November 23, 2017

A Simpler Emerging Way

By Chaplain Mike

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22, NRSV)

“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14, NRSV)

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:32-35, NRSV)

Some of us take Jesus’ words and the example of the early church seriously. The rest of us sit in our nice homes and read about them.

In my opinion, the most important and attractive part of the Emerging Movement is what has been called the New Monasticism. The idea is not strictly new, but rather a renewed emphasis with new expressions of Christian community. Discussion of this approach, and examples of its modern incarnation in evangelicalism have been around for forty years or so.

For example, according to a 1988 editorial in Christianity Today:

John R.W. Stott, the elder statesman of British evangelicalism, has stated recently that if he were young and beginning his Christian discipleship over, he would establish a kind of evangelical monastic order. Joining it would be men vowed to celibacy, poverty, and peaceableness. (CT—”Remonking the Church”)

CT’s editorial mentioned other unlikely Christian leaders who were in favor of such an approach, and the editors strongly advocated that the evangelical church could be strengthened by groups of believers forming “remonasticized” ministries bringing renewed testimony to the power of God’s Word and prayer.

Earlier Intentional Communities
Back in the mid-1970’s two friends and I joined one of the most unusual prayer circles I’d ever been in. It was Easter Sunday morning in a park in downtown Baltimore. Behind a stage, we three clean-cut suburban white privileged Christians held hands with a group of long-haired, tattooed hippie-type folks whose prayers ignited and accelerated and lifted off into some dizzying spiritual stratosphere with which I was totally unfamiliar. Our humble folk trio took the stage and did a few songs and then these new friends—members of a group called Resurrection Band—followed with an opening blast that would have moved the stone if the angel had needed help that Easter morning. I’m pretty sure no one was asleep in Baltimore after the opening chords.

They were from Chicago, from a community called “Jesus People USA” (JPUSA). Founded in 1972, in the midst of the “Jesus People” movement that arose during those turbulent days, JPUSA has maintained a witness of self-supporting, communal Christian living and urban ministry among the poor and dispossessed for more than 35 years now. These days, they number about 500 people who live, worship, and serve in Chicago under the oversight of the Evangelical Covenant Church.

The New Monasticism
Now, let’s go to 1998, when Shane Claiborne and six other students from Eastern University left campus and moved into Philadelphia’s impoverished Kensington neighborhood near St. Edward’s Cathedral, where two years earlier students and activists had joined with 40 families to live in the abandoned facility as a protest against the forced eviction of homeless women and children from the community. The Simple Way was formed.

Today, the Simple Way, with its two houses on Potter Street, is one of the oldest of a new crop of Christian intentional communities. Formed often independently by mostly young, single Christians, these communities are the latest wave of evangelicals who see in community life an answer to society’s materialism and the church’s complacency toward it. Rather than enjoy the benefits of middle-class life, these suburban evangelicals choose to move in with the poor. Though many of the same forces drive them as did earlier generations—a desire to experience intense community and to challenge contented evangelicalism—they are turning to an ancient tradition to provide the spiritual sustenance for their ministries. (CT, “The New Monasticism”)

The community life and work of The Simple Way, along with reflections on what it means to be an “ordinary radical” who “loves God, loves people, and follows Jesus,” is captured in Claiborne’s stimulating and provocative book, The Irresistible Revolution.

The founding of The Simple Way was rooted in three major formative experiences in Claiborne’s life: his experience of identifying with the homeless residents of Philadelphia in St. Edward’s Cathedral, a stint with Mother Theresa’s ministry in Calcutta, and a year in the wealthy white suburban Christian world of Willow Creek Community Church and Wheaton College.

It was in St. Ed’s that I was born again…again. There is something mystical about finding God in the ruins of the church. At the time, I had no idea who St. Francis of Assisi was, but somehow the divine whisper that he and those young radicals heard in Italy in the thirteenth century was very familiar: “Repair my church which is in ruins.” Now hundreds of years later, another bunch of young dreamers was leaving the Christianity that smothered them, to find God in the abandoned places, in the desert of the inner city. I felt so thirsty for God, so embarrassed by Christianity, and so ready for something more. (p. 65)

In The Irresistible Revolution, Claiborne tells stories about the daily life and work of the community. In doing so, he challenges nearly every assumption underlying the comfortable, culture-bound Christianity of the American church. If read carefully, both political conservatives and liberals will find plenty of reasons to feel threatened and get angry by what Shane Claiborne represents and asserts. Some will dismiss him as an idealistic, leftist activist. Others will complain the approach doesn’t go nearly far enough and that he’s too conservative to be a true social activist.

Claiborne himself claims he and his friends are just trying to follow Jesus, in particular by living among the poor and identifying with them in love. Note: not by helping the poor, serving the poor, giving to the poor, ministering to the poor. Living with the poor — sharing their lives, their hurts, their needs, their hopes, their sorrows. And in the process, forming a community that ministers to one another. Taking seriously the NT vision of a new community unlike anything the world has ever seen.

And Jesus did not set up a program but modeled a way of living that incarnated the reign of God, a community in which people are reconciled and our debts are forgiven just as we forgive our debtors (all economic words). That reign did not spread through organizational establishments or structural systems. It spread like disease — through touch, though breath, through life. It spread through people infected by love. (p. 159)

What I love about the New Monasticism and these renewed efforts toward genuine community and incarnational ministry is the down-to-earth, grassroots, person-to-person, face-to-face nature of the work. This is about small, not big. This is about humble, not self-important. This is about people, not about “building great churches” or ministries. As Claiborne says, “God’s kingdom grows smaller and smaller as it takes over the world.”

This is not academic or pretentious gobbledegook about post-modernism and how to speak the Gospel in a world without metanarratives, about “engaging the culture,” or going about the deconstruction of traditional categories and practices. At its best, this is simply about loving brother, sister, neighbor, and enemy in the name of Jesus in terms and ways we all can understand.

Such movements that take radically different approaches are always in danger of self-righteousness, however, and this temptation must be scrupulously avoided. New Monasticism is a different calling, not a superior one. Right alongside this new monasticism, the church in our day needs a “new vocationalism,” so that we can ALL learn to live as “ordinary radicals” in every possible expression of life, work, setting, and economic situation.

Postscript: The 12 Marks of New Monasticism
The New Monasticism movement had its official birth at at 2004 conference in Durham, NC. Representatives from communities old and new met with academics and worked out a voluntary rule to guide the various societies in their life and ministry. Here are the twelve marks they developed:

  1. Relocation to the abandoned places of Empire.
  2. Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us.
  3. Hospitality to the stranger
  4. Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation.
  5. Humble submission to Christ’s body, the church.
  6. Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the community along the lines of the old novitiate.
  7. Nurturing common life among members of intentional community.
  8. Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.
  9. Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life.
  10. Care for the plot of God’s earth given to us along with support of our local economies.
  11. Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthew 18.
  12. Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life.

Comments

  1. With a couple of exceptions, sounds like Mt. Athos.

    • Except that The Simple Way and other such communities are intentionally missional and not separatist in nature like Mt. Athos. That is, they seek to live in and among the people of the community, not separated from them. They seek to carry Jesus’ love every day into real life settings, rather than retreating for the purpose of prayer and contemplation. They include married people and families instead of simply celibate men. There is actually quite a difference. I think both kinds of monastic movements can be legitimate and helpful to both church and world.

      • Buford Hollis says:

        Several Athonite monasteries maintain missions in places like the Congo, or have some sort of outreach for troubled or disadvantaged Greeks (like drug addicts) who come and live with them as their guests. Gregoriou, for instance, does both. Not that they lack faults (I don’t even know where to start with the HUGE scandal from a couple years back–it covered practically everything, from simony to antiquities smuggling) but a lot of them really are doing their best.

        • Buford Hollis says:

          P.S. And on top of that, remember that on Athos, a couple thousand monks have to receive many multiples of that number of pilgrims / tourists. So if they don’t all go out into the world, maybe it’s because they’re too busy dealing with the world coming to them!

  2. I’ve thought about doing such a thing. However, I believe before a “New Monasticism” can be ushered in, many will have to overcome their prejudices about monasticism in general. I was raised to believe “monasticism was a self-righteous way to perform works in order to gain salvation”. While there is that danger, I believe there is more to the story….

    I look forward to seeing what others have to think on the subject.

