Interesting Articles

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Intentional Communities

The Washington Post published a long article mostly about a Catholic community called "A Simple House" in Washington D.C. that I had the privilege of visiting last year. Toward the middle of the article, it talks about intentional communities more generally. Here is a piece of that:

"When we get to heaven . . .," writes Shane Claiborne, a leader in the intentional community movement, "I don't believe Jesus is going to say, 'When I was hungry you gave a check to the United Way, and they fed me,' or, 'When I was naked, you donated clothes to the Salvation Army, and they clothed me.' "

This is from Claiborne's essay in "School(s) for Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism." The book has become an unexpected sensation among young Christians ready to renounce their parents' pursuit of worldly success in favor of a low-income lifestyle and a commitment to working with the poor. Even more surprising has been the success of Claiborne's most recent book, "Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical," a memoir that also offers a deeper introduction to alternative Christianity and intentional communities. Published almost three years ago, it has sold almost 200,000 copies.

Last summer, a few hundred Christians in their 20s and early 30s packed every pew of Calvary Baptist Church in Northwest Washington to hear Claiborne speak. He asked how many were already living in intentional communities, and at least one-fifth of the audience stood up. He asked how many were interested in intentional communities, and nearly everyone else stood up. "Talk to each other," he told them.

Though no one keeps track of the number of these communities around the country, Claiborne believes the movement is flourishing, particularly among evangelical Protestants.

"It's happening absolutely everywhere," says Claiborne, 33, who credits interest to a dawning realization that "our possessions possess us; this clutter that fills our lives, the television and meaningless stuff that we cram our days with, is sucking us dry."

But sloughing off material desires and mainstream status, as exalted as it sounds, can be hard to do. This is especially true in a city such as Washington, a magnet for college-educated climbers from all over the country who often measure others by their job titles, salaries and access to the powerful.

You can read the entire article here.

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