Rod Dreher was very kind to put more thought into his response to my joke post at First Things at the Benedict Option. I did have a point—which he gets, and has written about before (although I think Jake summed it up much more succinctly). At the risk of killing the joke, we all agree that the Benedict Option is about the church being the church in a faithful ways that realistically deals with the challenges of modernity and passes on our faith to the next generation—thus, it is about ecclesiology and missiology in the West in our current cultural moment and the decades to come. Continue reading
One of the persistent challenges to the ongoing discussion of the Benedict Option is the claim that the BenOp is primarily a retreat from public life and is, therefore, wrong-headed. Though they are presented under separate names, this seems to be the essential critique of both the “Jeremiah Option” and the “Patrick Option” as best I can tell. (In the mean time, can I propose a moratorium on all other “(Name) Option” formulations? And if a writer does insist on inventing a new option, can we at least have a bit of fun with it? I saw “Benedict Cumberbatch Option” on Twitter and like it enormously. And yes, the title of this post is an Eddie Izzard reference. Incidentally, hopefully the fact that I’ve referenced Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Izzard in back-to-back sentences should establish that one can be aware of popular culture and think the BenOp is a move in the right direction.)
In any case, the counsel of many people is that this is not a time for any sort of withdrawal from public life, but rather committing ourselves to a new level of “engagement,” although engagement, very like retreat, is a generally nebulous term in these conversations. Continue reading
NOTE: If you are a reader in the DC area interested in further discussion about the BenOp, consider attending an event this Saturday at Georgetown University featuring Rod Dreher and Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio. You can learn more about the event here. It begins at 10am.
Brian Gumm has a new post up at his blog that is hitting on something that I suspect many of us will relate to:
After a year and a half of making small, episodic attempts at doing “church planting stuff,” sometime this summer it just clicked: This. Is. Not. Working.
Maybe it was that I have multiple jobs, including a small business startup, and my wife works her tail off as a mental health professional in our struggling rural community. Maybe it’s because we have a teenage daughter that we’re trying to raise into the great woman that she’s already becoming. Maybe it’s because the friends we were connecting with for church stuff were just as busy or busier than us, working our tails off just to get by. Maybe it’s because other than mailings from denominational offices that I couldn’t use (we don’t have a church bulletin board, or mailboxes, or a treasurer, OR a pastor!!), I got nothin’. I missed our denomination’s semi-annual church planting conference last year, maybe that hindered the work, but I doubt it; I had plenty of big ideas in my head already and that tends to be what conferences traffic in.
The problem Gumm is getting at is a sort of awful cycle that many middle-class Christians will likely understand: We feel the absence of a spiritual rootedness in our lives that exists not only in our hearts and minds, but in the stuff of daily life. We feel a sense of aimlessness or purposelessness in our work; we feel frustrated by the lack of intimate relationships in our church; we feel isolated in our attempts to raise and educate our children. Thus we conclude that we need to attempt something new to address the problem. Continue reading
In one of its clumsier formulations, the Benedict Option might be understood as the response of orthodox Christians to the United States taking a decisive turn to, for the first time in its history, oppose orthodox Christians for their faith. Thus the BenOp is an attempt to withdraw in order to regain a lost golden past of American Christianity.
I say “clumsier” formulations because one of the things that BenOp proponents must be aware of for multiple reasons is that there is a certain historical naiveté that can creep into our discussion of the BenOp if we are not careful. Continue reading
When asked to give specifics about exactly what Christians should withdraw from, Benedict Option proponents have often cited our nation’s public schools as a good place to begin. I’ve heard friends offer that prescription and, indeed, I suggested it myself just last week. But the idea of withdrawing from the public schools raises a host of questions, many of which are actually useful for talking in more concrete terms about the BenOp in general. Continue reading
The following is less a long-form essay and more a series of semi-connected thoughts concerning the Benedict Option and American Protestantism. I’ve broken them down with headers in hopes of making it easier for readers to pick out which parts are of greatest concern to them.
So far much of the conversation about the Benedict Option has been amongst American Catholics and Orthodox. Part of this, no doubt, is because the very name “Benedict Option” is drawing on traditions of monasticism that are far more at home in Rome and Constantinople than in the various Protestant traditions.
That said, the problems that the BenOp is trying to address will concern all small-o orthodox Christians and so Protestants must have a way of thinking about this and talking about that is plausible for Protestant believers. (Indeed, it’s worth noting that many of the businesses currently tied up in legal battles appear to be run by Protestants.)
Bryan McGraw is Associate Professor of Politics at Wheaton College and lover of all things smoked BBQ.
Two groups lately have found themselves on the defensive politically and socially, and seem deeply befuddled as to why—and why it seems to have come out of nowhere. Consider first our moral conservatives, those increasingly rare birds who think that not only is there some objective set of moral standards but also, generally, that those standards should be publicly recognized. They’ve have been shocked (not as in “shocked, shocked!”) that lots of folks want to follow through on the premises of the sexual revolution and reorder how we think about marriage—and that, as with most social revolutions, if you don’t get on board, you’ll find yourself the object of social, economic, and political ostracism. But consider also free-speech liberals, who also increasingly find themselves besieged as the places they once thought citadels of free expression—our colleges and universities—talk more about psychological safety and comfort than how the rough and tumble of opposing ideas benefits us all.
What gives? Why can’t we just come to some reasonable disagreement about the many matters that divide us and figure out how to tolerate those differences? Why can’t same-sex supporters just leave the marriage traditionalists alone? What’s so terrible about having someone on campus who thinks things you find terrible? Whatever happened to our traditions of principled toleration, both ask? Continue reading
Just off a state highway in northern Iowa there is a place called Littlefield Abbey. It’s a two-bedroom farmhouse on about five acres of land on the edge of a small Iowa town that belongs to a pastor at a church in the nearby town. If you don’t know it’s there, you’ll drive right past it down the highway. Continue reading
There’s a sort of American Christian (almost always white and middle-to-upper class) who seems to think that the American church’s biggest problem at the moment is the previous generation of the American church.
There are various sub-groups within this broader camp. The radicals, of whom Matt has written in the past, want to critique the suburban comfort of the previous generation and replace it with a Christianity focused on doing hard things and rejecting the supposedly easy life of material affluence embraced by the previous generation.
Rod Dreher continues to do important work over at TAC writing about the Benedict Option ahead of a book he hopes to write on the topic. In one recent post, he defined it this way: “a limited, strategic withdrawal of Christians from the mainstream of American popular culture, for the sake of shoring up our understanding of what the church is, and what me must do to be the church.”