    • Buford Hollis says:

      Yeah, I was wondering why it had to be NEW monasticism? What’s wrong with the old monasticism? Is it just because these are Protestants and the others are Catholics, Orthodox, or something like that? (Yeah I know, there are some odd Episcopalian Franciscans or whatnot.)

  3. Irresistable Revolution blew me away

    I’m still trying to work out what to do about it, to be honest.

    What strikes me is that we are always looking for prescriptions on exactly what we should do, but what we really need is creativity to adapt what God has inspired within us to our own particular circumstances.

    Nothing in our school or church education prepares us for that.

    • “What strikes me is that we are always looking for prescriptions on exactly what we should do, but what we really need is creativity to adapt what God has inspired within us to our own particular circumstances.”

      Absolute genius. :)))

  4. ahumanoid says:

    I never heard of JPUSA before, but it looks like an amazing community. I’d love to know if any other communities like this exist (aside from The Simple Way)?

    Also, does anybody know of any monastic communities that are geared toward prayer/contemplation/solitude that are open to accepting new members??

    • To start with, go to http://www.newmonasticism.org and click the “Near You” button and you can see if there are any of the NM communities in your area.

    • JPUSA had been alleged to have issues with authoritarianism, from accounts I’ve read, perhaps even bordering on cult-like control, but you can Google for info. E.g.:

      http://www.apologeticsindex.org/j18.html

      • There is a series of articles about this on the JPUSA site too.

      • Eric, I’ve been attending JPUSA’s yearly Cornerstone Festival for years now and have gotten to know many of its members — and I haven’t seen any indications of cult-like authoritarianism. Of course, it’s hard to judge something like that from the outside. They certainly aren’t authoritarian or cult-like when it comes to theology. Honestly, I’ve never met a group of theologically open minded and flexible Christians in my life. And they certainly aren’t isolationists like most cults are. What you’ve heard may be related to structural or organizational issues. But being a community of 500 hundred people in the middle of a major city — many of whom have come in off the streets and have a lot of issues and problems — they would have to run a tight ship and be pretty strict regarding certain things.

    • Buford Hollis says:

      All monasteries ought to be “geared toward” prayer and contemplation. Solitude, however, is traditionally considered an advanced practice, to be taken up only at the direction of one’s spiritual director (who is far more likely to place newcomers in some sort of drudgework detail). Work, along with prayer, is an equally traditional aspect of monastic life.

      In the case of Catholic or Orthodox monasteries (and the handful of mainline Protestant ones), just contact the abbot and discuss your situation. A visit of several weeks duration would be a reasonable first step. “Joining” usually involves a lengthy postulancy and notiviate, with counseling to determine whether this is in fact your vocation.

      A number of lay Protestants live in intentional communities which may resemble monastic ones in some ways. Decision-making may be authoritarian or collective, and great variety exists in their customs and theology. Some of these should be approached with caution.

  5. greetings from a punk squat in Germany. we started in our monastic endevours about the same time shane did but we have a more scattered and nomadic approach than him, and tend to join other communities as well as start them, applying monastic principles but avoiding the weirdness.

    good stuff. thanks for posting this.

    • When I saw “new monastocism” in this post my first thought was of you, so glad you joined in the discussion.

      For those that don’t know, Andrew is the “Tall Skinny Kiwi” and his blog can be found on the IMonk sidebar blogroll, or here:

      http://tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com/

      For those who want to see what “emerging” was/is on a more global scale (outside the US mindset), Andrew is perhaps the primary resource. It was his decision to stop using “emerging” that sent tremors throughout the emerging church in the US.

    • Thanks for joining the discussion, Andrew. We appreciate you and your ministry.

  6. Buford Hollis says:

    This makes me think of Ole Anthony’s church in Dallas, Texas. Trinity? They started taking in the homeless–like, into their own actual homes. And when they found out some of them were made homeless thanks to a certain local TV evangelist in the prosperity gospel mold, they started doing exposes of TV evangelists. Oh yeah, and they publish “The (Wittenberg) Door” magazine.

    I distrust the impulse to formulate it with resolutions and whatnot, though. I mean, the next thing you know, there will be books and magnets, and churches will make people sign statements saying they agree with all twelve steps.

    • Beware of Ole Anthony. All that’s sell-all-and-give-to-and-live-with-and-live-for the poor is not always what it seems to be. Read I CAN’T HEAR GOD ANYMORE by Wendy Duncan for more info re: the dark side of Mr. Anthony:

      http://www.dallascult.com/

      • Buford Hollis says:

        Thank you for that link, Eric. I only heard about Anthony, and was unaware of the controversy.

        What is he actually accused of? I couldn’t find anything substantive on the link itself (which is basically an ad for a book)–just the allegation that Trinity Foundation is a cult, and that Anthony is controlling and has lied about himself. Details…?

        • Here is the Dallas Observer article:
          http://www.dallasobserver.com/2006-08-03/news/the-cult-of-ole/
          I visited his “church” and morning and evening Bible studies a few times before the scandal broke.

          If you’re at all interested, you should buy Wendy’s book (Amazon sells it, too). It will answer your questions about what

        • Here is the Dallas Observer article:
          http://www.dallasobserver.com/2006-08-03/news/the-cult-of-ole/
          I visited his “church” and morning and evening Bible studies a few times before the scandal broke.

          If you’re at all interested, you should buy Wendy’s book (Amazon sells it, too). It will answer your questions about what is wrong with Trinity and Ole. I’ve attended their monthly ex-cult support group and am going again tomorrow. Doug and Wendy have become quite knowledgeable about cults and her book is well worth reading.

        • From the end of the Dallas Observer article:

          [Doug] Duncan looked at the man he had followed for 21 years. “Ole,” he said, “you have a personality disorder. You are a narcissist.”

          “Narcissist” also describes the leader of our former group who, like Anthony, taught things they had learned from J. W. Luman about dying to self, etc., but it all got twisted into a control mechanism. Narcissists are not nice and narcissism is not a harmless behavior.

  7. Mike,
    I like your comment about the “new vocationalism” as well. Most of us will likely never be new monastics but we all should be new vocationalists. IMO we so need to be renewed in taking the great commission into our every day lives and vocations. Missions and evangelism has become so programmed in our day that many of us see it as simply one of a plethora of options to possibly get involved in. But what would happen if we all took serious our ambassadorship for Christ every day, whatever we are doing and wherever we are? What a beautiful thought.
    Peace.

    • Exactly. Monasticism is not “scalable”, i.e. if everyone did it, society would collapse. We need to bring the same approach to plain old daily living. Not that I’m very good at it….

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Exactly. Monasticism is not “scalable”, i.e. if everyone did it, society would collapse.

        As Spain found out the hard way when their river of free gold & silver from the Americas dried up.

      • I’m not very good at it either, Kozak. But I’ve seen plenty of evidence that it can be done. All you really need is a group of like-minded Christians willing to shift their primary focus from the preservation and propogation of a particular religious institution or tradition and focus on the quality and Christlikeness of their relationships and activities. However, it is not easy. Our hectic, individualistic, compartmentalized culture doesn’t lend itself to putting relationships first, and just getting people together and getting them to let others into their individual or isolated family bubbles can be a struggle. It’s a lot easier to just be an attender of services and a consumer of pre-packaged church products — letting the professionals manage your spititual life for you, while keeping your private or family life seperate and distinct.

  8. ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’ (Luke 14:12-14, NRSV)

    I didn’t have time to read the full article, just the above verse and a quick comment. But, this verse reminds me of God’s grace towards us. He keeps giving us grace and expects nothing in return. So too should we do the same with others less fortunate than us. We should give and expect nothing in return. (If this was part of the article and I just reposted it, sorry.)

  9. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

    I heard Claiborne interviewed by Steve Brown on Steve Brown, Etc. a few times. One of them was right after the first Simple Way building burned down (like, literally, with fire). Steve asked Shane what they were going to do now. Shane’s response with a laugh was “I guess we’ll just be the Simpler Way!” It was such a neat response that I’ve never forgotten it.

    One of our parish’s priests is a member of an Anglican Benedictine order, though he does not live in a Benedictine abbey or anything. I don’t know how it is in Catholic circles, but what I’ve read from some of the Anglican versions of the traditional monastic orders, they have folks that live in the community as well as a lot of folks who live by the Rule, etc. but live in regular society. Either way, there’s something that really appeals to me in all this.

