Bessenecker opens chapter six by delving into the parable of the sheep and the goats of Matthew 25. I have looked at this parable significantly over the last quarter or so of my education here at Fuller. I appreciate all that Bessenecker added to my thoughts on it. But what is more, it is immensely helpful in this work when he attaches personal encounters with people that are mirrors of the gospel message he is preaching. The story of St. Patrick that is interwoven into this chapter on the brokenness and frailty of the human existence, even among the new friars is inspiring and hopeful. In this way, efforts by the new friars to "embrace the messiness of community" seems realistic and possible (105).
Chapter seven touches on a touchy subject, common possessions. He writes, "There is something about intertwining our lives with others to the extent that possessions or space or time are held in common that offends Western sensibilities" (107). His use of the verb, "offends" connotes several strong images in my mind when I make a concerted effort digest this comment. I think he is correct. How, in our fragmented, suburban, fenced in, well lit lifestyles have we become so isolated and individualistic, both in our piety and sociability that we are offended by the mere idea of community to such a degree as this? I realize the answer to that question is fairly complex, and outside the parameters of this book report; still, he raises an important question, one that other writers of Christian simplicity like Richard Foster and Ronald Sider have also asked. If the rich sacrifice their opulence, are there enough resources in the world to satisfy us all adequately (108)? The quest of the new friars to lay aside American privatization and individuality for the sake of community relationships (including the grief and loss that accompanies impoverished areas) has led them to "relational wealth"--a concept shallow suburbia will never be able to understand, much less emulate (118).
Bessenecker offers a phrase that I want to adapt, "cocoons of familiarity" (127). As Tyler and I discuss what it will mean for the safety of our family to move into the ghetto, or at least a lower-class, urban area, we recognize with Bessenecker that the "pursuit of God's kingdom is a powerfully motivating force" even as it is "fraught with discomfort, failure, sickness, discouragement, and danger...leading us out of our cocoons of familiarity" (127). I am a firm believer that it is more dangerous to ignore the call of God on our lives than it is to pave a way to make that same call a reality.
As he near the close of his book he begins a discussion about how those who minister to the marginalized are bound to set themselves up for rejection. I do not find this all that intimidating, perhaps I am merely being naive. But is this not part of my denominational past, as a current Anabaptist, and also part of the larger Christian past, especially before Constantine? Finding my place in the meta-narrative of Christianity means coming to terms with disengagement with the empire and the ruling elite. This is why this point of new monasticism is so appealing to me, I guess.
In the concluding chapter he quotes the World Bank, "the late 20th century will go down in world history as a period of global impoverishment marked by the collapse of productive systems in the developing world, the demise of national institutions and the disintegration of health and educational programmes" (157). What a time for ministers of the gospel to practice the incarnation and offer the good news that the kingdom of God is near! This is why environmental conservation coupled with sustainable farming and other green practices in our homes has become paramount in our efforts to offer resources to the poor; otherwise, we will soon rid ourselves of the resources that the rich currently take for granted. In this way, Bessenecker ushers in a call to all of us when he writes, "the poor suffer most when the earth suffers, and the earth is in bad shape at the moment" (159). So as we move forward in an effort to "embrace marginalization" as followers of Christ, let us also shake our fists at unjust regimes, share our prayers with the hurting and impoverished, and live together under the hut of God's love.