This past semester in school, I worked on a project with a fellow student and great friend Dustin Miller. Dustin and I have both been deeply impacted by what has come to be known as the New Monastic movement, and both found the book 12 Marks of a New Monasticism to be both practical and convicting as an excellent introduction to understanding the movement.
Essentially, New Monasticism is the result of a profound dissatisfaction persons have with the Christianity they have been presented with in our society; one that spends most of its time talking about life after death and virtually ignoring what kind of impact Christ has on life before death. Persons dissatisfied with this brand of Christianity have been driven elsewhere; some to a place of cynicism, some to emptiness, some to despair, some to just knuckle under to the things are in Christianity…but a courageous few in their dissatisfaction have been driven back to the Scriptures that are supposedly the foundation of Christian faith, and have found a Bible shockingly different than the one portrayed most often in their “churches.” A group of folks with this courage to keep struggling for truth got together in Durham, NC in 2004, discerned some of their common interests as disciples of Jesus, and called those interests the “12 Marks.”
As far as my context goes, Dustin has been a great friend for me because he’s been a safe place for my ventings and tentative explorations beyond Christianity-in-America-as-is (and hopefully I’ve been able to serve as a safe place and sounding board for him). As we have sought to go deeper together, we ended up in a class together and Dustin floated the idea that we each pick a chapter in “12 Marks”and write about how our Anabaptist heritage speaks into the New Monastic movement. I picked the chapter written by Shane Claiborne entitled “Sharing Economic Resources with Fellow Community Members and the Needy Among Us,” and brought some of Shane’s thoughts into conversation with Anabaptist Communal Economics (you’ll get familiar with it if you’re not yet). I’d like to post my thoughts in a number of parts for the sake of others who may be interested, or just the chance to have some folks interact with something they aren’t familiar with right away. Without further ado, this is the intro;
How often we hear Christians speak about “believers,” concerning themselves only with doctrine, dividing over theological differences, making “orthodoxy” the only criteria for discipleship. Most activism revolves around “orthopraxy,” doing the right things. I believe the power of monasticism is the fusion of these two into a movement that is both theologically grounded and offers practical alternatives to the world’s pattern of inequality. Most people know what Christians believe, but if you ask them how Christians live they do not know. We have not shown them.
-Shane Claiborne in 12 Marks of a New Monasticism, pg 31
I’m convinced that any sound critique of the “way things are” (in whatever arena of life the critique is directed) should involve some time devoted not only to deconstructing the perceived error of the “way things are” but also a good amount of energy and time invested in imaginatively reconstructing a hopeful alternative in its place. The ideal would be a hopeful reconstruction that is pursued in both word and deed, which is precisely why I chose Shane Claiborne’s quote to lead off my thoughts on the subject of economic sharing.
Shane and his “New Monastic” compatriots are doing some significant thinking and acting both in deconstructing and reimagining. They have a God-given desire to seek creativity in what it might look like for followers of Jesus to find fresh, rooted ways to live more fully into Jesus’ prayer to his Father; “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The more specific context for these thoughts will be a conversation of sorts on economic resources, what is “normal,” and how our Anabaptist forerunners speak into this situation.