    • Isaac,

      Catholic religious communities work the same way. (Assuming that they are not cloistered women.) For Benedictines, the outside lay people who live by the rules are called Oblates,(and you don’t have to be Catholic to be one). I believe that the Franciscian version is called 3rd order. I’m not as familar with them because my own tendencies are toward the Benedictine spirituality.

  10. I don’t understand the first principle: “Relocation to the abandoned places of Empire.”

    What “empire” are they speaking of here?

    I wish this movement the best. I see a lot of virtue in it. But they are challenged by the contemporary economy. How are they supposed to accumulate the resource that they will share? JPUSA can make money selling music (which I for one have always been glad to buy). But not everybody is Glenn Kaiser.

    • “Empire” is emerging-speak for the power structures of modern culture. There are a lot of studies out there now about how Jesus and Paul’s message was implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) “revolutionary” in the sense of opposing and subverting the Caesars of the world.

      I’m sure The Simple Way makes some money selling books. Claiborne is a sought-after speaker as well, and members of the community are employed. JPUSA also runs at least three businesses that I am aware of, employing members and providing for the community.

      • The darkest part of the “empire” can be in the center of the power structures. And we can still follow Jesus by ministering to the rich by “sharing their lives, their hurts, their needs, their hopes, their sorrows” and have a radical faith completely directed by the Holy Spirit. There is no part of the earthly kingdom that doesn’t need Christ, and we are all part of the body … so let’s avoid elitism. Let’s just go where we are summoned and fully obey.

  11. I believe there is also a need for a temporary place and time for young people to explore the Christian communal life without the pressures of getting and spending and dating. Mormons do this for 2 years in a mission that is often life transforming.

    Temporary monasticism, rather than life long monasticism is probably much harder to perpetuate without a larger institutional church group perpetuating it. Right now, people join communal groups that are very powerful, but if it is temporary and they leave the group they leave with a sense of failure or being “not called” rather than a sense of growth and accomplishment of a life experience shared with God and His Body on earth. What do people think?

    • Mennonites have a similar mission experience that people participate in.

    • I have always thought it was something of a travesty that evangelicals did not have the same two-year expectation. It’s short enough not to disturb someone’s normal life path, and its long enough to represent a significant commitment for service and spiritual growth.

      I wonder if people would sign up for monastic contemplation and service if they could sign up for 2, or 5, 10 years, rather than taking a lifelong vow? That would be less scary and carry with it a less sense of failure for mainstreaming again at the end.

      Of course, you’d have to have a group of people signed up for life (or at least very long periods) to keep the community running and to retain the expertise keeping any ministries, businesses, etc. being run by the community working.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I wonder if people would sign up for monastic contemplation and service if they could sign up for 2, or 5, 10 years, rather than taking a lifelong vow?

        I believe several SE Asian Buddhist cultures do this, where a person takes a year or two as a Buddhist Monk then returns to secular life. I remember a local news story on something like this happening in the local Cambodian ethnic community, where ethnic gangbangers were entering the Monastery for a year or two to detox from their former gang lives.

      • Danielle,

        In Catholic orders, you could look at the process of becoming a full brother or sister as a short term commitment. Because a person can always leave, and it is only after several years in formation and a two year period of temporary vows, is one allowed to take permanent vows. (and I think that even those can be changed in the right circumstance)

    • There are also organizations like YWAM doing something similar.

  12. I read The Irresistable Revolution and was deeply challenged in my thinking. I’ve since read a few of the books Shane quoted (by Dorothy Day, Mother Theresa and John Perkins).

    I think every brand of Christian, i.e sinner saved by grace, runs the risk of the sin of pride and self righteousness. I don’t know Shane personally nor do I seek to emulate him and his work. But, after reading his book and seeking the red letters of Jesus, after praying for God’s will over mine, after being rescued from my own dark pit (not by my own ability), I truly believe God has called me to loosen my grip on lots of things–including a very comfy home we built a year ago. I am doing that simply because God is leading *me*. His book encouraged me to emulate and follow Jesus with sincerity, at his word. I am doing that with opposition from friends and family who just don’t understand me. I’m not looking for praise or acceptance. I’m not looking to follow a new monasticism. I’m only looking to love God, love others and follow Jesus–wherever, whatever, however, whenever he leads. I learned that from Shane’s book.

    I’m not sure why I keep commenting, but I think it has something to do with my journey away from organized religion, the American and world economy to God’s economy, in the absence of like-minded friends for the journey. I pray about that, thank God for a like-minded husband, and keep trying to love God, love others and follow Jesus. I feel badly if my comments have sounded self-righteous and prideful. After the threads the past couple of days, I wasn’t sure if I’d be back. I thought I heard self righteousness in the views about the tent meeting (which I know nothing of) but at which Shane Claiborne is a speaker. I couldn’t help but think it was his book that helped me to break free from the notion God is a pro-war Republican patriot and that the poor are somebody else’s problem (and that is something I dare not yet share with my father as I grew up in a home where that is absolute truth). When Jesus was all I needed, I learned He was indeed enough for me. But that’s just my journey. I, too, must be careful not to judge with pride and self righteousness.

    Love God. Love Others. Follow Jesus. And Peace Out.

    • Kris,
      I’ve only been reading at this site for a week or two (and have been greatly blessed by it) and every time I read the comments and come across a post from you I think “Ahh…a kindred spirit!” In my journey from organized religion, I too, have come to feel somewhat isolated…I crave the face-to-face fellowship of other like-minded believers, the opportunity for deep and meaningful conversations and the mutual edification that Jesus intended for His church. I have, quite simply, NOT found it in the churches I have attended. I decided that Jesus would be my true friend and I felt a compunction to rethink everything I had been taught and as a starting point, to seek out “only the red words of Jesus”. I, too, have been compelled by God to follow His economy…which seems to put me further at odds with others. But I am firmly convicted and have a strong and passionate desire to follow Him.
      It is so very wonderful to have The Internet Monk site to find that I am not alone on this journey, to learn a great deal more about the tradtions and foundations of the Christian faith and even to read the discussions on topics I don’t understand (I’m just a girl…saved by grace…not a theology student!)
      I wish you joy and blessings on this wonderful journey!

      • DebbieL,
        Thank you so much for your encouraging comment to mine. I, too, am just a girl…saved by grace…not a theology student. I hope you, too, find like-minded fellowship, have God’s strength to love Him more even while it costs you friends or family, and walk ever close with Christ as you read the red letters again and again!

  13. There is New Monastic Order in our city – not 5 miles from my house. I recently tentativly mentioned to my husband that someday, we might consider joining. They accept singles, marrieds, and families. I am glad there are Christians who are chosing this path. ~ L

  14. Mike you’re eating a few kernels of corn floating on the cesspool of “emergence”.

    1. Jesus didn’t die on the cross to show us how poor the political system “Empire” is. He died for the forgiveness of our sins. God is sovereign over all the empires of the earth and their politcal construction, including Nero, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Pharoah, and Nebuchadnezzar.

    2. Shane Claiborne may be the nicest guy in the world, and one of the best examples of civic righteousness that we have, but if he continues to preach false doctrine that goes against what the apostles taught (like universalism) then he is a wolf (a really seemingly nice one) devouring God’s sheep. He is the minister of Satan DISGUISED as an angel of light. (What? You thought they would seem mean?)

    3. Proclaiming Christ for the forgiveness of sins is more important than temporal ministry. Temporal ministry is very good. But giving someone bread, while withholding True Bread, is demonic. You feed them for a day only to consign them eternally to hell. Where’s the love in that? That quickly devolves into just stroking your own ego to make yourself feel good. Without Christ, everything else is for nothing. It’s all about Jesus.

    4. You quote scripture as if it is The Way, almost as if you don’t realize that scripture testifies about the True Way, Jesus Christ. Jose, who works all day as a tax accountant to feed his familiy and serve his neighbor in his profession, is doing every bit as much of the Lord’s work as Mother Theresa. He is reconcilied to God through Jesus Christ. God views his good works as if Christ himself had done them with perfect love.

    5. The new monasticism (helping people) is a lot better than the old monasticism (cloistered self-flagellation and seperatist self-righteous high-mindedness and superiority) because it is more obedient to what Christ taught. However, the fact that it labels itself makes it dangerously close to the original. We mustn’t ever think like Mother Theresa and the some emergents think and teach that such works pay our way to heaven (or rather as heaven-denying emergents teach give us moral standing and a right to be one with our pantheistic divine spark). The Way is Christ, he has done the paying.

