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Benedict Option as Meanness?
By Rod Dreher • June 9, 2016, 7:54 AM

THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE

[ Emphasis and {commentary} in red type by Abyssum ]

Oh good, another throwdown over the Benedict Option. Greg Forster thinks it’s mean:

The overarching problem, however, is the Benedict Option’s failure to love the unholy world. The holiness of the church has crowded out its divine mission. The Benedict Option projects the same spirit of resentment and hostility toward the world outside of Christian identity. The only change is to identify “the culture” as being in the possession of those outside rather than those inside, and to adjust strategy accordingly. That may feel like a momentous change—we go from understanding ourselves as guardians of a Christian (or “Judeo-Christian”) culture that is under attack from secular invaders to understanding ourselves as victims who are under attack by a secular culture. But if we still turn a face of hostility rather than a face of grace toward the unholy world—if we still try to fight enmity with enmity—how much has really changed?

Er … what? Here’s what Alan Jacobs said about the Ben Op:

The Benedict Option, as I understand it, is based on three premises.

1. The dominant media of our technological society are powerful forces for socializing people into modes of thought and action that are often inconsistent with, if not absolutely hostile to, Christian faith and practice.

2. In America today, churches and other Christian institutions (schools at all levels, parachurch organizations with various missions) are comparatively very weak at socializing people, if for no other reason than that they have access to comparatively little mindspace.

3. Healthy Christian communities are made up of people who have been thoroughly grounded in, thoroughly socialized into, the the historic practices and beliefs of the Christian church.

From these three premises proponents of the Benedict Option draw a conclusion: If we are to form strong Christians, people with robust commitment to and robust understanding of the Christian life, then we need to shift the balance of ideological power towards Christian formation, and that means investing more of our time and attention than we have been spending on strengthening our Christian institutions.

Yep, that’s pretty much it, though I would add several things. Christians have to change our practices for the sake of stronger discipleship formation. We have to adopt a more radical awareness of how different we are from the world, and act on that awareness. And we need to focus on creating the kinds of communities — in our families, our schools, our churches, and elsewhere — that produce faithful, resilient, orthodox Christians.

We need to remember our story in a time and a place which is bound and determined to make us forget. And we need to embrace that story, in all its freakiness — or we will be assimilated, as is rapidly happening.

Carl Trueman responds to Greg Forster. Excerpt:

Well, could this alternative [Ben Op] culture be resentful and hateful and revel in its victim status? It certainly could—think of that group of Klansmen holed up in the local ranch at war with the federal government—but again, I did not hear Rod advocating that on Friday night. In fact, I consider him to have said the opposite: that these new communities within the community are to be open and loving and to model what it means to be truly human.

Seriously, whatever criticisms one might wish to make of the Ben Op, it does not seem to me to be resentful or unloving. Nor, I might add, is understanding it akin to mastering rocket science.

No, it’s not. More Trueman:

This afternoon I speak at an official gathering of my denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, on the matter of sexual politics and its impact on our society. I close this brief post with the last two paragraphs of that lecture, which I believe capture Rod’s and my common vision on this point. The reader can decide how much resentment and lack of love these contain (even though the initial image I use is that of warfare):

I believe that the battle at the national level is lost and will remain lost for at least a generation or more. But I also believe that the battle can be prosecuted successfully at a local level. Ironically, I am reminded at this point of a criticism the late New Left intellectual, Edward Said, made of Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis. Said’s point was simple: At the local level, where people live next to each other, where they speak to each other, where they have to make their communities work because perpetual street fighting is not an option, the situation is always more complicated and hopeful than a collision of ideologies. Indeed, I might add to Said’s thoughts this paraphrase of something George Orwell said in another context: It is much harder to hate a man when you have looked into his eyes and seen that he too is a human being as you are.

Therein I believe might lie our glimmer of hope. As we go about our daily business, as we make the church a community of the preached Word yet marked in practice by openness and hospitality for the outsider—indeed, as the church reflects the character of the one about whom she preaches, the one who loves the widow and the orphan and the sojourner—we may not be able to transform national legislation or the plots of sitcoms and movies. But we will be able to demonstrate to those around us in our neighborhoods that we do not fit the caricatures that the media present, that we do care for those who are in active rebellion against the God we love. And there, in that local context, we might be able to start building our counter-offensive to the dominant culture of Psychological Man and his Reichian sexual revolution.

