|>>|| No. 2812
The thing about slaves is that they work, but neither get to decide what work to do or how to do it, and they don't get to keep the produce of their labour. If you leave the Jesus Army, you leave with nothing. Its members aren't threatened with a whip, they're threatened with abject poverty. The difference between being poor and not being poor is that if you get hungry and take food to eat, you may be beaten and imprisoned for it. In other words, the Jesus Army threatens with violence, but it is the violence of the state that they threaten with, not their own violence.
We are familiar with the idea of slaves being treated as property. This has little subjective relevance to the slave; the experience is the same. If slaves are treated as property, it dictates the behaviour of the slave owners, not the slaves. Slaves do not necessarily need to be treated as property, just as land does not; it may be treated as a common, for example. What people decide to treat something as has no physical effect in itself upon the object, but dictates the behaviour of the people who treat it.
Slaves must be cared for. This has always been the case, and it seems that Jesus Army members are treated relatively well. The question is; is this a product of the virtue of the organisation, or a product of generally far living conditions in Britain? A few centuries ago, a "free" peasant had to endure horrendous conditions. You'd expect slaves to be treated worse, but still cared for as one would care for any owned object. If slaves had been treated better than peasants, placed in fancy houses and fed well, the peasants would likely have jumped at the chance to become a slave; consider the superior treatment received by American house slaves.
Now, I'm not saying that members of the Jesus Army are slaves. I'm saying it sounds like slavery to me; I have only just heard of the Jesus Army, I'm not intimately familiar with them. I will say, though, that contemporary slavery will often take rather unfamiliar forms compared to the historical framework that we are used to. Consider the government's workfare schemes; these are beginning to approach slavery. If in lieu of benefits workers were given government or corporate-owned domiciles to live in "for free", and similarly fed "for free" from a canteen, it would represent actual slavery.
I've also nothing against communes. A commune ought to organised democratically, though.