|New Monastic Leader Shane Claiborne in 2009|
The movement appealed to me because I have always longed for a greater sense of community in the modern American nightmare of commuter travel and living next to complete strangers.
The most visible leader in the movement is Shane Claiborne. Claiborne runs an intentional community in Philadelphia (The Simple Way) complete with communal gardening, communal dining, communal housing, communal worship, and communal everything else. The best way to get familiar with it is by watching this [video].
After reading some material on the internet, I was excited enough to buy Shane's book.
It only took me a day or two to finish it. As I read through, I became more and more disturbed by the things I read. At first, the quaint quotes from atheists were reasonable enough, soon they became annoying, finally, they were just downright uncomfortable.
I was especially disturbed by the fact that almost every Christian leader Claibourne cited has openly supported gay marriage (Desmund Tutu, Rob Bell, etc.). He also relied heavily on Martin Luther King Jr. even though MLK didn't believe in the divinity of Christ, the resurrection, or the trinity. I counted, and discovered he mentioned MLK more times in his book than the Old Testament.
By the end of the book, my excitement about this new movement had turned to rage. The New Monastic movement seems constructed on leftist ideology and multiculturalism. Rather than centering on Christianity, New Monasticism has chosen to focus almost entirely on pushing economic and social justice agendas.
The leaders of the movement complain about "racism" constantly. They blame "racism" for virtually every ill the minority community suffers. They relentlessly push the white guilt conception of race relations.
After doing some research, I stumbled across this statement in a research paper: "New Monasticism is made up of predominantly white, middle class American Evangelicals. The majority of the individuals within the communities are college graduates in their twenties."
It was hardly surprising. White people may be viewed as the Great Satan by minorities, but it is almost always white people who call for religious renewal.
White Christians love to punish ourselves for inaccurately practicing the religion of Jesus. But, ultimately, we appear to be the only ones who care about practicing it at all. The racial minorities the New Monastics attempt to involve in intentional community are the first to reject spiritual asceticism in favor of upward materialistic mobility (though they rarely find it).
Though The Simple Way is located in a predominantly minority slum in Philadelphia almost all of the community leaders are white. It's an almost embarrassing lack of diversity. Most likely this is because there are so few racial minorities with the discipline or intelligence to hold together (or understand) an ascetic Christian movement.
Rather than berating ourselves for the alleged crimes of the past, white Christians should acknowlege that the other races need our leadership in the Church.
New Monasticism may be off on the wrong track, but its situation is more proof that white Christians are the vanguard of Christianity. Without whites, New Monasticism would neither have started nor remained.
Many of the principals of the New Monastic movement (rejection of materialism, intentional community, etc.) are beautiful concepts that need to be discussed and practiced by Christians. But any movement in this direction must be undertaken by realistic people uncorrupted by leftist mythology about race and economics.