Yep. Last night I was re-reading the great little 1989 book Resident Aliens, by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon. Man, that’s an invigorating blast. I’d say 80 percent or so of what I think of as the Benedict Option is in that book. The relentless message its authors propound is that we Christians do not live as if we really believe what we say. Our pastors don’t act like they are trying to get us from one place to the next. We are so busy trying to conform to the world that we have forgotten that we are “resident aliens” here. And it shows.

As an example, Eric Sammons at the Catholic blog One Peter Five writes about “Amy the Average Catholic,” the kind of lukewarm believer he has encountered over and over again in his evangelizing work:

From this experience, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that how the Church has been teaching and proclaiming the Gospel for decades isn’t working. It doesn’t bring people into a deep relationship with Christ, it doesn’t change their lives for the better (or at all), and it doesn’t change the world in any measurable way.

Instead of proposing the Church as an alternative to the world, Church leaders for decades have preached non-confrontation with the world. This skewed emphasis has had its impact: Amy cares more about her parish’s recycling program than she does about the eternal salvation of the person sitting in the pew next to her.

This problem isn’t confined to leaders who promote heretical beliefs. Of course hierarchs  { some would say “heresiarchs }  such as Kasper or Cupich cause terrible harm. The deeper problem, however, is one of emphasis. Our Lord said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Matthew 6:33), but too often church leaders seek first earthly acceptance. They avoid topics deemed “controversial” by worldly standards, and in doing so, stick with a spectrum of subjects ranging from “be kind” all the way to “be nice.” They treat topics like sin and damnation like embarrassing relatives at a family gathering. Thus, for years Amy hasn’t heard a word about her eternal destination, or been challenged to live differently than the world tells her to live. Into that void her mind has been filled with the priorities and mores of this world.

You know good and well that this is not just a Catholic problem. It’s a problem for all American Christians.

Hauerwas and Willimon say that the best way to love the world is to be the Church, which is to say, follow Jesus, the man who was crucified for saying things the world did not want to hear. They’re right about that. I am a spectacularly mediocre Christian, but to the extent I’ve made any spiritual progress over the years, it’s because the Church challenged me to come out of myself and be transformed. Reading Dante was a revelation to me, because he made me feel in my bones what it means to order one’s life around the love of God, and service to Him. The experience of the Church is a pilgrimage through life, one in which we invite others to join us on the journey towards wholeness, towards holiness, towards redemption and transformation.

The culture war is over. We lost. But that does not mean we can give up bearing witness to the truth, in our words and in our deeds. It seems like half the Church is falling all over itself to be collaborators, and the other half is desperately trying to pretend that things are basically okay, not to worry. Neither one will do. Christianity is being routed in the West. What we’ve been doing is disastrous. The Benedict Option, in whichever forms it takes within different Christian traditions, is for Christians who intend for themselves and their descendants to make it through the long Dark Age upon us.

One more thing: yeah, the name “Benedict Option” is faddish, but it’s what we’ve been using for over a decade to talk about this general idea. Besides, it has a point: to compel believers to face the truth about our time, and what it requires of us. Pope Benedict XVI himself said in 2012 that the West faces a crisis unlike any it has seen since the fall of the Empire in the fifth century — a calamity that produced St. Benedict. That’s the historical reference. If we are in a similar situation today — and I believe we are — then what would a new and very different St. Benedict do in response? The “option” is there to press the point with readers: you have to choose — either continue living as you are, or take radical steps to build a community within your parish, your schools, and so forth, in which authentic Christianity can be lived under these conditions. In truth, I believe the Benedict Option is the Benedict Mandate, but the fact remains that nobody can compel anybody to choose to live this way. The choice is theirs.

Recognizing that one has to build a boat in which to ride out the coming flood does not mean that one hates water.
Posted in Benedict Option, Christianity. Tagged Benedict Option, Carl Trueman, Christianity, Eric Sammons, Greg Forster, Resident Aliens, Stanley Hauerwas, Will Willimon.

 

Responses to Benedict Option as Meanness?