    Mother Theresa seemingly died riddled with doubt about her salvation, had she done enough to earn her way? She devoted her entire life. Was it enough? Absolutely not. Only Christ is enough. Worse than that those who confess and teach others that good works put us right with God are destroying God’s flock.

    You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.(Gal5)
    And what is the summary(Lk10) of the law? Love God(Deut6) and Love Neighbor(Lev19).

    It is good to ever-remind people of the God’s decrees which require good works, both in obedience and fidelity to God and in serving our neighbor. Christ commanded us to love others sacrificially, giving up our own lives, as his loved us. And yet which of us have been willing to give up our lives to tell Syrians about the goodf news that Christ died for their sins? We all ought to to all of these things, and yet we all habitually fail. Which it why when we are despairing of our sin, the good news of Jesus Christ dying for our sins is so much more beautiful.

    • Beon, I’m so glad you are back. I’ve missed our wonderful arguments. Today, however, I’m too busy to seriously engage the multitude of half truths you wrote, so I’ll have to rely on others to take up the challenge of your comment.

    • Dear beon,
      I’m curious why you think Shane Claiborne doesn’t share the good news of Christ as he loves people through his way of life. Have you met him? I haven’t, but I did read his book and it encouraged me to love God, love my neighbors (not just the ones that look like me and go to my church), love my enemies (his friend/fellow Simple Way person was beaten severely on the street and, after praying, put up a sign on a post to let his abusers know he forgave them), and follow Jesus (who, by reading his own words, we find was often with the poor, despised and broken).

      I am not Shane’s publicist nor defender. I am just sad to see him so harshly judged for not caring to share the good news while loving others with a selfless kind of love. I just didn’t come to the same conclusion. The most important thing I learned from reading his book was that I wanted to know Jesus better. I then went to the red letters. I then saw for myself that being like Jesus, for me, means loving God and loving people. As I do that, it has been most natural for me to share what He has done for me and for them; I never did that before. I don’t really know Shane Claiborne, but I won’t judge him nor you. I do know that as I sell my custom-built, one-year-old home so that I’ll have more resources to share with people in my town who have much, much less, I am not trying to earn my salvation or become a saint. I am just one little sinner undeserving of the sacrifice Jesus paid for my salvation. I cannot reconcile that Jesus doesn’t want me to love my neighbor (the fatherless, the homeless, the unloved, the forgotten), and I can’t reconcile that I want anything less than His will anymore.

      That’s costing me friends and has my family whom I love asking me to “please make sure it’s God’s will” while they worry about me and plead with me. Of course we all fail God, but would you say that my radical choice to follow Christ (in my case from suburbia to inner city is radical) and love my neighbor better with my time and resources, sacrificially to some extent–would you say that I am forsaking the good news of Christ?

      Please know I intend no judgement toward you. I just wanted to share another perspective.

    • “Proclaiming Christ for the forgiveness of sins is more important than temporal ministry.”

      I guess so, if you have to choose. But why choose? Treating the two as opposed, let alone separable, just makes no sense. People have both spirits and stomachs; it’s not as though a person can be loved, served, saved, or otherwise interacted with by talking interest in only one part of his being and needs. I love that Catholic thought weds these two together so well, and it troubles me that Protestantism so often manages to tease them apart.

      As to the rest of what you wrote … I am sure you mean well, but your description of Catholic theology strike me as inaccurate and your use of Mother Teresa’s personal struggles seems a little opportunistic. Surely many good Christians have struggled with God’s apparent silence.

    • Beon:

      Can you let me know what if feels like to be so right, and be able to see so much in others as wrong?

      I am asking because I find I have been so wrong, so often when I felt so good about it. And then God sends either a family member or a friend and I see my nakedness.

      I say this as someone who has had enough planks in my eye to make a hardwood floor.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Mother Theresa seemingly died riddled with doubt about her salvation, had she done enough to earn her way? She devoted her entire life. Was it enough? Absolutely not. Only Christ is enough.

      Sola Sola, Beon?

      Treaty of Westphalia ended the Reformation Wars in 1648.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

      Mother Theresa seemingly died riddled with doubt about her salvation, had she done enough to earn her way? She devoted her entire life. Was it enough? Absolutely not. Only Christ is enough.

      I see you’ve read the hype regarding her posthumous journal/diary. Her writings about those things were honesty during rough times in her life, kinda like some of the rather wretched stuff we read in the psalms. They should not be viewed as normative of her spirituality or spiritual state.

      One of the characteristics of mystics and saints is that they often have a much more intimate and emotional relationship with God than other folk. Their uniquely pious lives are often ways of dealing with their emotional roller coasters. But that intimacy also means they tend to be a lot more honest with God than the rest of us, too. But note that even in her times of deepest doubt, she was going to the Lord with it. Most of us instead just go to the movies.

    • Beon, you denounce Claiborne as a universalist. You may be right. I haven’t read any of his stuff, so I can’t say. But I think universalism is often mistaken for the humble recognition that one is not qualified to judge the content or ultimate destination of other people’s souls. Believing that Jesus is indeed the Way, Truth, and Life does not require believing that all of the billions of people who have lived and died throughout history without ever hearing the gospel — or who only had the example of bloodthirsty crusaders, cultural imperialists, or self-righteous A-holes by which to judge Christianity — will all be consigned to eternal torment. And it doesn’t require believing that the Kingdom of God is only as big as traditional Christian culture.

    • Jonathan Hunnicutt says:

      Beon,

      Jesus was political. Let’s connect some dots.

      He started his career with an announcement of God’s “Kingdom.” Kingdom is a politically loaded term. If Jesus cared only about spiritual things and esoteric forgiveness of sins, then he was a moron for using the word Kingdom, because he would have been immediately misunderstood. Also, he called 12 disciples to symbolize the reconstitution of the twelve tribes, a political unit.

      Similarly, Jesus had lots of things to say about money. He says that you cannot both serve God and Mammom. (Notice that Jesus doesn’t say that the contrast is between God and Satan, but God and money.) Jesus talked about the forgiveness of sins and of debts. Even in Jesus’ proclamation of forgiveness of sins has an economic bite. The Jews of Jesus’ days had forgiveness of sins from the temple, but it costs money. When Jesus came in offering forgiveness for free, he set up some prime time economic competition. If somebody offered tons of free pizza, eventually it would put Dominos out of business.

      Then Jesus comes and turns tables over in the temple. (By the way, guess what the Greek word for Bank is: table). This gets him in trouble with the temple authorities, and they hand him over to the Romans, who execute him as a political rebel, with the political title “King of the Jews” over his head.

      Now if Jesus was only concerned with forgiveness of sins, and that’s only what his death meant, then why did he choose to die on the passover? Why choose to die on the day that celebrated the spiritual, economic, social, and political liberation from slavery in Egypt? If Jesus wasn’t concerned with politics, why pick the most political day on the Jewish calendar?

      If Jesus’ death was only about the forgiveness of sins, why didn’t Jesus choose to die on the day of atonement?

      Connect the dots.

      Also start asking some questions: “qui bono?” Who benefits from a politically domesticated Jesus? Who benefits from a non-political Jesus?

      BTW, I’m not saying that Jesus didn’t die for our sins, he did. But that’s not the only thing his death accomplished. We should look to the Exodus for the fullness of meaning about Jesus’ death (just as Jesus’ does with his last supper, a passover meal.)

  15. Just wished to say this is a very appropriate post for today, the feastday of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, propagator of the Cistercians 🙂

    • Gotta love Saint Bernard!
      My question is this: why did we name a type of dog after him? I fail to see correlation… 🙂

      • The wonders of the internet and Wikipedia tell us that:

        “The name “St. Bernard” originates from traveler’s hospice on the often treacherous St. Bernard Pass in the Western Alps between Switzerland and Italy, where the name was passed to the local dogs. The pass, the lodge, and the dogs are named for Bernard of Menthon, the 11th century monk who established the station.”

        So it’s not the Cistercian St. Bernard, but another Bernard who was a Benedictine that founded a monastery and hospice for pilgrims at a pass across the Alps, which were then put in the charge of Augustinian monks.

        Yeah, I thought it was Bernard of Clairvaux as well!

    • Totally off topic and probably irreverent, but … Whenever I think of poor St. Bernard, all I hear is my British professor of medieval church history from Oxford, saying:

      “That dreadful fellow Bernard! Never trust a man who claims to have been suckled by the Virgin Mary!”

