Jordan Ballor wrote a provocative post about fusionism today, titled “Libertarians in Black,” modifying Jonah Goldberg’s suggestion that there should always be a libertarian in the room during political discussions with a little help from Johnny Cash:

I think we might be able to bring Jonah Goldberg and Johnny Cash together on this point, to say that there always ought to be a “libertarian in black” in the room, asking the right questions about what government policies do for the people, particularly the poor.

Yet I wonder, might there be room for another man (or woman) in black as well? Might we also benefit from having a monk in the room? (No offense intended to any Trappists, who traditionally wear white, but honestly, what are they going to say?)

Why do monks (and deacons, priests, and bishops) typically wear black? Fr. Andreas at Archangel Gabriel Orthodox Church in Ashland, OR gives a decent summary:

The color black indicates spiritual poverty – it is historically the easiest and cheapest color to dye fabric with. Moreover, black is a color of mourning and death for the priest, the symbolism is dying to oneself to rise and serve the Lord as well as giving witness of the Kingdom yet to come. Black is associated with sorrow but in the case of priestly robe this color has another symbolic meaning. A black cassock is to remind a priest that he ‘dies to the world’ every day and immerses in eternity. Blackness also symbolizes giving up bright colors and thus giving up what the world brings, its glittering, honors and entertainment. Also, as an Archpriest once pointed out to me, stains are readily visible on black, reminding the priest that he is held to a higher standard. His sins and failings will be more visible and judged harsher, than those of other people. In our very secular world, the wearing of the cassock continues to be a visible sign of belief and of the consecration of one’s life to the service of the Lord and His Church.

If the libertarian always asks, “Why is this a job for the government?” and the libertarian in black always adds, “and how can we best help ‘those who have been held back’?” what might the monk have to offer?

Perhaps, in the spirit of simplicity, “Why does anyone need this in the first place?” Or, in the spirit of humility, “How ought each of us personally to repent in failing to serve our neighbor in this way?” Or, in the spirit of self-denial, “What can we give up for others?” Or perhaps, reflecting their devotion to the Church, “Why isn’t this a job for the Church?” Or maybe, “How can we prioritize the love of Christ?”

Whatever the case, I think having someone with a heart for asceticism around also brings a healthy and all too often ignored perspective to bear. I have a feeling that they, too, would echo the word’s of the Man in Black:

Well, there’s things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin’ everywhere you go,
But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You’ll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything’s OK,
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.