Friday 19 December 2008

New monasticism

We are not tolstoyans, we are christians, was the objection of Dutch christian anarchists a century ago against a way of labelling which is still common nowadays. They however used the label of christian anarchists for themselves. In the USA these days there is a current manifesting itself, rejecting any other description but christian, which fits completely to the paradigm of christian anarchism. So much even that I have to conclude they are wilfully avoiding the term. People quoting - amongst others - Jacques Ellul, Peter Maurin and the Jesusradicals must be familiar with the expression.

It takes some swallowing when you follow this current with attention and sympathy - they are so-called evangelicals, christians calling themselves reborn, a brand (!) of christianity which does not give the USA a good reputation at the moment. They themselves write that it is difficult to be christian in the US these days. And this they say referring to their actions against imperialist warfare, discrimination, death penalty and other things furthered by a government which likes to call itself christian. Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw reject identification with worldly politics in Jesus for president! (a title based on a song of Woody Guthrie's).

It is a catching manifesto, a kind of Christian anarchism for reborn, against which nothing can be objected viewed from the commonly held standpoint of older christian anarchist currents, quite the contrary. To quote Maurin: these ideas are so old they look new.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove in New Monasticismdescribes a tendency in the US Рwe apparently should not call it a movement Рtoward communal living in the spirit of the early christians. This tendency he places in the perspective of older communal strivings such as the (Anabaptist) Bruderh̦fe and the Catholic Worker, a spirit which is also moving the reborn РClaiborne is a prominent example of someone living in such a community. It is called new monasticism, and to be part of it you may be married, you do not have to vow to keep silent - above all it is about the idea of living together in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount and having property in common. Christian anarchism is well and truly alive, even if it does not call itself that way. Signs of hope from the heart of Empire.

- Shane Claiborne & Chris Haw, Jesus for president! – politics for ordinary radicals. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008. 335 p.
- Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, New monasticism – what it has to say to today’s church. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008. 147 p.