      Ever since that semester I have been permanently inflicted with chuckling when I think about him.

      Seriously though … the Cistercians were (are?) awesome.

      • And here is where I go all “Never trust the Brits!” 😉

        St. Malachy of Armagh was a very close friend of St. Bernard. That’s good enough for me, O clerk of Oxenford (not you, Danielle).

        • Ah, well, I suppose he was mostly chiding Bernard for his promotion of the Second Crusade. Or maybe that run-in with Peter Abelard.

          In any case, a fascinating man. Cloistered but at the center of everything.

  16. Cincygirl says:

    I’m hesitate to post this reply but it is an authentic one.

    I have read Irresistible Revolution as well as heard Shane speak on various podcasts. I have read many interviews with him.

    I really,really want to get behind him…but something has always bothered me. It took me a while to sort it out, to check myself to make sure I just wasn’t a typical “rich American” who was being threatened by the suggestion that maybe God wanted me to give up my stuff. And maybe that is the case but I still have this one concern. Please, if anyone can point me to the interview, podcast..whatever that proves me wrong, do it!

    What troubles me is that I don’t heard Shane Claiborne speak enough about the fact that he is making a choice. And because his simple lifestyle is one of VOLUNTARY poverty, he simply can never truly know what it means to be poor in America.

    My husband and I have, between us, three siblings. We live in a different economic world than they do. My husband has a very high paying job. His sister has spent most of her adult life on the verge of homelessness. Our brothers are better off but far from any sense of economic security. We can “chose” to do ( and not do) many things to not draw attention to the economic gulf between us. We can even temporary narrow that gulf by sharing resources with them. But the fact remains that we have the ability to chose their “simple lifestyle” until we chose not to. And that, my friends, is simply not the reality of true, gut wrenching, hope destroying poverty.

    Shane Claiborne is a best-selling author and a widely sought-after speaker. I have no doubt that he is ” the real deal” …..I don’t think it has an off shore bank account or a private plane hidden away somewhere. 🙂 But I would feel better about it all if he was a little more willing to acknowledge that he could take his book proceeds and buy a McMansion..if he chose.

    • Cincygirl says:

      “choose”…..sorry about that! 😉

    • These are good points.

      I don’t think it diminishes what Shane is doing, but I think your point is very valid that when you have a means of escape, you are never quite on the same playing field as a really impoverished person and cannot claim to be. You always know, in the back of your head, that you can go back to programming computers or building skyscrapers, and that you have people you can call who will give you a job or lend you money.

      Does that matter or not? Maybe just having solidarity and helping people is really the point, even if you aren’t living simply for the same reasons and in fact have more cultural and social power. Then again, it is always worth acknowledging and remembering because the history of charitable work is also the history of middle class and western (white) persons exercising a well-intensioned but sometimes problematic relationships with the targets of their missions.

      On a related note, a friend of mine has written his doctoral dissertation about the rise of the evangelical left. In one of his chapters, he discussed the rise and fall of a lot of communes and other intensional communities that idealistic youth tried to found. Ultimately, most folded, partly because the participants were mostly white college students whose parents had money. They could always leave when they chose, and in the end that is what most of them did.

    • Provocative reply: many of the …what? involuntary poor? Many of them could make different choices and leave, too.

      • Hi Kozak,
        I am not sure I understand your question and statement. If are suggesting that people who are poor involuntarily can make choice and leave poverty, I want to share a story.

        I have befriended a family who does not speak English. The father is a migrant worker and travelling now through November. After the earthquake in Haiti, they brought home three more family members (who thankfully survived). All of them are here legally. That made for 8 people in an apartment limited to 6. The landlord gave them the name/number of the other “projects” where they are on a wait list for a 5 bedroom. But while they wait, he tried to throw them out without notice. They had no place place to go. Since we’d been taking the kids to the pool, bringing groceries on occasion, doing girls’ hair, and taking their oldest son to junior college to help work out financial aid, they called on us for help. I took a half day off of work, called free legal services with them to translate, and then sat with my friend before an angry, disrespectful landlord to advocate that my friends were going to leave as soon as they could and that we knew he could evict them (properly). I even invited him, but tried to explain the circumstance and the desire of my friends to move. They were just waiting. In the end, God used my husband to talk to a friend with a rental who lowered the rent, gave a short lease with option to get out if the “projects” open, and they got out before eviction.

        But our friends, who have us for dinner and come to our house for dinner (i.e. friend, not “project”), do not have different choices to make to leave poverty. I am now convinced this is the case of many who were born without privilege. But just a little loving, selfless help–actually, moreso, just loving people across socio-economic boundaries as real friends (that they are)–has made a difference for our friends.

        Please know I don’t look for praise. I just used to think that the poor could make different choices and leave, but I don’t think that anymore. A few do make it out, but I’ve learned why most don’t.

    • Hi Cincygirl,

      I read Dorothy Day’s “The Long Loneliness” after resonating with several passages Shane quoted from it in his book. The idea of voluntary poverty comes from Day. She very clearly said in her book and an interview I watched on YouTube that voluntary poverty is different from destitution. They both said that true poverty is not the same as voluntary poverty.

      John Perkins, in Beyond Charity, said that loving your neighbor is wanting for them what you want for yourself. So choosing to live with less (not by the world’s economy or American economy) is not, in my understanding, everyone’s calling. Jesus didn’t tell all people to sell all and give it to the poor. But I’ve learned that anything I hold onto as important, anything I’m not willing to let go for Christ, gets in my way of following him. For me, I know that when we sell (if the Lord so wills us to go — this economy is bad) our new home and move downtown to a decent older home at a much lower pricepoint, I will be able to work less than I do now to help pay for our current mortgage and so have more time to help one new friend get a drivers’ license and the other to study for a GED so that both can get jobs. Both friends are Haitian and speak limited English, I speak lots of Kreyol (which I learned when we adopted our children from Haiti), and God has brought them into my life in interesting ways. I don’t doubt what following Christ means for me personally, and my friends and family just don’t understand me because of that. Beyond that, I want to by the physical presence of God in a part of town where many children are fatherless and don’t have help with homework or a hot meal each day. But I’m not making plans. I’m just putting my house on the market and waiting to see where God will lead.

      I think, like Shane and Dorothy wrote, that voluntary poverty would not put me on the same terms as the new friends I seek to love better. I will likely always have access to more resources.

      Just my thoughts…one sinner saved by grace and looking to simplify life as I love God, love other and follow Jesus.

      I don’t know if that helps at all. Best to you!

      • Cincygirl says:

        Hey Kris,

        Thanks for sharing your journey. And thank you for sharing those examples of times when it has been acknowledged that “voluntary poverty” is a different experience altogether. While my husband and I are still living in the ‘burbs and are far from embracing voluntary poverty, much of what you shared does resonate with me. Most of my husband’s partners live in the “ritzy” parts of town while we purposefully chose to live in a school district where our children would grow up with friends across the economic spectrum. However, I am well aware that we are long way from the inner city here. My prayers are with you, may God grant you the desires of your heart to live in such as way as to incarnate the Gospel to those around you.

        Just last week I will approached with the idea that our church should start a “Good News Club” in a local mobile home community. ( I am part of the children’s staff at my church). My response was to ask these families if they could honestly say that they were viewing this as an opportunity to make new friends, would they welcome an invitation for their child to come over and play on a Saturday afternoon….or were they looking to make these people their “project” and an “opportunity to serve as a family”?

        Your story gives me hope that there are Christian who understand the difference between “project” and “relationship”.

        May God richly bless you and yours.

  17. Terrific, terrific post.

    There is much here that deeply unsettles me. But I think it’s because because I’m confronted by truths that are inconvenient and uncomfortable.

    Am I the only one that reads “The 12 Marks of New Monasticism’ and thinks “What does this remind me of? Oh yeah, it’s called Christianity.”

    Obviously, that’s something of an overstatement. But not much of one.

    Thanks again,
    Dave

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      These “Twelve Marks” are what in “Old Monasticism” would be called “The Rule” of the order. The best-known Rule is the Benedictine Rule, written by (duh) St Benedict, considered the founder of Western Monasticism.

      In the East, I understand monasticism in monastic communities originated because the previous monastic tradition of “lone hermits” deep in the desert was resulting in too many eccentricites, drift into heresies, and downright weirdness caused by the hermits’ isolation. In short, Eastern monks started grouping into monasteries to provide each other with an ongoing reality check.

