Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Benedict Option

I will be co-teaching an adult Sunday School class on Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option this fall. As my co-leader is a philosophy professor at St Anselm College, I would very much like not to make a complete fool of myself.  If any of you know anything, or have thoughts, please share them.

Update:  In response to one comment I attempted to add Dreher to my sidebar. It seems it is impossible to link to only to Dreher's stuff, you have to go to the main page of The American Conservative. This has happened to me before on other sites, and it is frustrating.  I dislike the premises of a few of their writers and don't want to send them traffic. But AVI, you say, you don't agree with everything written by any of the group efforts on your sidebar.  Why single this one out? Perhaps it is only that I disagree with those far less often.

We will see how it works out.  I may pull the link.


sykes.1 said...

Ann Barnhardt is extreme, but she has addressed this issue in detail. She believes that under canon law Benedict is still Pope, and that Francis is a false Pope:

Francis, brought up in the condemned Liberation Theology movement, is in the tradition of corrupt, heretical popes, a la the Medicis and Borgias. Such popes make for great television and novels, but they are a burden to the faithful, and cause many to fall away.

Barnhardt is obsessed with the influence of homosexuals in the hierarchy, but that topic wouldn't be suitable, I suppose.

I left the Church many years ago. John Paul almost got me back, but he died to soon. Francis confirms my choice.

Tom Grey said...

You should be reading and commenting more often on Rod's blog:

My wife read the Slovak translation.
1) It's important, and clearly states many problems with Christianity in the post-WW II liberal "God is Dead" market based economy
2) A big part of the idea is for Christians to form smaller, more devout communities who live a stronger Christian faith. This sounds good.
3) In Slovakia, where many Christians lived under official atheist Communism, and had to go to a Secret Church to avoid commie approved Christianity, the message about withdrawing from the public square is very unappealing.

An alternative is to both be more Christian at home and locally, but also support public Christianity more sincerely.

The Catholic "gay mafia" scandals are among the most detrimental to Christianity.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Tom Grey. Yes I should. I used to go over, but stopped. I went and commented twice today, and shall add him to my sidebar, as a reminder to myself more than others. His focus is much more Roman Catholic than mine, even though he is now Eastern Orthodox. It is possible at every turn to see the events he discusses as being just as problematic in other churches, but it is not easy. Because he deals in specifics (he should), it draws one in to those narratives.

Glenn said...


I am one of your regular lurkers but rarely comment but it's fun when I do have the opportunity to contribute. We have had discussions about The Benedict Option in our church so I have done a lot of research on it. It depends on what kind of information you are looking for but here are some pro and con resources:

Pro 1) Dreher is the editor of "The American Conservative" website and he has a lot of articles on The Benedict Option there.

Pro 2) First Things magazine has published a lot of articles on The Benedict Option with all of them that I have seen being positive.

Con 1) See Reject The Benedict Option by Bob DeWaay.

Con 2) See The Benedict Option Isn't One by John Zmirak.

FYI I attend a Lutheran Church (the more conservative L.C.M.S.) and I'm not a fan of Dreher's proposed solution for what ails the church. I hope this material is helpful.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Very helpful.

When I was LCA we used to call it Misery Synod, but if I were to remotely consider being Lutheran again, it would be LCMS now. Despite our nostalgic attachment to Camp Calumet, we felt ELCA had lost its grip and became Evangelical Covenant.

james said...

I gather that doesn't work in the sidebar. What were the symptoms?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I am adding it in the gadget edit form on Blogger. It just immediately reverts to when I save. I suspect there is a way to get behind it and override that, but I don't know it.

Laura said...

Ah, Rod Dreher... the guy on his third church, getting all of us lumpen-believers squared away on eternally obvious verities.

Rod is prone to intense enthusiasms, where he insists he's figured out the key to everything, but once reality reasserts itself as distinct from his model, he wanders off to something else. Remember when he was singing the praises of living in a small town, with people who will know you your whole life? After he went back to Louisiana, following some setbacks in the big city, and his sister's early death from cancer? And a month later, he was griping about how slow the internet was, and how it was just impossible to live there and be a nationally-published writer, so... bye bye, Podunk? And, oh yeah, the actual people living there, were still the same people as when he left, with the same outlooks/quirks/personalities/etc., but now with a healthy dose of disrespect for his belief that he could just drop back in and be instantly embedded into the web of personal relationships-- you know, the ones he dropped like a bad habit back-when?

Now, there are some good parts to his work-- none of it should be new to you. American Civic Religion is not going to save you. The Gospel is as opposed to the current World as it was in the time of the apostles-- the Roman empire wasn't killing Christians just randomly, it was killing them because their beliefs were fundamentally destructive to the money, sex and power constructs around them. This is still true today, and you need to really really really wake up to that fact. The World will try to use that money, sex and power to corrupt you, and to convert your children away from the faith. This is a fundamental conflict, and it won't go away based on a supreme court decision, or a RFRA law being passed, or whatever. Rod is less clear about the other half of the equation: the Gospel has a power than the World can't touch. It is True, it is Real, it is Love.

As a side note, the Benedictines I've spoken to are fairly bemused by the idea of "The Benedict Option" for all of society. Benedict's rule is not about saving the world, it's much more about who does the dishes. They also take 4 vows, not 3: poverty, chastity, obedience... and stability of life, which, as I've noted, isn't Rod's cuppa tea. You vow to live with these specific people, with all their flaws and quirks, in this specific place, with all it's good and bad points-- FOREVER. St. John of the Cross wrote that the people around you are God's sculptors, turning you from a rough rock into a beautiful sculpture-- by hammering off chunks, and rubbing you constantly with sandpaper, etc. for years on end. Don't fight it so much.

For laypeople, this is: live in love with everyone that God sees fit to send into your life, work honestly at the tasks in front of you, plan prudently but accept that God will ultimately confirm only His plans, not yours. Read the stories in 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, and 1-2 Chronicles: they tell of nasty court politics, criminality, stupidity, catastrophic loss, and the occasional flash of heroism. (LOTS nastier than Washington DC today!) Yet, through the good and the bad, God was gradually unfolding His plan, a result so shocking that no human could have possibly conceived of it in advance. So relax a bit: Christians don't have to worry very much about the big picture. God's got the big picture. Use all the skills and resources God has given you, including the political and social sway you have, to advance the good today. Cultivate your soul; cultivate your family; cultivate the reality of the society around you. Leave tomorrow's evils for tomorrow.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Wonderful comment.

Grim said...

My recommendation would be to study the original St Benedict. We don’t know a lot about his life, but his work is worth studying.

Benedict, like St Francis of Assisi, was a disappointment to his family. They had money and position, but he chose the religious life. (St Thomas Aquinas too.) Jesus’ remarks about abandoning duty to family in order to follow him calories this, but it’s hard to build a community without the family at its core. Think of how many churches have been weakened alongside the weakened family: Mom no longer makes the kids go to Sunday school, so the whole generation falls away. Somehow Benedict, and later Francis, managed to build a community this way.

Benedict built a structure that later served the needs of families by giving them a place to send their later sons. That allowed the family to keep its wealth concentrated. Francis followed in his footsteps there. The hard question may be what can be done if the family itself is weakened, and can no longer support a church. But reflecting on these lives might provide an answer.

Tom Grey said...

@Laura, excellent comment, like AVI said.

Was wondering if you'd also have cultivate your garden, from (the mostly anti-believing) Voltaire.