Aug 13, 2010

The Suburban Way

I'm finally reading The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. It's a great book of Claiborne's stories and lessons living the Gospel, as he calls it, "The Simple Way." I borrowed the book from my friend Phil who has adopted and embraced the message and practices of New Monasticism in very real and substantial ways. Phil and Claiborne challenge me as I frequently recall my own internal misgivings about what the New Testament has to say about wealth and riches. Challenge is a good thing. This is one of the important things the church does.

Personally, I'm drawn more towards spirituality in good Old Monasticism more than New Monasticism. However, one of Mother Teresa's quotes that Claiborne cites inspires me to make my own serious conscious efforts to love, engage, and identify with the poor, as the New Monastics do.
Calcuttas are everywhere if only we have eyes to see. Find your Calcutta. - Momma T
I'm a suburbanite, no mistake. There are probably no homeless people within 10 miles of my home. The average annual income in my zip code is $48,444. We own our very nice house (mortgaged), we own 2 nice cars, we enjoy all the typical suburban luxuries - electricity, water, heat & air, mobile phones, a laptop for each of us, digital cable TV, high-speed internet, an xbox, a wii, a clean & safe neighborhood with friendly people all around, even a new porch in our back yard.
Yet I don't know that I am called into New Monasticism any more than I am called into Old Monasticism. Don't get me wrong - I love making trips to the Benedictine Abbey here in Oklahoma. Joining in their spiritual practice just a little makes me a much better disciple of Jesus. But we all recognize and understand that monks are a rare set of men who are called to totally and literally embrace the call to "pray without ceasing" in a special way that not every Christian will live for God.
[If I have any bone to pick with Claiborne, it's when he says he "finally met a Christian" in Calcutta - Andy had been a wealthy businessman in Germany who sold everything he had, gave it to the poor (Lk. 12:33), and moved to Calcutta where he had lived for over ten years with the destitute. I'm not sure if Claiborne implies that others are not "Christian" or just stresses the authenticity of Andy's discipleship. Claiborne does say other "Christians" were "selective fundamentalists" who aren't willing to take Jesus literally on "things like that." I could just as easily say that Protestants aren't willing to take Jesus literally when He said unless we eat His body and drink His blood we have no life in us. (Jn. 6:53) Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysics aside, I know far too many sincere Protestant disciples to try to pigeon-hole our Christian authenticity by exegesis. (I went a touch skeptical when Claiborne used Kierkegaard's "The Bible is very easy to understand." quote)]
Anyway, I'm trying to adapt and adopt some practices and disciplines - inspired by The Simple Way, lived here in Suburbia.
  • Share meals at restaurants when you go out - Tiffany and I have started doing this and it's amazing how much money we can save. Also drink water (I only rarely get a beer at restaurants now.) - it's cheaper and better for us anyway.
  • Go out less often - Going out to eat dinner with friends is probably the #1 activity of Suburbia? Instead of a restaurant, have dinner at someone's home. It's more work, but we can save some money. Though maybe not much with gas and the cost of the meal. Which leads to ...
  • Eat simple meals - Phil turned us onto this at Agora. We now have a Simple Sunday Meal™ once a month at Agora. Simple ingredients like rice, beans, and vegetables can feed 50 people for $30 or less. We noticed with our leftovers we were eating simple meals at home the following week and it's a great way to save money and still eat well as a family.
  • Rent a movie instead of going to the theater. Those of us with kids are practically forced to do this anyway, but a dozen friends can watch a $3 rental instead of spending $60 on movie tickets. We have a Netflix subscription so we probably watch a half-dozen movies a month for $10.
  • Add volunteering to hanging out - Phil and I went to the community food bank one night to pack boxes and then we had a couple beers afterwords. It was great, and I want to start doing stuff like that more often and with more of our friends.
  • Most importantly(?), donate the savings to charities that serve the poor. In addition to volunteering, this is the difference between simplifying my lifestyle just to save money and simplifying my lifestyle to help the poor. Eating a simple meal also helps convey some identity of the poor - most of the poor in the world survive on little more than simple rice, beans, and/or vegetables. No Taco Bueno value meals.
These are just some things I've considered as I've lived some of these questions in the last few weeks. What am I missing? What are some other things we can do to live in solidarity with the Gospel message to love the poor - in our own Calcuttas?

1 comment:

Saint said...

Here in Georgia we survive on eggplants, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and bread. And watermelons are in season now, so plenty of those.

It's strange, that even though I'm quite a bit poorer now (living on about maybe 6 dollars a day, I eat quite a bit healthier, especially since I'm forced not to eat any sweets, which by the way some more oatmeal cream pies would, ahem, nevermind...

Anyways, all these are definitely good starting points to simpler living.