The new issue of The Christian Century has a cover article titled The New Monasticism. It profiles a number of Christian communitities (loosely linked through The New Monasticism movement) committed to radical discipleship, including Reba Place Fellowship. Reba Place is related to the Mennonite Church, and reading the information provided on their web page reveals that these are just the kind of Jesus-lovers I could jive with. There was a RevGalBlogPals meme the other day that posed the question, "What turns you on spiritually and/or creatively." Answer: imagining myself living in Christian community. There, with the other crunchy, lentil-eating Christians, I would finally become the version of Katherine I've always longed to be. I'd fulfill my cooking & cleaning duties with a glad heart, knowing that my dishsoap hands were in the service of the Lord. I'd like everyone, and everyone would like me, and no one would ever smell or leave their clothes on the bathroom floor or get mad at me if I did (and I would). It'd be copacetic. We would pray, sing, eat, garden (ya right, I kill all plants - I like how Running2ks put it - "if you can’t tell me in words or barks or meows what you want, I can’t help you"), worship, make peace, resist war, read Flannery O'Connor & the Gospel of Matthew, and generally be Jesus people - together.
If you sense a sarcasm here, you're mistaken. This is the content of my wildest dreams. Only I have this sinking feeling that I couldn't hack it. I am one mean woman, one selfish, slovenly woman. Especially in the morning. If it weren't for the loving exasperation afforded to me by Ben, who believes that cleanliness=godliness, I'd be wallowing in my own dirty dishes and laundry. I don't have the countenance for community living. The few times I've been deposited in communal living situations, my freshman year of college and an ill-fated camp counseling gig, I spent the whole time bewildered at my position in the marginalia of the community. I clam up, turn loner, simulaneously long for meaningful connection and for the people to JUST GO AWAY. The people who have lived with me can probably attest to that; there haven't been that many of them, but they all certainly must have noticed that I can be... difficult (um, Marie and Elizabeth, we can just leave it at that... no need for enthusiastic testimonies from my sisters :). I was always grateful for the high threshhold of tolerance Peppermint miraculously maintains for my antics, for without it I surely would have driven her mad over the course of the nine months we shared a room.
For all my romantic notions of the Christian Commune, I know that in reality it would be hard labor to live in community - emotional, physical, and spiritual labor. It would require that I change, dramatically. It would require that I gain some humility and lose some self-absorption. It would require that I actually live into my ideals, those that are untested and those that are untried. I do think this "new monasticism" - this movement of Christian communities dedicated to following the peaceable way of Jesus - is a more authentic way of being Christian. I think that contemporary American culture compromises faithfulness in so many ways, and that intentionally extracting oneself from the spiderweb of individualism, consumerism, nationalism, entertainmentism, etc., is, from my armchair, a worthy calling. But one can't very well be an armchair disciple, can one?