Sunday, January 13, 2008

Could Monks, Monasteries and Prayer be Key in the Culture War?

Protestants and particularly Evangelicals look upon the idea of monks and monasteries, nuns and convents, with a suspicious skeptical eye. How, they ask, is that kind of lifestyle fulfilling Jesus command to go out into the world? How, they ask, will that help to rescue our corrupt society and bring God’s salvation, justice and order?

Monks in Oklahoma are creating a cloistered compound built to last 1,000 years.

Most Catholic monasteries in this country are devoted to service, operating schools and other institutions, Anderson said. "We wanted to build a community like the ancient monasteries, a place devoted to the contemplative life and prayer."

Contemplative prayer? Is that the same as centering prayer? Isn’t that mysticism? Or New Age and Emerging Church stuff? Some Christians claim that the focus should rather be on a return to the simplicity and purity of the Christian faith.

The courtyard and monks' rooms are part of the cloistered area, not open to the public, as part of the monks' discipline in separation from the world, and silence.

"This is to create an atmosphere conducive to prayer and communion with Christ," Anderson said.

That has the sound of simplicity and purity to me.

Some Christians, such as Tony Campolo, are linking this kind of prayer and communion to a spiritual revival now starting to take root in the Western world. Others, typically faith communities that take strong anti-Catholic stands, condemn such prayer practices entirely.

However, the Pope himself, along with other Catholic leaders, has also warned of certain New Age dangers in contemporary prayer movements.

There is obviously more to monks and monasteries than the issue of contemplative prayer but an open mind to the related aspects of Christian history will do wonders to dispel confusion.

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