounder McCarthy believed Christ preached an end to war. But being American taxpayers made them complicit in the military actions of the United States, their dollars paid for contra weapons in Central America and for the nuclear arms race that was imperiling the planet. So they decided to stop paying taxes.
Some tax resisters refuse to pay the government what they owe and instead redirect the same amount of earnings to nonmilitary causes they support. The nascent Agape community instead decided to live below the taxable income, currently a household income of about $20,000 a year.
“We were reducing our lifestyle. If you are going to live under taxable income, well, food is very expensive,” Suzanne Shanley said with a laugh. So they looked for land where they could grow their own food.
The search led them to Hardwick, a tiny central Massachusetts village in the Worchester diocese, just up the road from Ware, a faded mill town. On 32 acres of land they set up camp, planted vegetables, built a hermitage and began offering hospitality to anyone who wanted to join in their study of nonviolence.
Accompanying the interesting article is a sidebar on tax resistance that was lazily cribbed from Wikipedia. (Whatever; I’ve put a lot of work into that Wikipedia page in part so that reporters will be more likely to treat the subject intelligently, so I shouldn’t complain.)