      I see a similar problem with today’s American Evangelical Protestants, where the emphasis on Personal Salvation and only Personal Salvation encourage “Lone Wolf” Christianity, i.e. “Jesus & Me and nobody else.” And weirdnesses galore, from Prosperity Televangelist “flocks” to Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey to “Vomiting our Demons” exorcisms-gone-wild. Maybe the New Monasticism idea will provide a similar ongoing reality check to rein in the crazies before they go too far off on their Personal tangent.

      • FollowerOfHim says:

        “…the previous monastic tradition of “lone hermits” deep in the desert was resulting in too many eccentricites, drift into heresies, and downright weirdness caused by the hermits’ isolation.”

        What? You find something odd about living on top of a pillar for years on end?

        I believe you’re right about monasticism’s origins though: the communal way of life reined in the extremes. In a way, “monasticism” is precisely the wrong word for those who live communally.

        • Buford Hollis says:

          We don’t know all that much about the origins of monasticism, but considering how often saintly elders were approached for blessings and advice (in the stories), it seems natural that their disciples would congregate near one another and take to praying, eating, sleeping, and working together. Scholars distinguish stages of eremitism, cenobitism, etc.

          Sure, there are stories of eccentrics, but the reason those stories got told is because they were unusual or exaggerated examples. The Apopthegmata Patrum (Sayings of the Fathers, an Egyptian collection of sayings and anecdotes) contains much down-to-earth advice alongside the more mystical passages. Highly recommended reading.

          • FollowerOfHim says:

            Good points — not everyone lived on a pillar. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that — the property taxes on a square-foot basis must have been microscopic).

            In any case, I’ve always enjoyed reading, e.g., “The Desert Fathers,” where, indeed, a grounded, Incarnational theology springs forth in the sort of bracing, refreshing way that water is always experienced in deserts. Highly recommended indeed.

  18. Can we have a referendum on eliminating the jargon term “intentional community”? Pretty please? Is my community accidental?

    • Kozak

      I think intentional emphasizes that we have to choose it.

      In our society we can choose to hide ourselves in our houses, and just simply attend church and leave without as much as saying hello. We can go to a small group where everyone is nice and polite and everything is fine until you find out someone’s marriage is on the rocks.

      My experience of intentional community was that we deliberately chose to be close enough that people could see our stuff (stuff being problems and issues), and that we chose to keep going back because we saw that we need one another. It was a time of great spiritual growth, more in 5 or 6 years than the previous 20.

      So intentional community is quite different than just community (otherwise why use the phrase)

      I say keep it, as it is something different.

    • Buford Hollis says:

      The term arose in the 1970’s, after a couple of influential books used it. Many such groups dislike the earler terms “commune” (many different levels of sharing are possible) or “utopian community” (which sounds unrealistic). And yes, it emphasizes the fact that our normal communities–along with the rules and customs governing our interaction–are thrown together as much by chance as by choice.

  19. Tim Becker says:

    Why do we read of communal living only in the first generation of believers living in Jerusalem? You don’t see it taught in the rest of the New Testament. After all the property is sold and used up, where does more come from to keep it going generation after generation? Additional converts? That would be kind of like a Ponzi scheme.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

      From what I understand, abbeys and other monastic communities usually are either self-supporting, rely on donations to keep going, or do a bit of both. For the self-supporting ones, they usually have some sort of agricultural or craft-oriented work that the monks engage in. As has been pointed out in some other posts, there are several Trappist monasteries that make beer, for example. I’ve seen some that make fruitcakes, some that raise goats for cheese and milk, one that makes caskets and other simple accouterments for funerals, etc.

      As far as those groups that take donations go, we should be very clear that no one is advocating that monasticism be the normal life for every Christian. Just like ordained ministry, or foreign missions, it’s a calling. And that means that some of those not called to live as monastics may be called to support them.

    • Cedric Klein says:

      Really, I don’t think it was totally due to a hightened spirituality or devotion to each other. Basically, Jerusalem was a city where almost from the start, the Church was under siege- AND it was a city with a possible expiration date of One Generation (yep, forty years- Matthew 23-24), so it was best for the believers to keep their assets liquid because who knew when someone in authority would go on the attack & the believers would have to flee. Someone like… Saul of Tarsus.

      Btw, note also that as the Gospel went from Peter & Paul & the rest to the Gentiles in Asia, Greece, etc.. the emphasis on communal living lessens greatly, to the point of disappearing.

      The main thing one has to remember- this is a special calling. There are certain disciples we see in their own homes & with their own wealth- Lazarus, his sisters, Joseph of Arimathea- tho lore has it they were dispossessed & set adrift in a boat to eventually take the Gospel to Gaul and Britain. Remember, I said it was lore! *L*

    • I agree that the first community in Jerusalem was somewhat unique and different from the other church communities that sprang up in other parts of the Roman empire in the first century. However, if you read Acts closely, you’ll see that the church’s first big wave of converts consisted largely of Jews from other parts of the ancient world who were visiting Jerusalem for the Passover and then stayed for the feast of Pentecost. Their homes and jobs were elsewhere, and most of them probably didn’t bring enough money to buy or rent a home in Jerusalem — so a communal structure was really necessary to keep all those people housed and fed.
      With that said, I would contend that the first-century churches that sprang up in places like Antioch and Corinth were much more communal in nature than most modern churches. They gathered primarily in private homes, and, if you look at the letters of Paul and the other NT writers to these churches, a heavy emphasis was placed on mutual financial support, sharing hospitality with each other and traveling Christians, and a close-knit, family-like relational structure. They certainly didn’t center their spiritual lives around Sunday morning services at some designated building with a sign out by the road.

  20. I really believe that we are due for a monastic revival. Three reasons:
    1. The disintegration of church community.
    2. The disintegration of the nuclear family.
    3. The disolution over the suburban ideal of the family unit (i.e. everyone is destined for a spouse, two and half kids, a dog, and an unaffordable mortgage).

    Anyone endeavoring to start a new monastic community had better spend time reading as much of Thomas Merton as possible. He entered the monastic life at the time of the last monastic revival – following WW I, and authoritarianism and a lack of room for individual expression crushed it. At the time of his death, he was contemplating walking out. The book, “Contemplation in a World of Action” is a monster, but it is full of amazing, honest insights.

    The reformed folks need to be careful not to stereotype monasticism with the abuses criticized by the reformers five hundred years ago.

    • 4. The disolution of capitalistic individualism – that anyone can get a job and succeed by staying in school and working hard.

    • 5. Disolution of trust in government and its bankrupt social programs.
      6. The growing power of corporate America and the resulting destruction of the middle class and individualism.

    • Your points are all good ones, dumb ox, but I would be sorry for a new monastic movement to be driven all by negatives. Monasticism ideally should be a positive calling, not the only means of escape from a collapsing culture — though it’s been that in the past.

      • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

        As I study church history, it seems that monasticism is usually a response to something negative in the culture. Not necessarily for escapism reasons, though. It seems to sometimes be a counter-balance to decadence in the Church.

        • I think you’re right.

        • Wait, I thought monasticism (and the hermitage generally) were responses to something negative in the SPIRIT, not so much the culture.

          People going into the wilderness so God can save their souls, and so on.

        • Maybe a distinction is in order: Monasticism tends to grow when the culture is crumbling, but the monastic life is most successful when the people who join it are called positively to the life of work and devotion rather than negatively to run from the culture.

  21. CM wrote: “Such movements that take radically different approaches are always in danger of self-righteousness, however, and this temptation must be scrupulously avoided.”

    Very, very good point and one that deserves its own thread, imo.

    Perhaps the title would be, “How Do The New Monastics Avoid The Sin Of Self-Righteousness?”

    To make a down payment on that, I would take one of beon’s points and make it one of the primary ways for any Christian to avoid falling into self-righteousness and that would be to never elevate anything in the Christian life in importance above the precious truth that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Or as he puts it, “Proclaiming Christ for the forgiveness of sins is more important than temporal ministry.”

    Those who lack solid grounding in the finished work of the cross suffer to at least some degree from guilt and condemnation. Guilt and condemnation make people do strange things. Sometimes, dare I say, plunge themselves into good works.

    • I’m sorry, Murray, but I think it is unfair to assume that all who choose a simpler life when God calls them are always driven by guilt and condemnation and thus seeking to do good works as result.