 

Jake V says:
June 9, 2016 at 8:17 am

Here’s a secular explanation of the Benedict Option. When you’re on an airplane, just before takeoff the flight attendants explain how to use the oxygen mask. And the announcement says: “Put your mask on first before you help others.” They say that because if you can’t breathe you will not be able to help anyone else. The parallel with the Benedict Option is that you withdraw from the unhealthy things in society to focus first on saving yourself and your family (both spiritually and materially). You need to stay healthy in order to witness to society.
bmj says:
June 9, 2016 at 8:38 am

I’m happy to see Rod bring up Resident Aliens again. It is such a great little book.

Here’s something I’ve noticed in talking to folks that are exposed to ideas like this (say, reading Smith’s You Are What You Love) for the first time–they find it exhausting to constantly parse their lives, to find those secular liturgies (as Smith calls them) and attempt to re-form their lives through Christian formation. (Of course, Christian living is hard.) I think the BenOp and its brethren will be important, but in many ways, it is geared toward people who already think this way. Again, that’s not to say Rod’s project is wrong, or useless, but, let’s circle back to Resident Aliens–it was written for pastors-in-training. The Church needs to the focal point for our formation, and the folks that aren’t naturally wired to constantly parse the surrounding culture need a church that does the parsing for them. Again, please don’t read this as a critique of “dumb” Christians, because it isn’t. Some folks just aren’t wired to naturally question everything, or naturally look deeply at the way things are. That’s precisely what the Church is supposed to be! And that was the point of Resident Aliens (as Rod rightly points out).

So, while the BenOp is good, and necessary, if the Church isn’t helping the BenOp-ers along (and creating more through its teaching), then the body of believers is in big trouble.

Surly says:
June 9, 2016 at 8:39 am

Having followed your Benedict Option writings for a long time, I am in general agreement with some of it but what troubles me is that it’s inward facing. You are basically gathering up people who already agree with you and forming a community. How does that bring the Good News to the world?

Pope Francis compared the church to a field hospital and said that the first thing we need to do is take care of people’s wounds. This culture has done so much to brutalize people–and as a progressive Christian I do agree that our focus on individualism has led to horrors like the campus rape epidemic and the labeling of confused young people as transgender and that the church has a lot to offer wounded people in that realm. But there are so many other ways in which the larger culture hurts people.

Are you reading much about the Wesley brothers and their missions in the London slums? If not you should–because there are many useful parallels to what they lived in and what is happening today.

Maybe the Benedict option should be a Wesley option.

Anglican says:
June 9, 2016 at 9:03 am

Is Mr. Forster an Evangelical? I was once one, and I remember a certain strain of thought that if you are nice enough and winsome enough, people will convert to Christianity or least like you. That is naive to say the least, and yes it bothered me then and it does now. I have always been around people on the hard left whilst also being Christian, like members of my extended family, and no they aren’t going to appreciate your being winsome. That is why the be winsome brigade never rang true to me.Being an jerk isn’t Christian,but I don’t think being a naive happy go lucky pollyana is either. Secondly he sounds like at lot of the Neo-Anabaptist type Evangelicals who emerged in the ruin of the second Bush presidency. Again naive, and to my mind an over correction to dumb political moves by many younger Evangelicals under Bush the younger for doing stuff such as supporting the Iraq war.(See Emergent critics of Empire and Christendom circa 2004-2009ish.) Anyways not impressed with this critic of the Benedict option. Christianity is not a cult of being terminally nice rubes. This guy also likely thinks you should send Christian kids into bad public schools to be missionaries,etc. Yet another bit of unwise Evangelical naivety I have come across more than once

 

William Tighe says:
June 9, 2016 at 9:46 am

“… what troubles me is that it’s inward facing. You are basically gathering up people who already agree with you and forming a community. How does that bring the Good News to the world?”

How did the Church bring the Good News to the world before 312 AD?

“Maybe the Benedict option should be a Wesley option.”

