A Troubled and Troubling Monasticism

A Troubled and Troubling Monasticism

Bonhoeffers New Type of Monasticism is a deliberate reference to the Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1935 quote: “the restoration of the church will surely come only from a new type of monasticism…” which has become widely used (and abused) as a legitimizing footnote in prologues for lots of versions of “new monasticism” that have then gone on to have no other association with Bonhoeffer or his work. This response is different. Let me explain via the Slovenian Philosopher Slavoj Zizek:

On today’s market, we find a whole series of products deprived of their malignant property: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol… And the list goes on: what about virtual sex as sex without sex, the doctrine of warfare with no casualties (on our side, of course) as warfare without warfare…..Drones etc…. Along the same lines, what the Politically Correct tolerance is giving us is a decaffeinated belief: a belief which does not hurt anyone and does not fully commit even ourselves.

Slavoj Zizek

For Zizek coffee minus caffeine is not coffee It may look like coffee, smell like coffee, taste like coffee… but it is not coffee. Beer minus Alcohol is not Beer. It may look like beer, smell like beer, taste like beer… but it not beer. Cream minus Fat is not Cream. It may look like cream, smell like cream, taste like cream… but it is not cream.

All the products give the appearance of being the genuine article but they have been deprived of the very substance which makes them dangerous… and makes them what they are.

It is our contention that Bonhoeffer is the malignant property that makes new monasticism what it is…he is the very substance that makes new monasticism dangerous and saves it from becoming yet another decaffeinated belief: a belief which does not hurt anyone and does not fully commit even ourselves.  New Monasticism minus Bonhoeffer may look like new monasticism, smell like new monasticism, and taste like new monasticism… but is it troubled and troubling? Fr. John T. Skinner Bonhoeffer’s New Type of Monasticism