      This is why my family and friends question me, even though they know how God made possible incredible restoration of my suddenly deeply troubled marriage, and even though they have heard me say often that my hope has come from God alone. I’ve shared how often I’ve raised a hand to heaven to cry out and how I’ve found true comfort. Friends, church leaders and family failed me in my darkest hour but I found God there at last. Real. Alive. So I am now seeking to live differently because God has brought me

      • Sorry–cell phone issues. I was going to finish with God has brought me real people with real needs that I can and do love. As I’ve read the words of Jesus, I feel purposed/called/led to get debt free so I can be free to love my neighbors better. Not one bit of me does so out of guilt or condemnation. It is gratitude and my hearts cry from the two greatest commands: to love God and my neighbor as myself.
        It grieves me to hear that those who choose a life different than mainstream American Christianity are assumed to lack solid grounding in the finished work of the cross. For me, I do what I do simply as I seek to love God, love others and follow Jesus’ example.

        • Finally, does saying that make me self righteous? It’s just heart and journey. Self righteousness seems a label used when one doesn’t agree with another. It doesn’t have to be us/them though I have only felt that disconnect when choosing to reject organized religion for the real Jesus of the bible. I don’t know if that will sound self righteous too. I truly just want to dialogue, share, learn.

          • Some context is in order here, kris.

            In originating this post, Chaplain Mike said from the very outset that movements that take a radically different approach are always are in danger of self-righteousness and that this is to be scrupulously avoided. However, he offered no means of avoiding that

            Therefore, I suggested that how we avoid self-righteousness is to frequently remind ourselves of the grace of Christ, specifically that our sins were taken away by Him on the cross.

            I’ve always been one that believes that He has done much, more more for us than we could ever do for Him. However, it is very, very easy to get so caught up in what we are doing for Him that we push out of our minds all of the wonderful things He has done for us.

            All I’m doing is warning against that. All I’m doing is taking Chaplain MIke’s warning against falling into self-righteousness and suggesting how to prevent that from happening.

            I labeled no one as self-righteous and neither did Chaplain MIke. All either of us is saying is that people who take a radically different approach can fall into a trap of thinking a little too hightly of themselves and of their approach. Let us think highly of Jesus and that will not happen.

        • Tim Becker says:

          Food for thought: Going into debt keeps a lot of people employed. Isn’t that looking after your neighbor? That being said, I hate being in debt.

          • I don’t have all the answers nor do I understand how to follow God’s economy while living in this world. But, for me, I have no doubt God keeps telling me to get free from the chains of a big mortgage that requires me to work so much that I can’t better love the new friends he gave me–by meeting real temporal needs I have the ability to meet.
            I’ve always thought the economy could fail me—we now have several middle class friends who have lost “secure” jobs.

      • ‘I’m sorry, Murray, but I think it is unfair to assume that all who choose a simpler life when God calls them are always driven by guilt and condemnation….’

        I wholeheartedly agree, kris, that it would be unfair to say that all who choose such a life are always driven by guilt and condemnation and that is why I scrupulously avoided doing so.

        • “All I’m doing is taking Chaplain MIke’s warning against falling into self-righteousness and suggesting how to prevent that from happening.”

          Murray, I can appreciate that. I think my sting in this thread is coming from guilt by association (since I learned much from reading Shane’s story and subsequently went to the red letters and met the real Jesus for the first time)–and mostly because I am constantly warned to “pray and make sure you’re in God’s will” and hearing “you/us” messages when all I want to do is follow Jesus where I believe he is calling. I’m not looking for followers. I don’t need approval. In fact, selling our suburban house to move downtown has brought me more warnings and disapproval than anything I did when I was living the “good” Christian life, while I pretty well ignored the real Jesus of the Bible, considered God a vending machine to give me what I wanted/needed, thought the poor and forgotten were someone else’s problem, and thought buildings with four walls was the church. That did nothing for me when I was laying on the floor in utter desperation asking God if he was really there since I couldn’t hear his knock at the door. People failed me then too. But God was real and he led us out by his power (not mine for sure) and he gave us a heart for people he put in our path.

          Why does that bring me more warnings than encouragement? Why does that make me feel like I’m on the outside? Why does that come with assumptions I need to seek God’s will.

          My reality is I will go where I wouldn’t have gone a few months ago because I am walking close with God and believe he is showing me where to go.

          “Let us think highly of Jesus and that will not happen.” Yes, agreed in full.

          Thank you for the respectful dialogue, Murray. Bless you.

  22. Run as fast and as far as you can from these well-meaning “intentional Christian Communities”! There were many of these started in the 1970’s by sincere, devout Christians of different denominations- I was part of one for 12 years, and it had “sister” groups all over the country. They go one of two ways: Either they decend into debauchery little by little, with a very charismatic (personality- not spiritual) leader calling all the shots, or it becomes a “heavy sheparding” community which tells you whom to marry, how to raise your kids, etc. These are VERY SPIRITUALLY, EMOTIONALLY, AND SOMETIMES PHYSICALLY ABUSIVE AND DAMAGING TO FAMILIES, ESPECIALLY WOMEN AND CHILDREN! I cannot tell you the desolation and horrors it promotes, all in the “name of the Lord”. Again, these people started out with the best of intentions, wanting to “give their all” to the Lord and live more fully for Him. It was very attractive to me, as a new Christian, and sounded like we’d be living like the Christians in the book of Acts- a total surrender, simple life, etc. The community I was part of would be the “heavy sheparding” kind. My abusive husband was encouraged in his abuse, as a form of taking “spiritual headship”, and I was told to be quiet and submit. My children were so damaged, my son joined a Satanic group when he was older, and my daughter was suicidal. These people look very nice, orthodox, and committed. Please consider this and look into the history of these groups more before advocating something like this. Some of these communities are still in existence.

    • Wow, Therese, your story is rather terrifying & and I am sorry that you had to live through it.

      Do you mind my asking whether you think more oversight would have prevented this kind of thing? Was the problem the power that a few people had combined with isolation?

      Do you think the community structure was the biggest factor, or the view of headship they adopted?

      Please don’t feel you need to answer — I am just curious how this seems to you, since you saw it first-hand.

      • Hi, Danielle,
        Thank you for your comments. As far as oversight, I have to say they truly tried to have a heierarchy of “headship” on many levels, answerable to leadership up to the national level. It was an ecumenical community, made up of Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists mostly. It became rather elitist, ie: we’re the only ones truly living the Gospel, all the other “Christians” in the mainline denominations are lukewarm, etc. There was definitely an “us/them” mentality which described the world as a very scary place, and the only safety was to be found in the “community”. I think this is this danger of such communities, and can be a natural human tendency. There were many times when we were cautioned that if we left, we would be fair game for the devil, and terrible things would happen to us. Ironically, my children’s problems stemmed from having been IN the community, but community members attributed the problems to us leaving! People who had left were shunned (I’m considered a rebellious wife). There was an almost palpable invisible resistance to leaving, and my husband was furious. We are divorced, now, and I can truly say our family was destroyed by this community. My ex-husband is still a member. The families who left intact were the ones who had come to the Lord and gotten married before they joined the community. IMO the downfalls were: Elitism, the Community itself becoming an idol, and members accepting heavy-handed authority as a knee-jerk reaction to worldly rebellion. Sorry this is so long! God bless you!

    • Per Wendy Duncan’s book and a Dallas Observer article/exposé, Ole Anthony’s community went in both directions, though the debauchery was apparently limited to the leader.

    • Dear Therese,
      I have to agree with Danielle that your story is truly terrifying, and I’m very sorry you had to live through that.

      I agree that anytime a person follows a man or woman (pastor, lay leader, seemingly sincere person), one can be misled. In fact, I think I was misled in my entire upbringing in the non-denominational American church to think that my comfort and blessing is God’s biggest concern for me. I’ve been changed, and now I am truly only seeking to follow Christ, all others are just like me, sinners that is. It’s not that I can’t learn from others and be encouraged by others, but I haven’t yet found many like-minded believers in my circle of friends and family.

      I truly wish God’s healing and comfort to be your peace and joy.

      Many blessings,
      kris

      • Hi, Kris,
        Thank you for your kind comments. There wasn’t just one person in charge, but the community itself became an idol for us, as well as other problems (please see my rather long explanation to Danielle above). By the grace of God, He kept me with him, and I and my children have come through to a better place. It’s taken years, and we’ll never completely trust any Church authority again, probably. I tend to be hyper-sensitive to controlling/manipulative people, now 🙂 It sounds like you’re in a good place, although it is a struggle to find good fellowship, isn’t it? May God lead you to like-minded believers! God bless you!

