Future of Evangelicalism
How to Derail the New Monasticism An Interview with Shane Claiborne
Let's talk about "doing life together." We have a nuclear vision of Christian community, where the church is divided up into families, and the families come together now and then but otherwise live their lives apart, sealed off behind the four walls of their separate homes. Does this make it more difficult to recover something resembling the community of the early church?
Without a doubt there's some deep wisdom in the scripture that says that we're not to conform to the patterns of the world but be transformed by renewing our minds. We're to have a new way of thinking about things, including family. Jesus really challenges the notions and even the idol that we have made of the nuclear family, when he says, "Unless you hate your own father and mother, you're not ready to be my disciple." I know that Jesus is not shunning a love for our family. He loved his mother, and as he was dying on the cross he encouraged John to take care of her. But he's pushing the boundaries of where our love stops.
A lot of times a love for our own family or our own nation creates a shortsightedness. This is my people and my family. But Jesus says, actually, you're born again. That means that if someone is in prison, it's like your own kids are in prison. If someone's suffering injustice, it's like you're suffering. I really love the line, "A love for our own people is not a bad thing, but our love doesn't stop at any border."
We are born again into a terribly dysfunctional family. If we're going to take our rebirth seriously, it should keep us up at night. It should allow us to be disturbed by the pain and the suffering that is happening around the world and even right next to us.
Now there's a sense of having a new vision for family in scripture. One of the most obscure and sweet things is when Jesus is a kid and he gets lost for a few days. How does your kid get lost for a few days? Well, because they lived in community; they lived in a village. They're saying, "Oh, he's probably with Martha, or he's with Peter's mother." That's part of what we've lost in our rampant individualism.
The patterns of this world, when it comes to suburbia, are built around things that are very counter-cultural to the gospel. They're built around a vision of independence rather than inter-dependence. They're built around things like fear and security, and moving away from neighborhoods where there are people who don't look like us, or where there is higher crime. And yet the very call of Jesus is to move closer to suffering, not away from it.
So many young Christians today were born into a Christendom that lives quite comfortably in a sedate and suburban environment, a Christendom in which they are not really called to sacrifice radically in order to follow Jesus. Yet there seems to be a hunch that Christ calls us to something more than that -- and a yearning to give ourselves with abandon to a more radical Christian life. Is that the wellspring, so to speak, of the progressive evangelical movement?
I think it's the inevitable fruit of a new generation that is growing up seeing the fragility of the world that we have created. So through the internet, and things like that, there's a real sense that the current patterns of living are not sustainable. They don't make a lot of sense. And they're not necessarily even giving us life. Happiness cannot be purchased. Look at the wealthiest countries in the world; they have the highest rates of depression, suicide, loneliness.
Dr. Timothy Dalrymple is the Associate Director of Content at Patheos, and writes weekly on faith, politics, and culture for Patheos' Evangelical Portal. Follow him at his blog, Philosophical Fragments, on Facebook or on Twitter.