New Monasticism and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism

By Young, Matthew H. | First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, February 2016 | Go to article overview

New Monasticism and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism


Young, Matthew H., First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life


New Monasticism and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism BY WES MARKOFSKI OXFORD, 384 PAGES, $35

Young Christians across the United States are selling their possessions, moving into intentional communities, and dedicating their lives to the "inward breath" of prayer and the "outward breath" of social activism. These young Christians, espousing Christian communitarian values, are part of a burgeoning movement known as "Evangelical Neo-Monasticism." The neo-monastic movement is paradoxical: It is largely composed of American Evangelicals who adopt ideas from traditional Catholic monasticism; they are pro-life and proScripture, yet often politically liberal; they praise a "set-apart" lifestyle yet eschew cultural withdrawal.

Wes Markofski, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who himself spent five years immersed in the life of Evangelical neo-monastic communities, presents a history of the movement and attempts to explain its importance to modern Evangelicalism. He has, in essence, written two books in one volume. On the one hand, he has written a detailed and exceedingly well-researched ethnography of the new urban monastic movement, replete with interviews, scores of quotes, helpful graphs, and copious footnotes. On the basis of this research, Markofski argues that neo-monastics practice a "holistic faith" that refuses to prioritize evangelism over social activism-and so leads to political liberalism, defying the typical connection between American Evangelicalism and politically conservative values.

Within this technical study of neomonasticism, however, another narrative can be found: Markofski writes personal accounts of some individuals who have chosen to live out a radical communitarian lifestyle they believe was first modeled by early Christians. …

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