  23. Dana Ames says:

    The Northumbria Community essentially kept me a Christian when I was in the Evangelical Wilderness.

    http://www.northumbriacommunity.org/

    It’s one of the “older” new monastic communities, made up of Christians of many backgrounds, and it is different in that it is both local and dispersed; Community members gather as they are able. The rule is quite simple and covers a lot: Be Available. Be Vulnerable. In addition, one prays the Hours as one can, so the days (and the seasons and years) are bathed in prayer. One giant step away from dualism.

    Dana

  24. Whoops! Too late. Wish I’d had this article early this week when a friend asked me to help her write a simple paragraph about this biblical passage. Just as the wealth young man found Jesus’ answer difficult, putting it better or clearer than Matthew is hard.

  25. Jonathanblake says:

    I have to admit that I have yearned to live in a community along the lines of the Simple Way. I really want to visit there one day to see how there community works. I truly want to live in real community one day with others. If only I can get my wife to go along with the idea but like most of us she’s somewhat attached to the American dream. Who knows what the future will hold tho?

    • I have read that living in community is usually hardest on the women.

      • Amen, Eric! That was my experience.

        • Therese:

          Do you think that’s because most Christian communities are “traditionalist”/patriarchal/”complementarian” when it comes to their religious views of women vis-a-vis men – i.e., the wives are to submit to their husbands, women need a “covering,” women cannot teach or exercise authority over men, the genders have distinct “roles” based on “the creation model,” certain church or leadership functions (e.g., elder, pastor) can only be held by males, etc.?

          Is it an ingrained American cultural thing – i.e., many Americans grew up with the idea that “the man is the boss/head of the family,” etc.

          Is it because men like to sit around and theologize and do man stuff, while women are left with taking care of the kids and house and men don’t see anything wrong with that?

          I don’t remember what the article or account in which I read this claim (actually, I think it was something the women in community said) explained was the reason(s).

          • Eric,

            I wonder if part of the problem with women in community is related to our nature. (I’m only speaking for myself and my observations as a woman working in a man’s area.)

            I apologize to all my sisters who are reading this; this is very broad generalities, but what I have seen in life.

            I’m thinking about how men learn to disagree, and then later are able to work together without problems. Women tend to hold grudges, fight undercover vs openly, and bring up things that were settled long ago.

          • Hi, Eric!
            Living in community entailed adding a ton of required classes, events, suppers, potlucks, home groups, etc. to your schedule. If you think of who does all the organizing, cooking, cleaning, childcare, etc. for all those events, you’re pretty much clued in to the fact that the women carry the burden of all this. Add to this the fact that birth control was frowned upon (many of these women have 6+children), and other forms of service were mandatory, and you’ve got yourself a slave’s life. Oh, did I mention that using packaged foods and modern conveniences (remember- we’re living “simply”-forget dishwashers, etc.) were frowned upon? Not to mention that eating organically was “strongly encouraged”:)
            I think the first paragraph of your question also answers someof it. It was very much about women “submitting”, and the man being head of the household. This was why it was so shocking for me, a wife, to leave community (which entailed writing letters to leaders and ceasing to show up at community functions) without her husband’s permission.
            Anna A.- Hi! I served in the U.S. Military for four years, and have worked with mostly men for much of my working life. The modern man in the workplace and the military generally works well w/women, in my experience, and the dynamics are very different. I enjoy working with men in the workplace. No games. The dynamics in community were caused by men who viewed women very differently. This did tend to lead to a feminine sub-culture which could be very harsh. However, this was because we felt we had no voice. I’ve heard that Muslim women have the same dynamic going on. When you feel oppressed, that creates quite a pecking order, and the standards of “service”, homemaking, child-rearing, and cooking were very high, and you were judged by these standards. You were also expected to coddle your husband’s masculine ego to an incredibly infantile degree. A man in this setting has it made: He has all the power, and the poor thing can’t go a week-end without receiving ten casseroles from the other community women if his wife is out of town for some reason (ie: her mother is sick). If you’re not domestically inclined, it’s a living hell. The ideal community woman has 10 kids, looks great, can cook organic food like a pro chef, keeps a spotless house, homeschools, and serves on several women’s committees. Get the picture? Thanks.

          • FWIW, I’m hopelessly Egalitarian.

          • @Anna A

            I’m thinking about how men learn to disagree, and then later are able to work together without problems.

            LOL….I definitely need some new guy friends…… or maybe take the ones I have to a Beth Moore seminar or something….

            like your post(s)
            shalom to all this Sat.
            GregR

          • Dana Ames says:

            The New Monastic communities tend to *not* be as Therese described. So sorry you had to endure that, Therese.

            Dana

  26. When I first did graduate school, I visited a house of Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Ironically, there was a lot of drinking at that party.

    Still though, I very much liked that group and what they were doing.

  27. What Thereze says is important. If you Google “utopian communities” you can read about any number of failed attempts to build community around some feeble notion of social philosophy.

    What CAN succeed, perhaps, is a monastic community that begins with personal sacrifice freely made by each individual member.

    • “What CAN succeed, perhaps, is a monastic community that begins with personal sacrifice freely made by each individual member.”

      Is there any other kind?

  28. Kelby Carlson says:

    haven’t read all of the comments, but I’ll post something brief just the same. I read Claiborne’ book a few months ago and was deeply unsettled by it. Living in white suburbia as a high school student, I often feel trapped by, as some might call it, the power structure. To me, it’s really difficult to live for jesus when, at this age, your basically just a face in the crowd and don’t have a way to escape. Compunding this is that almost none of my close friends are Christian–not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but I don’t have a close community of like-minded believers that can help me live vocationally. And there’s an interesting thought–how to live vocationally as a high school student. Anyone have any advice?

    • I have the same question as you do.. I graduated this year but I’m still wandering.

      • Hi Kelby and Robert,
        I wish someone had told me to read the red letters of Jesus and take him at his word. I grew up in a community like you describe but 20 years ago. I wish someone had told me to pray about the two greatest commands: love God with all of you, and love your neighbor as yourself. I started to at age 39 and God has opened doors for me to love unlikely friends who cannot repay me. I wouldn’t know what he’ll do for you, but I do believe if you focus on the two greatest commands while being open to whatever God then requires of you, you will find some answers. That has been my very real experience. Sadly. It took me too many years to start. I’m encouraged by your comment and sincere question. I hope this helped.

  29. It’s all law.

    Which of us invites our enemies to dinner? Or hangs out and gives to those who cannot repay us (and what are our true motives?).

    These words expose us, and show us our need for a Savior.

    • And as he saves us, and his Spirit fills us, we begin following him and acting like him.

      • I think we just struggle to want to take Jesus literally. It took great personal suffering (basically my American “good” Christian life crumbling, for me to submit my heart to God. That saddens me while also filling me with joy. It is what it took for me to take the Lord literally. As I have, I have loved neighbors who cannot repay me not out of duty or law. They are my friends now. We love each other. If you knew me a year ago, you’d have seen a pleasant professional woman who did all the “right” things, a “golden” child growing up ( i.e. super athlete who didn’t party and give herself to anyone till marriage—you know, the Sunday School teacher, never-miss church “good” Christian). But I didn’t take Jesus literally. I didn’t need to. Ouch. True.
        So I am now thankful for the crisis that made me truly cry out and seek God. He rescued me. I started reading red letters. I’m not the same person I used to be. Thanks and all glory be to God! I share this because I am one who used to think it had to be “good works” and law.

  30. Dear Egalitarian Eric,
    Thanks for your last comment- it made me smile! Your interest in all this, and your perceptive questions furthered a good discussion. Thank you! By the way, I’m not a feminist- there are just certain religious practices that are over the top, I think. Kinda’ the opposite of the crazy stuff going on in the Episcopal Church. Cute dog picture, by the way. God bless you!

  31. Eric, You might want to look at these:
    http://www.franciscanfriars.com/
    http://www.carmelitemonks.org/
    Both are vibrant, committed, growing communities that practice a time-tested rule in very different ways. And they have a Boss and they are very aware of Who He IS.
    AnneG in NC

  32. I know several formers members of Ole’s group and I can assure that it is indeed a cult. Incredibly authoritarian, Ole brainwashes all the members and shuns anyone who leaves.