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The Christian Republic of Olmsted is a survivor community based in former Olmsted County, Minnesota. It is a Protestant Christian theocracy which strictly enforces Biblical law as found in the Old Testament. Being Christian, though, this law is interpreted by principles laid down in the New Testament as well.
The city of Rochester was founded by George Head in 1854, just three years after native Sioux tribe ceded the land to the U.S. government. Head's log cabin served as a tavern and within a couple of years the town had fifty inhabitants. In 1855 the county of Olmsted was created of which Rochester was to be the county seat.
In 1863, Dr. William W. Mayo arrived in town as examining surgeon for the US Army - doing pre-enlistment physicals for draftees into the American Civil War. Two decades later a large tornado tore through town, destroying much of the city and killing 37 and injuring hundreds. Mayo and his sons set up a clinic to tend to the medical needs. From that small start St. Mary's Hospital was opened in 1889. This would in turn become the Mayo Clinic, the largest and most well-respected medical facility in the world.
Doomsday and Aftermath
Most of the nuclear missile attacks in Minnesota on Doomsday were in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region. The city of Rochester, located in the southeast of the state, was spared destruction. By October of 1983, Mayor Chuck Hazama, having not heard from state or federal authorities asked the Rochester city government to become the provisional government of Minnesota. Since the city had become a destination of refugees fleeing the targeted areas, and deaths from fallout had mounted, critical supplies like food, water, and medicine were rapidly diminishing.
The extreme measures that had to be taken that winter strained the government to the breaking point. Things began to get out of hand as numerous armed gangs fought to wrest control from the Provisional Government. Having inadequate security of its own, the Rochester Provisional Government completely collapsed in early spring of 1984. What had been a thriving city of 58,000, swollen to over 75,000 with refugees seeking medical treatment, was reduced to a fractured city run by gang leaders.
The northern portion of the city, though, had stood against the the gangs, lead by a young pastor of Christ Community Church. The church was small - with a membership of less than 200, but the pastor, Rev. Albert Warren had been active in the community for years. His editorials in the newspaper had swayed local elections at times. In a word, he was popular. He had never thought of himself as a prophet, but an editorial he had written in July of 1983 had linked the growing immorality in America to coming judgment. He had not "seen" anything in a vision, but after Doomsday many started asking him about God's will for America now that the bombs had fallen. All he could do was pray, and ask others to do the same.
By the the summer of 1984, as things in the inner city became chaos, the community near Christ Community Church became a "mecca" for Christians seeking comfort in numbers. the bigger churches having been taken over by the political bosses as headquarters for nefarious activities. Before long, there were over 10,000 people meeting in three services held under tents in nearby Lincolnshire Park every Sunday.
And then, Pastor Warren had a vision. He couldn't deny it, and he was sure it was from God. He saw a crowd of people gathered around a lake. When he asked, "How many, Lord?" He was shown the number 30,000.
Feeling that this meant he was to lead a 30,000 member church -- almost half the population of Rochester -- he spent a week fasting and praying at a lake north of town in the township of Oronoco. The lake was the one in his vision. The township was a forgotten village of commuters who used to work in Rochester, but now were fending on their own. Gardens were growing in back yards, but no one knew if there was going to be any food in the fall. Some had hoarded supplies when things started going bad in the city. But most had been coming to town to hear him preach. Religion was the one thing that gave them hope.
On the eighth day, after he had not been at Lincolnshire Park on Sunday, people started to come to him. He had not told anyone where he had gone, but word got around. On Wednesday morning, as he was breaking camp to go into town to find a restaurant to literally "break fast," He saw thousands of people standing around the lake. It was as he had seen in his vision. He thought it was a hallucination brought on by hunger (he had only drank water for a whole week). But when he spoke to an elderly woman standing nearby, she reached into her shoulder bag and gave him a large biscuit, filled with a chicken fillet with cheese.
"Eat now, Pastor," she said, "you need your strength."
The number of people who had shown up that day was only about 3,000. Most of them had walked up from Rochester on impulse, feeling that their pastor needed them. By Sunday, the town of Oronoco had given over the facilities of Oronoco State Park for services -- and for as long as Warren needed it. People came to the first service at 10:00 AM, and then at 11:30. People brought food at 1:00 pm, and stayed for another service at 3:00. He called for a prayer meeting after supper that night. It started at 8:00 pm and lasted until 8:00 am the next morning. People were claiming to have been healed of diseases by midnight, and there were outbreaks of some people speaking in unknown tongues in certain corners of the crowd -- which had grown to at least 10,000 people -- standing in groups of perhaps fifty or so all around the lake. After the sun came up, Warren took an opportunity to send the people away. In order to be heard, he had to use a megaphone while seated in a row boat that had been pushed out into the lake. His parting exhortation lasted for fifteen minutes.
