We’re living in a very similar moment to that now as Western culture is fracturing at the seams with spikes in anxiety, depression and mental illness, loneliness and alienation, the breakdown of the family and systemic racism. So I think the need of the hour, for Christians and thoughtful people who really want to live well, is to adopt a rule of life.
This is a little bit personal, but can you give some brass-tacks examples of what are some things in your rule of life?
At a personal level, every morning, I get up at such a time that I can spend an hour in prayer, followed by an hour of reading before I let myself look at my phone. At a more family level, we practice Sabbath together. The whole 24-hour period, we put all of our phones away. We gather around the table with close friends. We celebrate a huge meal. We practice gratitude, rest; we sleep, we play. And that is a major part of our rule of life that we kind of anchor our weekly rhythm as a family around.
Most people who have heard of a rule of life often associate it with monks and nuns.
The monastic tradition has preserved something down through the centuries that was originally for all Christians. What myself — and many others — are arguing is that we need to take what they have preserved and figure out how to contextualize and apply it for those of us who aren’t monks and nuns.
Communities have to form around something. In the American context, many communities attempt to form around preferences and pleasure. That’s not bad, but that tends not to create a deep, vulnerable level of relationship. In most American contexts, the moment that the relationship is no longer pleasing, we slip away.
But ancient Christian communities were really trying to go the distance with each other. Part of the goal of a disciple of Jesus is to be formed into a person of love, and formation tends to happen in these interpersonal relationships over a long period of time. You have to stay in difficult relationships to actually be forged into that kind of person.
Do you think nonreligious people or people who are not Christians should have a rule of life?
Well, I would say that all people have a rule of life. You likely have a morning routine, you have a way that you spend your free time, you probably have a job. Hopefully you have a budget.