A Brief History of Becoming Peculiar

Before I go too much further, I thought I’d provide some background on how Becoming Peculiar came to be.

The book that first inspired Becoming Peculiar was Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical,  followed by Jesus for President, which Claiborne co-wrote with Chris Haw. (If you’ve read these books, the blog’s name was probably a dead giveaway, since both use the word “peculiar” quite liberally). These books assailed my brain with radical, exhilarating new ideas about love and peace and life.

From there I became interested in the New Monastic movement in general.

This new expression of Christianity was all about living amongst people who were different from you. It was all about sharing resources and making peace and listening to other people’s stories. It emphasized reconciliation between people, between species, and with the land. These all made my heart leap up and say “Yes, yes, yes . . . that’s what Jesus was talking about!”  I loved how the new monastics were all about inspiring people to join them rather than convincing people to agree with them. And they lived the way they did not in order to be saved, but because they were saved. Instead of guilt, they were filled with joy and celebration.

This movement was all about really living out the things we’d learned about in Sunday school – but when they were lived out, they became exciting, miraculous, intoxicating . . . so unlike Sunday school.

These folks that I was reading made Christianity seem hard, but in a good way: a way that made life meaningful, stunning, vibrant. They provided concrete ways to be like Jesus rather than just to talk about him. I was attracted to the idea of real relationships, fostered by hospitality, and not just the sterile relationships of Sunday-morning services.

These books had so much to offer in regards to life right now, not just some distant eternity, and I loved that. They provided me with a way to live, not just more dogma to believe.

It was so counter-intuitive that it actually made sense.

I was excited by these ideas, but I ran into some problems.

The thing was, I still didn’t exactly know how to embody them with my life.

For starters, everything they talked about seemed to involve moving to the city. This troubled me, first as an introvert, and second as a country girl. Did you really have to be around people constantly to be a good disciple of Jesus? I thought that might kill me.

Furthermore, the city makes me heart-sick. I can only walk on concrete and look at billboards and listen to the sound of garbage trucks and sirens for so long before I start longing for dirt and grass and wind and silence. I didn’t think I could ever thrive in an urban setting, and I felt Jesus would want me to thrive. I wondered if there was more than one way to live communally, that didn’t involve constant, debilitating exposure to urban clamor and bustle. Couldn’t one embody the ways of Jesus in a rural setting, amongst trees and fields?

So I set out to explore that very issue in this blog: whether there were other ways of living out Jesus’ radical way without living in an urban commune. Someone has to grow vegetables and milk cows and tend chickens, right? Could that possibly be me?

I also noticed, when learning about the new monastic movement, that I was hearing mostly male voices. I wondered if I might be able to contribute to the conversation from a female perspective, and especially from a mother’s point of view. Can you be a mother and a monastic? (I’ve already begun reading the eloquent Mama Monk, who clearly thinks you can).

So that’s where I am right now: wondering and hoping.

* * *

Shane Claiborne and the New Monastics felt it was indisputable that followers of Christ must live differently from the rest of the world. Jesus came to establish a new Kingdom that was completely counter to the kingdoms of the world. Followers of Jesus can’t look like those whose allegiances are to earthly kingdoms.

Reflecting on my own life, I realized that the way I lived was essentially no different from anyone else’s. You couldn’t tell from the way I lived my life that I followed the Rabbi who teaches that we have to die in order to live.

I want to be the kind of person who invites people into her home, who engages in conversation with people different from herself. I want to be the kind of person who participates in rituals and liturgy and prayer and festivals, who fasts and meditates. I want to be the kind of woman who visits lonely people and makes casseroles for families going through difficult times. I want to be the kind of person who makes sacrifices to protect the environment and to who shares with her neighbours.

I’m not that kind of person.

But I’m hoping that by sharing my desires and goals with other people, and hearing their stories, I might start to become that kind of person.

Will you join me in discovering how one can become peculiar?

Image courtesy of chiptape.

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