In the weeks to follow, a full 30,000 people had migrated from Rochester. Tent cities spread out in all directions around the lake. A summer thunder storm threatened, and a funnel cloud was seen on the horizon. Certain doom loomed as the clouds darkened and a tornado headed their way. As people began to seek shelter where they could, Warren walked into the wind, asking God why such a thing should happen. As he cried out in anguish, vegetables began to fall from the sky. The funnel cloud had suddenly dissipated releasing its burden picked up some two hundred miles to the west. Someone's loss became Oronoco's blessing. The city of Rochester was not so lucky, though. This storm, still had a lot of energy and the clouds formed yet another massive tornado which ripped through the city reducing its mighty buildings to shreds.
The next day, as the storm passed, refugees from Rochester began to trickle into the tent cities in the north. The gang leaders that had been running the town had been either killed or injured so severely that they were no more a threat, nor were they a help in keeping any kind of order. The people of Rochester needed help.
And the people of Oronoco were more that willing to provide that help. Pastor Warren lead a team of over 3,000 volunteers into the wreckage, pulling many victims to safety and finding next of kin for those dead they could identify. Proper Christian burials were arranged where appropriate, and things began to get into some sort of order.
The lack of any secular government in Rochester, and a casual small town government in Oronoco which knew it could not run such a rescue effort, led to an agreement to consolidate the county of Olmsted under the authority of Albert Warren's Church, which had an established authority structure with both elders and deacons. Warren was wary of such an arrangement, but another night of prayer and fasting convinced him that it was the right thing to do.
Having heard nothing from Minneapolis or Washington, the government of Olmsted was on its own. With the approval of his staff, Warren called for an election of all adults in the county to approve the Church-State arrangement. A large majority agreed to this. And those that didn't either agreed to live under the authority of the church or move to other counties that were known to have survived Doomsday.
Before long, a constitution had been written which reflected a strict adherence to the Ten Commandments and the holidays that were laid down in the Old Testament. Both the Commandments and the holidays, though, were based on interpretations drawn from the New Testament. Pastor Warren became the Chief Overseer and ruled with his elders over a population of around 40,000 people. Elections were held to choose deacons for four year terms, but the elders remained constant, with new elders being chosen when needed.
However, Pastor Warren let it be known that there was no "ruler" in Olmsted but Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Disobedience to the Ten Commandments was subject to punishment ranging from lashes to hard labor. Unrepentant law breakers would eventually be expelled from the state. The death penalty, though, was reserved for murderers and rapists. Trials for all crimes were before the victim (or family of such), witnesses and the elders, and there was no appeal.
Detractors thought it would never work. But the system seems to have caught on in Olmsted, for Christians from as far away as the former state of Pennsylvania began to make their way to the republic over the next few years. As long as Warren has been the Overseer, in fact, it seems that God has been blessing the efforts of Warren and his flock.
After reconstruction of Rochester, Pastor Warren and the elected elders moved to the government complex there. The main congregation in Rochester was headed up by Warren and a "staff" of five associate pastors and ten elders. Throughout the republic the pastors of numerous churches had agreed to help run the government from their existing church structure. In many cases, though, churches were consolidated to better govern the towns and townships. In those cases, former pastors of smaller churches would become elders of the larger congregation. Each of these local pastors and elders had to meet with Warren and the elders in Rochester to assure that they agreed in principle with the constitution of the Republic of Olmsted.
Throughout the republic the elders of the local congregations formed the "court system" that heard legal cases and determined punishment of the guilty. In the case of capital punishment or excommunication, cases were to be appealed to the government in Rochester.
In Rochester, a board of pubic servants (deacons) represented the various towns as they ran the day to day operations of the Republic. Likewise, deacons were elected in each town that had a congregation to run the local affairs. Some smaller towns chose to be associated with congregations in nearby towns for more equal representation in Rochester. Most new "laws" of the republic originated within meetings of the boards of deacons. However, these laws only had to do with such things as running the republic -- the services, the facilities, etc. -- and not with the legal system. All "law" was considered established within the pages of the Christian Bible -- especially the Pentateuch of the Old Testament and the Epistles of the New Testament. Interpretation of this law came from the pastors under the oversight of the elders.