Nope. Eighteenth-Century England (and British North America) was an officially Christian country, pretty much nominally so in many (and perhaps increasing) respects, and yet from the 1690s onwards various “societies for the reformation of manners” (which really meant “for the reformation of morals” and some times included legal action against pimps, brothel-keepers, publicans, public blasphemers, and the like) received support from some members of the political and social elite (including the Mary of “William & Mary” in the early 1690s, and Queen Anne in the early 1700s) and this continued, if in a diminished way, right through the remainder of the century, until its revival (in the face of the French Revolution) from the 1790s onwards into the Nineteenth Century. This is the essential context of the Wesleys (and of the Great Awakening in the American colonies): however much annoyance there may have been – and there was a lot – at “interfering busybodies” and “religious fanatics” attempting to “impose their beliefs on others” the law was, at least generally speaking, on their side and, where not, could be so “interpreted” (or even altered) if need be.

Happy times (IMO) – but not today. The “Wesley Option” would simply be DOA if any attempt were made to galvanize its decaying corpse, whereas the Benedict Option has deep and enduring roots and has the possibility of growth “mentre che la speranza ha fior del verde” (with apologies to Manfred). Our times resemble much more the situation of Christianity before Constantine’s Edict of Toleration (312 AD) than those of the Wesleys, which (IMO) it resembles not at all.

For more on this matter I would direct interested readers to Robin Lane Fox’s huge book, *Pagans and Christians* (1988) – or, for something more brief, to “Why Were the Early Christians Persecuted” by G. E. M. de Saint Croix, *Past and Present,* 26 (Nov. 1963) pp. 6-38. I have found in the past access to this latter article online, but I cannot find it now. Some of it may be read here:

https://www.scribd.com/doc/185440975/De-Ste-Croix-Why-Were-Christians-Persecuted-I-1963

 

 

 

anonymousse says:
June 9, 2016 at 10:22 am

Meh. People are trying to read too much into the Benedict Option. In my mind, its very simple.

Culture sucks.
I want to live (and raise my kids in) a non-sucky culture.
I can’t change culture because the owners of our culture (tv, movies, music, newspapers, etc) have sucky values, and I’m not an owner myself.
Benedict Option creates an alternative culture (and rejects dominant culture) in order to live in a better non-dominant culture.

The end.

The concepts are pretty straight forward, and you could analogize it to any other belief system. For instance:

Pornography is bad.
I want to live in, and raise my kids in, a culture, where pornography isn’t prevalent.
I do so, by rejecting pornography.

The end.

or,

Far Right racism is bad.
I want to live in, and raise my kids in, a culture that doesn’t embrace Far Right racism.
I do so.

The end.

or,

Child fashion shows like Joan Bennett Ramsey or HoneyBooBoo are bad.
I want to live in, and raise my children in, a culture that doesn’t partake of children’s fashion shows and obsession.
I avoid the child fashion subculture and keep my kids away from that culture.
The end.

None of these arguments are remotely controversial.

If discussed regarding other controversial views, the concepts behind the Benedict Option are utterly benign (I don’t let my kids hang out with neonazis, I don’t take my kids to strip clubs, I don’t let my kids go to NASCAR, I don’t want my kids to be in the sports subculture, or whatever cultural choices parents want to make).

The only reason the Benedict Option is controversial is because it is applying moral judgement upon dominant culture, and not outlier culture.

So your critics are really just trying to avoid admitting, or acknowledging that anyone could believe, that the dominant culture is unhealthy (in the same way, though perhaps not to the same degree, as the other subcultures I have already mentioned). Nothing more.

And the Benedict Option is just the argument that the dominant culture sucks and should be avoided, just like HoneyBooBoo does.

anonymousse
CSFord says:
June 9, 2016 at 10:23 am

Like I’ve said before, more is written about the inward aspect of the Benedict Option than the outward one. I think it’s natural for folks to incorrectly assume that the former is more important than the latter.

I believe we need to look at the Benedict Option as part of an insurgency. (Obviously not a military one). In Afghanistan the Taliban have been successful because they have been able to come between the Government and the people. Aside from the violence and intimidation, they have made appeals to provide for the citizens where the government cannot.

If Christians can do likewise and show that the church/community is better at addressing the needs of the people than the government and secular culture, we can achieve our outward goal of promoting the Gospel.

 

Chriscom says:
June 9, 2016 at 10:59 am

“Said’s point was simple: At the local level, where people live next to each other, where they speak to each other, where they have to make their communities work because perpetual street fighting is not an option, the situation is always more complicated and hopeful than a collision of ideologies.

