Tomorrow’s Lesson

Here is what two dissenting Supreme Court Justices wrote about the impact of the Obergfell decision on orthodox Christians:

Indeed, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito explicitly warned religious traditionalists that this decision leaves them vulnerable. Alito warns that Obergefell “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy,” and will be used to oppress the faithful “by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.

Here is Rod Dreher commenting on how he believes the church must react in order to preserve the light of the faith in the coming generations:

It is time for what I call the Benedict Option. In his 1982 book After Virtue, the eminent philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre likened the current age to the fall of ancient Rome. He pointed to Benedict of Nursia, a pious young Christian who left the chaos of Rome to go to the woods to pray, as an example for us. We who want to live by the traditional virtues, MacIntyre said, have to pioneer new ways of doing so in community. We await, he said “a new — and doubtless very different — St. Benedict.”

Throughout the early Middle Ages, Benedict’s communities formed monasteries, and kept the light of faith burning through the surrounding cultural darkness. Eventually, the Benedictine monks helped refound civilization.

I believe that orthodox Christians today are called to be those new and very different St. Benedicts. How do we take the Benedict Option, and build resilient communities within our condition of internal exile, and under increasingly hostile conditions? I don’t know. But we had better figure this out together, and soon, while there is time.

Last fall, I spoke with the prior of the Benedictine monastery in Nursia, and told him about the Benedict Option. So many Christians, he told me, have no clue how far things have decayed in our aggressively secularizing world. The future for Christians will be within the Benedict Option, the monk said, or it won’t be at all.

Obergefell is a sign of the times, for those with eyes to see. This isn’t the view of wild-eyed prophets wearing animal skins and shouting in the desert. It is the view of four Supreme Court justices, in effect declaring from the bench the decline and fall of the traditional American social, political, and legal order.

We’ve already talked some about how churches like our own – evangelical, protestant churches – might react to Dreher’s proposal.  We’ll continue that discussion in the morning.

Benedict Option: What is It?

Here is a paragraph from noted Protestant, reformed theologian Carl Trueman:

Rod Dreher has been creating quite a helpful and productive stir with his arguments in favor of the “Benedict Option” as a way for the church to think about its mission in a world where Christianity is thrust to the despised cultural margins.  I am not sure where I stand on all of the details—some seem yet to be worked out—but he is surely highlighting the fact that in America things are changing rapidly and that Christians need to realize that. Much of what he says resonates with the notion of church as exile community, with which I have deep sympathy.  Yet part of me wonders if we need a new (or perhaps “new old”) option at all.

If you were looking to the New Testament addressing the church as an “exile community,”  you’d look immediately at the Book of Revelation.  Maybe we’ll spend some time there in the next few weeks.

Why The Benedict Option?

We’ve spent some time in the last few weeks talking about the Benedict Option, a subject near and dear to Rod Dreher’s heart.  He admits that he has not hammered out a complete definition of the idea and he is meeting with leaders and laity from Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Evangelical churches to try and get reactions to the proposal, all in preparation for a book on the subject that he is now in the process of writing.

One question that has to be raised in this discussion is this:  Why do we need to be discussing any sort of departure or “option” at all?  Why can’t we just keep on doing what we’ve been doing?

Okay.  Fair question.  Dreher has spent a good bit of ink in addressing this in the last few months in his blog.  I should have been keeping notes on every time he set something out clearly that might be a justification for his proposal.  Should have, but didn’t.  But in one of today’s posts (Dreher writes faster than I can read, sometimes) he takes on a serious issue and suggests that this kind of culture that we now live in is what makes the notion of building up our churches to create havens for young people seeking marriage partners necessary.

Here is a quote:

When I was in Nashville last week at the Southern Baptist event, someone said that we, the church, need to be there to take in the walking wounded from the sexual revolution. He’s right. But see, the kind of thing that this Vanity Fair piece talks about goes right to the core of what the Benedict Option needs to be. We have to do what we can to raise kids who will not succumb to Tinder culture. This is going to require radical steps. A reader of this blog said something to the effect of the Benedict Option cannot be about the church doing what we’ve been doing all along, except pushing even harder for our kids to save sex until marriage. This Tinder article is a perfect illustration of why she is right. The culture itself has changed to allow for a sexual free-for-all, but the most important aspect of this story is the role technology plays in driving the culture. Any Benedict Option that fails to deal honestly and forcefully with our relationship to technology and popular culture will fail.

If you are intrigued, read the whole thing:  Tinder Mercenaries.

Tomorrow’s Lesson

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.

More Encouragement

Rod Dreher – an Orthodox Christian (that’s a capital “O,” meaning Eastern Orthodox) and a conservative (and a heck of  writer) is attending a Baptist/Evangelical conference this week and he heard Baptist preacher Russell Moore there and was impressed and encouraged.  We should be, too.

Here is the link to Dreher’s commentary:

Benedict Option: Baptist Edition

At the end of our last class, Debbie Payne asked a serious question about how we as Christians can resist and withstand the onslaught of our increasingly secular and anti-Christian culture.  I mentioned the subject of the Benedict Option, which Rod Dreher has been blogging about for quite a while.  But the Benedict Option has its roots in monasticism, something quite foriegn to our own Protestant and evangelical sensiblities.  But today Dreher quotes heavily from a Baptist preacher and theologian – Russell Moore, someone probably well known to our own class’s Louisville contingent – to give an idea of what a Benedict Option strategy might look like from our point of view.

Here’s the link: