Most of you know that I’m just coming out of the throes of a crisis of faith (short lived as it was). One of the things I realized during this time was that it wasn’t God I was trying to turn my back on (though it seemed it would be much simpler to do so)–it was the hypocrisy of the Christian church. It drives me nuts to see legalism (doctrine elevated to a status that takes the focus off God and places it on the doctrine) in the church. It drives me nuts to see Christianity boiled down to a three step formula – “Read this verse, say this prayer, go to my church and you’ll be saved.” There’s nothing formulaic about God. Read the Bible and find a formula for happy life and salvation - I dare you. It won’t happen. There are no formulas in relationships.
So now I’m on a journey to be like Jesus – not like Christians. Remember, Christian is a great noun but a lousy adjective. It’s going to be tough for a people pleaser like me to make this journey because it’s going to look radically different than what most people associate with the word Christian – but ultimately, that doesn’t matter because my final authority is God and no one else (if I say that enough times, I have to start believing it deep down, right?).
So what does this look like for me? It looks like forming and living in a community very similar to Shane Claiborne’s “new monastic” community The Simple Way (you won’t get too much info from that link because they recently experienced a horrific fire and are focusing their efforts on rebuilding and funding the rebuilding effort). There are several of these communities popping up around the country (there’s even one in my hometown that I didn’t know existed - funny story…the web filter at work classifies the site as “occult”).
Busted Halo describes The Simple Way like this:
The Simple Way is an alternative Christian community with six semi-permanent members and a few dozen others who have passed through its doors. Members live and pray together, dedicate themselves to work with their poor neighbors, contribute part of their outside incomes (everybody has a part-time regular job) to maintain the house and generally aspire to upset the established order through acts of radical Christian love. Those acts of Christian resistance have included running an art camp for their inner city neighbors, opening the door to prostitutes in crisis and visiting Iraq to perform circuses for war-battered kids. These acts are equal parts punk rock and monastic.
What distinguishes the house from other locales where cool, politically minded denizens split the rent is that these young adults gather expressly to share in each others’ religious lives and to follow Christ together. While members do not take vows and can stay for as long as forever or as little as a month, the best way to understand The Simple Way may be as a religious order, albeit an anarchist one with no Mother Superior and no dress code (although dread locks and piercings seem to be de rigeur). Living in community means conscientious dedication to each other’s spiritual journey.
The Simple Way is part of a growing movement of mostly young evangelical Christians and Catholics who are dedicated to taking the Gospel—not Genesis— literally. The group makes common cause with Catholic Worker houses of hospitality and dozens of other alternative communities that operate below the radar of American Christianity.
It’s something that looks and feels very different from traditional Christianity. This is what Rob Bell calls “Repainting the Christian Faith.”
For thousands of years followers of Jesus, like artists, have understood that we have to keep going, exploring what it means to live in harmony with God and each other. The Christian faith tradition is filled with change and growth and transformation. Jesus took part in this process by calling people to rethink faith and the Bible and hope and love and everything else, and by inviting them into the endless process of working out how to live as God created us to live.
The challenge for Christians then is to live with great passion and conviction, remaining open and flexible, aware that this life is not the last painting.
Get ready, because I’m going to start repainting what I know and do regarding Christianity. But I can’t do it alone. This vision of community kind of requires other people to be involved (you can’t have a community of one!). I have 1 friend who is interested in helping, but she is married and can’t be completely involved. Here’s what I need:
- Prayer partners. Without prayer, this vision will never get off the ground.
- Physical partners – people who have this same kind of vision and want to see this kind of community take off in Denver, CO.
- Professionals who may not want to live in this kind of community, but have the knowledge of how to get a non-profit going and would lend their brains to the cause to get us up and running (I’ve been researching laws and how to incorporate and it just makes my head swim).
- A name. I was hoping to use “The Gathering Place” in either Hebrew, Greek, or Latin, but I don’t like the way any of them sound. And there’s already a women’s day shelter in Denver called “The Gathering Place”.
- A neglected or abandoned house that we can take over and move into in a neighborhood that will benefit from this type of community.
I’m not asking for much, am I? Even if you only have advice, I’ll gladly take that too.
Trackposted to Perri Nelson’s Website, third world county, The Random Yak, Woman Honor Thyself, Right Truth, Pirate’s Cove, The Pink Flamingo, Dumb Ox Daily News, Conservative Cat, and Church and State, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.