Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Voluntary Simplicity: A Christian Movement?

Stephen Glaze.

Religion is often correctly blamed for fostering extremisms that logically result in violence. But the movement called Voluntary Simplicity does not make Christianity less absolutist, and the notion that it does betrays an ignorance of some important ideas in Western philosophy and religion. Voluntary Simplicity is in some very important respects opposed to Christian social and moral teaching. The paper addresses three of these: Voluntary Simplicity, like Cynicism and Stoicism, is directed toward independence, while Christian simplicity means the awareness of dependence; Voluntary Simplicity, like Cynicism and Stoicism, is essentially elitist, while Christianity is essentially egalitarian; Voluntary Simplicity, like Cynicism and to an extent like Stoicism, is escapist, while Christianity demands thoughtful action. While the movement appears to "purify" Christianity by redirecting the faithful away to a life centered in the moment, its quietist roots encourage political apathy. “Simplicity” as a cultural ideal assumes that politics is a lost art or one irrelevant to life in a “global economy.”


Stephen Glaze  (United States)
Assistant Professor of English
English Department Division of Humanities and Social Sciences
Morehouse College

Born Birmingham, Alabama, 1957, educated Auburn University (BA) Saint Louis University (MA), Emory University (Ph.D). Have lived and taught entirely within the U.S. Employed by Morehouse since 1993.

  • Voluntary Simplicity
  • Stoicism
  • Cynicism
  • Autarcheia
  • Self-Sufficiency

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)