Tomorrow morning I’d like to begin a discussion of the so called “Benedict Option.” One of my favorite bloggers – Rod Dreher – has been writing about it for some time now and the idea is not lost on me. The name comes from Saint Benedict, who was responsible for starting a monastic movement in Europe when things were sort of falling apart in the “Dark Ages.” He is credited with helping to preserve Christian practice and culture during a time the world was barbaric and hostile to Christianity.
I’d be surprised if anyone in our class is really interested in talking about monasticism, except as history, and I am not, either. Dreher, though, keeps saying that he is not advocating a monastic retreat from the world, but rather a selective withdrawal from the culture and a more intentional thickening of Christian or church culture.
I may eb misreading him, but the sense I get is that he believes that while the Christian story and Christian ethics were once sort of common knowledge and commonly accepted in American life, such is no longer the case. The kids who walk around with crosses tattooed on their arms and legs don’t have a clue what that symbol means and don’t have the least notion of living out the meaning of that symbol.
But Dreher seems to think that orthodox Christianity – the faith once given to the saints – is fading even from lots of churches. Some churches have completely capitulated to the ethics and norms of the culture, while others exist on not much more than enthusiasm.
He thinks that if we are to pass the faith on to the next generation in any meaningful way, we will have to return to doctrine and practice. Dreher:
In talking with my Evangelical friends, I tell them that I sometimes envy the zeal that Evangelicalism has for Christian living. That’s something we from the older traditions can learn from them. But some of them complain about how thin and shallow Evangelical culture is, and how much of it is built on enthusiasm and emotionalism. To the extent that that is true, they could learn from us the habits of Christian culture and practices. We Christians must all reacquaint ourselves with all these things, if we are going to make it through what is to come.
What is to come, he argues, is a secular culture that will be increasingly hostile to Christian ethics and practice.