Unless you’re a Christian baker, in which case the gay couple you’ve happily served for years condemns you and erases your livelihood because you won’t endorse their wedding.

 

R.S. Rogers says:
June 9, 2016 at 11:02 am

At some point soon, Rod is going to have to embrace the accusation of meanness – not only on behalf of the Ben Op, but on behalf of what he calls “normative Christianity.” In as much as the former is about preserving in “exile” or even reestablishing the latter, meanness is a necessary and, from the practitioner’s viewpoint, virtuous aspect. Meanness, that is, as the dominant culture, and indeed most practicing Christians of all denominations, would define it. The “normative Christianity” that Rod wishes to preserve and/or re-extend is defined chiefly by the imposition of taboos on personal behavior that have lately been discarded. The thing about rules is that they require enforcement – they require punishing violators. Things that most people today regard as freedom and autonomy will have to be limited. Violators within the Ben Op in-group will have to be punished in some way. Violators outside the Ben Op in-group will have to be shunned or excluded in some way, or else the in-group taboos will not be able to be maintained. You can’t very catechism children and new members about the fundamental importance of, say, not engaging in homosexuality if members do not in some way treat out-group homosexuals differently than they treat out-group heterosexuals.

If you want to preserve and/or reimpose the old cultural and sexual norms, you’re going to have to be mean to some people. A lot of people. You’re going to have to hurt people. And you’re going to have to be OK with that, with doing the meanness and the hurting, and being accused (fairly, by the standards of the dominant culture) of being mean and hurtful. That meanness you must do, that injury you must cause, is the necessary cost of the greater benefits to individuals and to society generally that the Ben Op is designed to achieve.

[NFR: I don’t care if people outside the church think the Ben Op is “mean”. Of course they are bound to do so. It’s when conservative Christians gripe about it in those terms that I get my back up. Hauerwas is by no means a conservative Christian, but he’s right when he said they crucified Jesus for saying things they didn’t want to hear. If the world approves of us, we’re probably doing something wrong. — Rod Dreher]

 

 

Sam M says:
June 9, 2016 at 11:26 am

This is astonishing.

Catholic church: We are going to collect money from everyone in the church, and instead of just building fancy cathedrals we will also build hospitals and schools. These will not only serve Catholics. We will open them up and provide billions in free medical care. Rich Catholics will help pay for inner city schools that serve poor people who are NOT Catholic.

World: Oh yeah, bigots? Your hospitals will pay for insurance that violates your beliefs, and we will use public pressure and HR law to force you to hire teachers who violate the basic premises of your religion.

Catholic Church: Well geez, this isn’t going well. Maybe we really ought to re-assess this situation and go back to our basic roots and make sure that we fully understand our own faith. We will keep the hospitals and schools open while we try to do this, but it’s time for some introspection.

Greg Forster: OMG! Christians are so MEAN!

 

 

William Tighe says:
June 9, 2016 at 11:40 am

One word will suffice to respond to R. S. Rogers – excommunication.
dx says:
June 9, 2016 at 11:42 am

“Pope Benedict XVI himself said in 2012 that the West faces a crisis unlike any it has seen since the fall of the Empire in the fifth century — a calamity that produced St. Benedict. That’s the historical reference. If we are in a similar situation today — and I believe we are — then what would a new and very different St. Benedict do in response?”

While certainly there were challenges, conflicts and ‘crisis’ in the fifth century we need to get away from the idea, promulgated originally by Gibbons and then commonly accepted since, that the fifth century was a period of collapse for classical civilization. It was not. Any serious scholar of late antiquity would tell you that now. When Gibbons wrote in the heydey of the enlightenment he was seeking an answer to the question of what had happened to classical civilization. His answer was to blame it on the barbarians and on the rise of Christianity. That fit with the enlightenment narrative which was trying to recover the greatness of classical civilization and to limit the sphere of religion but it is a historically false narrative.

