(Video) Interview with Chris Haw – On Conversion and the New Monasticism

Back when I was an evangelical college student, I discovered a book that would have a lasting impact on on me. It was called Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals. With poetic, lyrical theology the book was a “a radical manifesto to awaken the Christian political imagination, reminding us that our ultimate hope lies not in partisan political options but in Jesus and the incarnation of the peculiar politic of the church.”

The book was co-written by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, two fascinating men. With his prophetic imagination, long dreadlocks, and self-made clothes, Shane is like a modern John the Baptist. And as a carpenter, potter, and theologian living in one of America’s most dangerous, crime-filled cities, Chris himself is a great “sign of contradiction.”

The two men describe themselves as “ordinary radicals”, and were instrumental in birthing the so-called “New Monasticism,” a modern movement of laypeople centered on community, contemplation, hospitality, and care for the poor.

This week, Chris is releasing a new memoir which recounts his friendship with Shane, the roots of the new monasticism, and Chris’ recent return back to Catholicism. It’s titled From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart: Rekindling My Love for Catholicism (Ave Maria Press, paperback, 256 pages). In my review, I describe the book as “poetic, honest, and raw…bearing the same mesmerizing glow as Day’s Long Loneliness and Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain.”

Chris recently sat down with me to discuss his return to the Church, the New Monasticism, and his experiences of grace in the dark streets of Camden, NJ.

Watch or download our interview below:



Watch the video here (23 minutes)


Download the interview here (23 minutes)

Topics Discussed:

1:29 – What events and people brought you back to Catholicism?
2:57 – Finding your own Calcutta
4:40 – The power of liturgy
6:39 – What are the strengths of the New Monasticism?
11:14 – The twelve marks of the New Monasticism
12:30 – How do you face the fear which comes with living radically?
16:13 – Fear in Jesus’ life
18:10 – Who is your favorite saint and why?


Q: What are some strengths of the New Monasticism?

Well, some of the strengths we actually gleaned from the Catholic Church. Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement are probably among the fountainheads of inspiration for this movement. Dorothy Day managed to do something that had such a profound appearance of monastic charity and living among the poor, and yet [with] people who were not vowed into poverty, chastity, and obedience.

I think a lot of people have found that inspiring, to say, “I don’t necessarily need to wait on being validated by some order to go and serve the poor, to serve Christ, and to live with other people.”

I think there’s something amazing and great about orders, but in a way, some people can be almost disempowered by “officialness.” They feel like they need to wait on other people to do something. However, a lot of people in this New Monasticism movement are realizing that, “I can go and form the kind of life that I’ve been wanting to form, and I don’t have to ask permission from industrial, modern capitalism and its lifestyle to give that to me. I’m going to go against the grain—I’m going against the stream—and I’ll construct that.”


Be sure to check out Chris’ new book, From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart: Rekindling My Love for Catholicism.

If you liked this discussion, find several more on my Interviews page. And subscribe to the blog via feed reader or email to make sure you don’t miss future interviews.

Which of Jesus’ commands do you find most difficult?