Wednesday, April 08, 2009

a vision so old it seems new

"It's hard for anybody in America to look at the first Christians and feel very proud about where we are now."

So Joash is making me read a churchy book before I can touch Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Hm, book with invaluable wisdom versus Elizabeth Bennet and zombies? You know I want the one about the living dead wearing corsets! (And PP&Z also features Mr. Darcy with a band of ninjas weilding katanas!) Sigh.

The new what?

The book I'm supposed to finish is called the
New Monasticism, and no, this isn't another horror book, this time about cults. It's also not a book written by old men who wear robes and chant. In fact, it's by a fellow Gen-Yer, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, who began looking at the way we live today, asking if there's an alternative lifestyle that gives more room for the gospel to work through and in us, and truly exemplify Christ’s “city on a hill” to those around us.

His question has led him to explore a type of community living that challenges our self-centred and relationally-guarded way of life. While sharing a home with married couples (some with and without kids), singles and others from a variety of life stages, these new monastics are part of intentional communities in society’s margins, offering hospitality to those who don’t normally receive hospitality, building genuine relationships, and showing Jesus’ love.

But my stuff, my glorious stuff!
Now, before I was married, I had already experienced life in a community house. But when Joash first introduced this book to me, my first thought was,
You want me to share my newly acquired wedding gifts with roommates who will surely ruin my best teflon? Yes, I thought this. It's shallow, but true. And that, I suppose, illustrates what Wilson-Hartgrove is saying about our society and how isolated we have become. Even my silly response shows my individualistic nature and desire to hoard resources for myself, despite knowing that many in my neighbourhood face abject poverty.

Looking back to when I lived in community (a house of two girls and three guys), I didn't care as much about my possessions because I didn't own a whole lot. We shared pots, pans, utensils and other house things. The living room couch, which we probably found on Craigslist or someone’s lawn, was
our couch. And though I was a student who had no money, living in community kept me from focusing on myself. My vision was so much bigger then, and my heart more capable of giving because of our common delight in sharing our lives together.

Though I’m married now and only have my husband for a roommate, things are different. We earn two incomes and we buy more in attempt to “establish” ourselves as a family like our parents before us. Our daily lives revolve around each other, making food, earning money, hanging with our circle of friends – but very little of it is “missional” or open to hearing God speak about feeding the poor or caring for the downtrodden.

Yet, even when I lived in community, we weren't very missional. Sure, we ate together and prayed a little on Sundays, but it seems Wilson-Hartgrove's new monastics are more intimately involved in spiritual formation, while also sharing their lives and resources with the poor in their neighbourhood.

I like this idea, but it also frightens me. All I've ever known was this paradigm where you get married, have kids, work, throw some money at charities for your tax receipt, then someday die. To think there could be more to life than what we already have!

I'm not saying, though, that we’re jumping into this monastic lifestyle, but we're checking out what it means to live the gospel to its fullest, whether that means exploring what this looks like in our current lifestyle or rearranging the way we live completely.

Reader beware

Well, I haven’t finished this book, so no Jane Austen zombies for me just yet. I will say, though, that if you’re a Christian who’s asking,
Is this as good as it gets? give this book a try. It will definitely challenge your world view and ideas on the way things should or shouldn’t be. That being said, read with caution: If you don't want to risk being nudged by the big HS himself, then stick with PP&Z.

Zombies, apathy - same thing.


Joash said...

Matthea is a wonderful writer. What she doesn't know is I am secretly reading her zombie book behind her back...or am I....hehehe

Maryanne said...

I want to read it.