As a precocious youngster I went to the University of Michigan. Probably the best class I ever took there was an upper division course on late antiquity and specifically the relationship between Christianity and paganism taught by Sabine MacCormack. She was brilliant, very very deliberate and logical, and pursuing arguments and conversations that went way over my 16-year old head. There were layers in everything she said. I knew enough to recognize this but not enough to penetrate them. It was one of those classes I am still thinking about years later and I feel I may understand more of what she was getting at. Trying to look her up a while ago I found she had passed away and discovered her biography which is interesting: https://al.nd.edu/news/31560-in-memoriam-sabine-maccormack-hesburgh-professor-of-arts-and-letters/

It is also worth noting that she had collaborated extensively with Peter Brown back in the seventies, who has probably done more than anyone to make the study of ‘late antiquity’ a serious scholarly pursuit. In Sabine’s later years she increasingly pursued a comparative and very serious study of Incan civilization. This was something she brought up in our class toward the end. I think for her it was part of a very deep and argument with multiculturalism and postmodernism that was tearing apart the classics and the humanities. She did this by showing how to do really serious, rigorous and respectful study of Incan civilization and then by showing that it was utterly irreducible to to classical civilization, that they could not be exchanged like cogs in some multicultural curriculum blender.

One thing I got out of that course was that the Christinizing of the Roman empire was a deliberate project actively pursued by leading figures in the church. Moreover this was not, contra Gibbons, such a bad thing (Gibbons basically read Augustine, said Aha! and inverted his argument). Christians were serious readers of classical philosophy and realized that – as the classical philsophers themselves had long intimated – that paganism was an inadequate basis for classical civilization. The rise of Christianity in the fourth and fifth centuries gave the decaying imperium another lease on life.
What then brought classical civilization – which had endured for a thousand years around the shores of the Mediterranean – to an end? I think the answer to that question is the one formulated by the great historian and medievalist Henri Pirenne at the end of his life, namely the rise of Islam in the 7th century.

Unfortunately it is a thesis and topic that many scholars have avoided probably due to controversial political implications it raises. To be sure Islam did not succeed alone as the civilization it attacked had been recently devasted by a combination of massive bubonic plague outbreak and a disasterous war between the Sassanids and Byzantium but it is likely that if it were not for the rise of Islam at that moment that it would have recovered and the dark ages would have been avoided. As it was the conquering of the Levant and North Africa caused a collapse of trade throughout the Mediterranean and provoked the equivalent of a multiple centuries long recession. In the remains of the western part of the Roman empire civilization eventually moved north and Europe was born.

What does this mean for how to understand Benedict and the rise of western monasticism? One yes it was a period of crisis and transition between a dying paganism and a rising Christianity – but the key here is that it was a period when Christianity was still rising, when it was still growing as a cultural and social force. Western monasticism was a confident enterprise, assured of its purpose, withdrawn from the world but still facing it, unlike eastern monasticism which did not take on the same communal and social roles. When the dark ages finally came it was this institutional and social strength that gave western monasticism the power to endure, in fact to thrive and ultimately play a role in the revival of a new civilization upon the ruins of the old.

 

 

Paddywagon says:
June 9, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Matthew 10:14-15:
“And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomor′rah than for that town.”

That’s mean, Jesus.

Surly says: “You are basically gathering up people who already agree with you and forming a community.”

Yes, that’s called the Church. While still fulfilling the Great Commission, the Church has always been exclusive in its community; all are welcome join, but to “commune” is to become an actual member who indeed believes and practices what the Church has always taught.

Believe it or not, it is possible to be exclusive AND be evangelical. More than possible, it’s the only way.

On Church as field hospital (without stretching the metaphor too much): Whether permanent or field, it’s still a hospital. It’s a base, enclosed, away from the front-lines. It’s not just field medics spread out on the battlefield and nothing else, nor is it sending out the badly wounded as medics themselves. Is there anyone arguing for field hospitals to be in closer to where the bombs are going off? Is there anyone arguing for the wounded to not be taken off the battlefield to a place of safety for recuperation and rehabilitation? If a field hospital is to do any good, it needs to be away from the fighting, to be set apart. It needs to be fully equipped and staffed with doctors, nurses, and attendants. The BenOp is realizing that we’ve let our field hospital go to shambles, that it’s sitting right in the middle of the battlefield, and that the few staffing it are badly wounded and untrained themselves.