Technically, the whole Bible could be used by the pastors and elders to establish the law of the republic. However, the Basic Law was the Ten Commandments (as found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5) along with the interpretation given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5-6) and on the Plain (Luke 6:20-49). The rest of the New Testament was used to help interpret Jesus' teachings (the sermons and the parables) in order to align the Christianity of Olmsted with the historical creeds and confessions of Christianity.
The Ten Commandments
A summery of the ten commandments and a common interpretation follows:
- There is only one God, revealed in the Scriptures in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- No images of this God are to be erected and worshiped.
- The names of this God are to be held in reverence as set apart for him alone. Any use of the sacred name (Yahweh, Jehovah, Jesus, Jesus Christ) is forbidden in common public discourse (subject to fines, and, if severe, excommunication), that is to say, flippant profane speak bringing dishonor to the name.
- The seventh day, officially from midnight to midnight on Saturday (due to Western calendars), was set aside for rest. The first day of the week, Sunday, was also a day of rest, but on that day most public worship was conducted. For all practical purposes, the "weekend" of Western civilization was set aside for rest, no businesses were open on either day, but "recreation" was allowed, and even expected, on Saturday.
- Honor your father and your mother. Family is paramount for a stable society. Also, a due respect was to be shown to all in authority, be it family, work, or civil.
- Do not murder. One of two crimes that warranted the death penalty. The death penalty was by firing squad or by hanging, both in a pubic place administered by the victim's family.
- Do not commit adultery. This included all cases of sexual activity outside of marriage. All cases had to be documented by at least two witnesses or circumstantial evidence from at least five sources. Forced sexual activity (rape), when verified by physical evidence, was punishable by death only on testimony of the victim.
- Do not steal. The taking of property (money was rare, even after the development of a currency in recent years) without permission was forbidden, of course. The thief would be penalized fourfold, and the fine would be payable to the victim. The thief was expected to pay the retribution as soon as possible, and would be expected to set up payment plans or become a personal servant of the victim until such time as an equitable settlement had been reached.
- Do not bear false witness. To lie in order to get an advantage on another, if proven, was considered the same as stealing, and would be treated the same. In a court of law, or in a public document, a false statement would render the liar an outcast. A liar would lose his or her citizenship rights.
- Do not covet. Since it is impossible to judge the heart, the practical application of the tenth commandment came down to strict "truth in advertising" laws. For all practical purposes advertising was by word of mouth only.
The holidays were followed according to the Old Testament Calendar, even though the harvest times in Olmsted were not the same as in Bible lands. This was largely because the Old Testament Festivals were interpreted by the New Testament. That is to say they were considered as pointing to Jesus Christ and therefore as being "fulfilled" in Him. There were eight official holidays:
- Purim. In acknowledgment of God's providential care of His people (The Book of Esther), Oldstedans observed this Jewish holiday on February 14th. This date was chosen to take advantage of the historical "holiday" that had arisen on this date. However, observances were not to be in sentimental love shown with gifts and cards, but instead traditional observances based on Judaism were adapted.
- Christian Passover. This day is identical to the Good Friday of historical Catholicism. All congregations observe the Lord's supper on the Thursday evening before Resurrection Sunday, and then fast until sundown on Friday. The fast, though is a personal decision (no restaurants are open from sundown Thursday until sundown Friday.
- Resurrection Sunday. This day, traditionally called "Easter" (a word not used in Olmsted due to its pagan origins), is the holiest day of the year. Assembly halls are open all day with celebrations of praise and song, and sermons based on the Resurrection of Jesus. This is the Christian "Feast of the First Fruits."
- Pentecost Sunday. Exactly seven weeks after Resurrection Sunday, this day is set aside for family worship services in homes. The patriarch of an extended family is the "pastor for a day" as the family sings, prays and in general gets to know each other a little better.
- Feast of Trumpets. The fall holiday, held on September 21, calls the community around the coming harvest. The day begins a period of evangelistic meetings in which gospel is preached to reach the unconverted in the community.
- Day of Atonement. The second Sunday after September 21. On this day, a general call for repentance is made to all in the community. Though this day was in many ways fulfilled in Christ's sacrifice, the Christian interpretation of this most holy of the Jewish holidays points to the believer's "sacrifice" of himself ((Romans 12:1-2). This is a day for personal and public confession of sins. This is the end of the season of evangelistic meetings.
