Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Benedict Option, Part I

The Western Church Enters the Long Dark of Moria

Rod Dreher has written a book to prepare Western Christians for the coming Dark Age.  It is entitled The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation.  Whilst its particular focus is the United States, it is applicable to the West as a whole.  

A fundamental assertion made by Dreher is that the present post-Christian, pagan world views now gaining not just currency, but regnancy throughout the West, are not a short-term, temporary phenomenon.  Rather, paganism will dominant the West for a thousand years or more.  His concern is to prepare the Western Church for this new, semi-permanent reality

It is refreshing to find someone speaking and thinking in such long time frames.  Most evangelicals in the Western world believe that the Lord is about to return any minute.  Their operating time frame spans little more than a generation in most cases.  Dreher, a professing Roman Catholic--more Catholic than Roman--operates in the biblical time frame, which not infrequently speaks of thousands of generations.

Here is a summary of Dreher's thesis, provided by the publisher, Barnes and Noble:

The light of the Christian faith is flickering out all over the West, and only the wilfully blind refuse to see it. From the outside, American churches are beset by challenges to religious liberty in a rapidly secularizing culture. From the inside, they are being hollowed out by the departure of young people and a watered-down pseudo-spirituality. Political solutions have failed, as the triumph of gay marriage and the self-destruction of the Republican Party indicate, and the future of religious freedom has never been in greater doubt. The center is not holding. The West, cut off from its Christian roots, is falling into a new Dark Age.

The bad news is that the roots of religious decline run deeper than most Americans realize. The good news is that the blueprint for a time-tested Christian response to this decline is older still. In The Benedict Option, Dreher calls on traditional Christians to learn from the example of St. Benedict of Nursia, a sixth-century monk who turned from the chaos and decadence of the collapsing Roman Empire, and found a new way to live out the faith in community. For five difficult centuries, Benedict's monks kept the faith alive through the Dark Ages, and prepared the way for the rebirth of civilization. What do ordinary 21st century Christians — Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox — have to learn from the teaching and example of this great spiritual father? That they must read the signs of the times, abandon hope for a political solution to our civilization's problems, and turn their attention to creating resilient spiritual centers that can survive the coming storm. Whatever their Christian tradition, they must draw on the secrets of Benedictine wisdom to build up the local church, create countercultural schools based on the classical tradition, rebuild family life, thicken communal bonds, and develop survival strategies for doctors, teachers, and others on the front lines of persecution. [Emphasis, ours.]

Now is a time of testing, when believers will learn the difference between shallow optimism and Christian hope. However dark the shadow falling over the West, the light of Christianity need not flicker out. It will not be easy, but Christians who are brave enough to face the religious decline, reject trendy solutions, and return to ancient traditions will find the strength not only to survive, but to thrive joyfully in the post-Christian West. The Benedict Option shows believers how to build the resistance and resilience to face a hostile modern world with the confidence and fervor of the early church. Christians face a time of choosing, with the fate of Christianity in Western civilization hanging in the balance. In this powerful challenge to the complacency of contemporary Christianity, Dreher shows why those in all churches who fail to take the Benedict Option aren't going to make it.
Whilst not gainsaying the significance of Benedict of Nursia, we can also point to more recent examples of calls for separation in order to purify, re-build, and then eventually re-conquer our lands.  We have in mind leaders like Abraham Kuyper who called us to believe and accept that every square inch, every atom and sub-atomic particle, belongs to King Jesus.  Therefore, every thought, every intention, every motivation, every task and deed must be brought into submission to the King.  In order to achieve this, said Kuyper, our isolation or our separation is our strength.

Dreher writes frequently about the Benedict Option at the blog The American Conservative.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is too bleak. The west is now seen as a target by missionaries from Asia and, in any case, God is building his church. On the last day all will be well and those who are His will be gathered in. This doesn't excuse our failure to do the works prepared for us or to abandon sound doctrine for the shallow thrills of charisma but I take much comfort when I look around and see God at work everywhere.