Taking the metaphor and applying it to our lives, we begin to identify what is wounding us, what helps us, and what needs to be done in order to properly heal and help others.

It seems to me that many who are antagonistic to the Benedict Option (I’m not saying Surly is one of them) are either completely oblivious to, or refuse to acknowledge, the many aspects of how they live or what they participate in as being incompatible with Christian living and what it means to be fully human.

“Public school today? Psh, the kids are fine. That’s not a battlefield!”

“Giving my children smartphones without monitoring content or usage? Psh, it’s just technology! That’s not a battlefield!”

“1.5 hours of church on Sunday to compensate for several dozen hours of worldly media consumption, daily peer pressure and indoctrination at school/work during the week? Psh, I’m fine! That’s not a battlefield!”

It’s hard to convince people we need to address the problem when they don’t see the problem as a problem.

‘Tis but a scratch!

 

 

Charles Cosimano says:
June 9, 2016 at 1:17 pm

The biggest problem you face is that unlike in Wilberforce’ day, Christianity is not the only game in town. It’s still a big game but not the only game and by no means a powerful one. It is too easy to just ignore it altogether. There was a time when someone could say, “X is not to be done because the Bible says it is not be done,” and get a hearing. Now the person is just laughed at.

The Ben Op is rapidly becoming the best choice you have.
Will Harrington says:
June 9, 2016 at 1:42 pm

Surly

To answer your question about being inward facing, good. It should be. There is nothing more annoying than a new convert so on fire they have to convert everybody. They are spiritual babies but they want to run. They don’t want to take piano lessons, they want to play the grand piano. It is a commendable attitude, but these people NEED a church community that can take them firmly in hand and teach them how to be Christians so that they can be the Gospel to the world (not everyone is called to be an evangelist, but we are all called to become more like Christ). According to St. Seraphim of Sarov “Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved.”
The only way your particular criticism holds water is if you fall into a false dilemma trap, believing that this is an either/or situation. Either we withdraw to save our own souls or we preach to the world. There is no such dilemma. It isn’t either or, its both/and.

Anne says:
June 10, 2016 at 3:55 am

So here we go again. When I saw the word “mean” in that headline, I was pretty sure where this thread would be going. Aside from whatever subject to which the word may be attached, “mean” seems to be a word trad Christians love to get behind, partly because they’ve had to defend themselves against it so often, and partly I’d guess because they like the excuse it gives to lambast progressives for allegedly compromising Christian morality and turning it into little more than a matter of being “nice.” If progressive Christians prefer to stress the “compassion” of Jesus, trads prefer to talk about the demands he made or makes on his followers, demands which might be characterized as tough, hard, or I suppose, mean.

As far as the BenOp goes, “mean” certainly isn’t a word that immediately springs to mind when I think of the idea itself, and yet there is definitely a negative connotation, not in the lifestyle proposed, but in the broad criticisms BenOp promoters find it necessary to hurl at ordinary Christians (call them Moral Therapeutic Deists or “Average Catholics”) as if only members of a “smaller, purer” community of Christians have a rightful claim on the name Christian at all. As I’ve said before, this is, in my opinion, no small flaw, since this very sense of elitism has doomed many similar movements in the past. Certainly the Church is always in need of self-criticism and reform, but successful reformers have focused first on humbling themselves and then on calling those in authority to better serve the rest of the Church. Calling on better, purer (or more orthodox) church members to separate from the bulk of their brethren in order to protect their faith seems a blueprint, not for strengthening the Church, but for schism. And the process of schism is, if anything, mean.

ab says:
June 10, 2016 at 10:14 am

I’m continually amazed by how much intellectual effort is spent attacking the Benedict Option. It’s almost as though critics can’t stand the idea of actually doing something rather than continuing in the status quo, or of appearing radical or separatist in an age which, in its love of diversity and change, despises homogeneous communities that may be “closed off” to the world.
Judy says:
June 10, 2016 at 5:55 pm

The other day I had to explain to one of my children the saying, “He who sups with the devil, had better have a long spoon.” We were talking about what is considered acceptable to the progressive and conservative Catholics in our area, compared to what is acceptable to the traditional Catholics. I don’t even care any more if our actions to build up our Faith and protect our children are seen as mean. There isn’t a spoon long enough.

 

 

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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