Abandoned places of empire

I admire the new monastic movement, spearheaded by folks like Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.  For more on new monasticism, the wiki is HERE.

The “12 marks” of New Monasticism are:

  1. Relocation to the “abandoned places of Empire”
  2. Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us
  3. Hospitality to the stranger
  4. Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation
  5. Humble submission to Christ’s body, the Church
  6. Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the community along the lines of the old novitiate
  7. Nurturing common life among members of an intentional community
  8. Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children
  9. Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life
  10. Care for the plot of God’s earth given to us along with support of our local economies
  11. Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthew 18
  12. Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life

All of these things are worthy of extended discussion, but the one that I’ve been thinking about today is the notion of relocation to the “abandoned places of empire.”  For the new monastics, this tends to mean sharing a house in the ghetto (what they call “the margins of society”).   But it seems to me that the inner cities aren’t the only abandoned places of empire.

Our farm is near Danville, Virginia.  After the Civil War a huge cotton mill was built there, and it employed a substantial percentage of the population.  Danville was an attractive site for the mill, because there was an abundance of cheap labor and cheap raw materials.  For many decades the mill flourished, employing tens of thousands of people, cranking out vast quantities of cloth and enriching its owners.  It was the economic center of gravity for the entire region.

But eventually, as they always do, the empire moved on.  Cheaper labor could now be found in places like Mexico and India.  So the mill closed, its assets were purchased by a company from India, and in Mexico, China and India, women and children are working for cheap wages, doing the jobs that were once done in Danville.   The folks of this area had been chewed up and spit out; replaced by downtrodden cheap labor elsewhere. 

Danville is still here, but it has no industry, a high rate of unemployment, and a very unhealthy population.  It is an abandoned place of empire.

And it is a good place to be.

Love Wins