Relevancy of Monasticism – Part 6

Part 5

Whilst these orders have proven their timelessness in their endurance throughout the ages – through persecution and huge cultural changes – a new kind of monasticism is emerging.

In the course of the past century, as Christians have become more and more uneasy with the

church, they have sought to return to the old ways – much as the first desert fathers were and did. Like the church of Theodosius’ time, today churches and Christians have exchanged loving their enemies for blowing them up (America is a “Christian” nation after-all); they still erect lavish basilicas, though now they’re thousand seater auditoriums; they’ve abandoned humility and service to reach for power and status in politics and economics. In 1935, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian, wrote in a letter to his brother:

“The restoration of the church will surely come from a sort of new monasticism which has in common with the old only an uncompromising attitude of a life lived according to the Sermon on the Mount in the following of Christ”.[1]

Even before Bonhoeffer wrote those words, a new type of monasticism was being lived.

In the difficult economic circumstances of post-WWI, a group of Christians came together in Germany, committing themselves to one another and to God, in order to live like the first church, “sharing all things in common” in the face of extreme poverty. And as Hitler and the Nazis came to power, and began persecuting and massacring the “impure” Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and communists, this community – known as the Bruderhof – opened their doors to them. As they were greeted with “Heil Hitler!” they replied with “Good Morning”. Despite receiving threats and warnings that they should leave Germany, their leader Eberhard Arnold insisted that they would stay, because he believed they “must show with [their] lives what justice, love and peace look like”.[2]


[1] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Testament to Freedom, HarperSanFrancisco 1997 p.424

[2] Arnold Eberhard, quoted in Momsen, Homage to a Broken Man, p.93 – as quoted by Wilson-Hartgrove, Jonathan, New Monasticism, Brazos Press 2008

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