- Feast of Tabernacles. On this day Olmsted recognizes the (Birthday) of Jesus Christ. In an eight-day period - beginning on the second Sunday in October and ending on the third Sunday - a republic-wide celebration of thanksgiving is observed. Free lodging is offered to all who need it, homes are opened to families as feasts of recent harvested crops and game are spread for all. No government offices are open during the workweek, and most businesses are closed as well.
- Feast of Lights. December 24 - 31. Traditional observances of "Christmas" are merged with the Hanukkah of Judaism as the Annunciation to Mary is observed as being nine months before Jesus was born. Church officials acknowledge the pagan origin of the date of "Christmas" and opt instead to use the historical significance of the Dedication of the Jewish Temple to be "fulfilled" in the conception of Jesus (the Light of the World) as the beginning of His life on the earth.
From the beginning, Olmsted has had an agriculturally based, with the poor being sustained by generous gleaning laws for the farms that fill the countryside. Produce and livestock - cattle, goats and sheep, and poultry - are the usual media of exchange. Though not strictly the law, the production of animals deemed in the Old Testament 'unclean' for use as food is discouraged. This has, however, not prevented the raising of such animals as swine and rabbits for other uses (dog and cat food, fur and leather, etc.)
Starting with the harvest of season of 1984, the Republic has observed Sabbatical years for all farmland beginning in 1990, the seventh year of the Republic. This decision, announced in 1985, led to some protests but established the rule of law in the republic. Taken from the Old Testament, the law of the Sabbatical year demonstrated to Warren and the elders that God was indeed in control of the economy. 1990 proved to be a very good year indeed, as the poor had total control of the fields as they lay fallow. The farmers themselves had set aside enough for two years, providing the general populace processed foods through the end of spring harvest in 1992. By 1997, trade had been established with non-affiliated counties surrounding Olmsted, allowing for that year's crops to also lay untouched by anyone but the poor, which had reduced since the last Sabbath year. By 2004, hardly anyone was poor enough to even touch the crops, which served mostly for food for free-range livestock anyway. The fourth Sabbatical year began on September 21, 2011.
Services such as janitorial, maintenance, and medical care, make up around 30% of the economy, while government services are provided through the collection of tithes (10%) from the households and businesses of the Republic. These tithes are most often in produce and livestock as well. All elders and deacons are also citizens of the Republic with only the pastors being paid for services rendered.
Due to the EMP on doomsday, and the loss of the power grid in southern Minnesota due to other factors of the war, radio and television disappeared in the region as it did almost everywhere in the former US. However, some of the equipment at WDGY (1130 AM) remained intact and came back in use in 2001 by a private firm run by First Baptist Church of Rochester. This station was renamed WFBC and carries popular and country music during daylight hours Sunday through Friday beginning with worship services broadcast live on Sundays. It is the main source of broadcast news to the republic.
The main print media, published on Tuesday and Friday, is the Olmsted County Journal, which incorporated some of the operations defunct Post-Bulletin. Largely the outlet for pastors and deacons in communicating their concerns and the needs of the congregations, the Journal also provides weather and sports coverage. Monthly editions, in the form of a magazine called The World, provide news digests of events as gathered via radio receivers and reports from Apostles brought by messengers from the Embassies.
With its basic nature as a theocracy, the Republic has attempted since its inception to remain apart from the world at large. However, it has not remained isolated, as it has sent representatives, called 'apostles' (more commonly 'missionaries,' as 'ones sent with a mission') into the surrounding counties and bordering states. These apostles, though, do not normally speak of Olmsted, or pastor Warren, but instead the speak of Jesus Christ to any who will listen in halls of public discourse.
Apostles, as a rule, do not join in denominational worship, but invite Christians everywhere to visit Olmsted in their travels. Since 2006, though, apostles have been active in establishing 'embassies' in several city-states and nations, including International Falls and the Quad-Cities Alliance. Embassies are enclaves for fellowship with Christians and others interesting in supporting the continued independent existence of the CRO. Due to these Embassies, however, a knowledge of the Republic has spread to much larger nations, such as the USA and Superior. Officials in Olmsted have reported concerns that such democracies with expansionist tendencies are unwelcome, especially if they seek any sort of control over the Republic.