A reader of The Benedict Option writes:

I have only followed your blog for a short time and I bought your book on its release day (the first time I’ve ever done that). I am profoundly grateful for your courage and passion in waking up the Western church towards the insidious future we face.

I grew up as a missionary kid in [a Third World country] at a school/community for missionary kids. It was a boarding school where families, who lived in remote villages, sent their kids to receive a Western education in order for them to be able to go back to colleges in America.

Growing up there at that school was very much like what you describe in your book. We had actual borders with the jungle and river isolating us from most of the world. We had no internet, only one tv for the whole school, and this was great! We played in the jungle, read a ton of books, went swimming, and developed the deepest friendships I’ve ever known in my life. We had the time to develop friendships.

The school was also a place of deep Protestant/ evangelical faith. We had our own Sunday services, morning and evening. I learned hymns from a young age. When I was in high school, my classmates and I were required to lead a Sunday evening service once a semester. At the time, much of this seemed trite and boring at times, but as I’ve grown older I’m overwhelmed at the beauty of my growing up years. Those years have given me a vision of what Christianity and the truths it teaches can do for small communities.

Of course the community had its many flaws. Our ability to be critical far outweighs our ability to praise, and so we often miss the wonderful things we have in life. One flaw though was the utter lack of guidance of teaching on sex. It was taboo. When one of my sisters and her friend wanted to talk about masturbation at a girls bible study, the dorm parent quickly put the kibosh on it. The guys were no different. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that most of us struggled with masturbation.

Thankfully we had no internet so we couldn’t access porn. When I had come back to America in 1999 for a year furlough I was 11. I saw pornography for the first time. I was captivated. My parents were naïve and unaware of my growing addiction, and remained so for years. What’s worse to me about seeing porn is not that I became an addict to sex, but that I lost my love of learning. I was a top student at school, but after I saw porn I lost my ability for wonder and awe at creation. I lost my motivation for life in many ways. I lost the sweetest gift of life for a child: innocence of evil.

My change was so evident back in [the country]. I was rebellious and did poorly in school. Most figured I was simply going through puberty. That wasn’t it at all. I was unmoored from reality and lost in the dark world of lust and selfishness. It wasn’t till college where I began to get help through a wonderful dean of men at my school who loved me and helped me fight against my addiction. I wish my community had been more willing to speak honestly and work diligently to protect my innocence.

I see the same thing today in the Evangelical church circles I move in. We are naïve and foolish about how dangerous technology can be at times. Sometimes I think our push to evangelize and engage the culture has done significant harm to us Protestants. We are so quick to push people to make disciples [Note: I think he means witness to and convert others — RD] after they become believers. I don’t think this a bad thing, but is it the wisest way to make disciples? People need to be taught Christian truths! The early church understood this! They took it seriously! Why can’t we?

I encourage you to read, Grounded in the Gospel- Building Believers The Old-Fashioned Way by JI Packer and Gary Parret. The first two chapters on the need for catechesis and the historical evidence for catechesis. I know you are Orthodox, but it’s a book all would do well to heed. They quote Martin Luther, who said that the church would rise or fall on it s commitment to catechesis. I wish more evangelical pastors would read it. It’s not enough to preach on Sundays. We need to teach the people throughout the week. Richard Baxter did this with his congregation of 800 people. He bought catechisms for every member, and he and his curate went house to house and taught them. This had a tremendous influence for good. When Baxter left for several years to join in the English civil war, his congregation held fast to the Gospel even though many “wolves” came to try and mislead them. Do you think that would have happened without catechesis? Hardly.

Another important book is David Wells’ Whatever Happened to Truth? His indictment is stellar. The most important criticism is the professionalization of the ministry. Pastors are seen as administrators and not theological and spiritual leaders of the church. Thus catechizing has gone to the birds in churches. We also see people as selves not souls, as you say, and we run to psychiatrists for help too much.

The greatest problem, though, in my mind is apathy. We are asleep to the catechizing that the world does to us and since we don’t care to think about it, we drift to the edge of a cliff. If we don’t wake up we are going to fall and it will be a terrible fall for many of us. I agree with you that our greatest need is to build a counter culture to the world. I’m going to do my best to build that here in [my city].

Thanks for that letter. Readers, please take this seriously. If I posted every story I heard about the devastating effect pornography is having on Christian individuals, couples, and families, it would overwhelm you. It is impossible to guarantee that your kids will never see it when they’re young, but for pity’s sake, do you have to make it easy for them by giving them smartphones?

This e-mail made me think about the kids at the Bruderhof. No smartphones. No Internet. Just wholesome, normal kids. They have no idea what kind of gift they’re being given: the gift of a childhood.