Tara Ann Thieke, a reader of this blog, has started a Benedict Option group in Western Pennsylvania. From its Meetup site:

Are you confused, bummed, or conflicted about where your town, culture, and world are headed? Do you feel helpless before endless wars, endless neoliberalism, throw-away attitudes and wanton destruction? Are you frustrated at being cast into a narrow spectrum of labels, or suspect we’ve crippled our ability to see our problems in their larger context? Are you exhausted by constant attacks on the human person, regardless of the color of their skin, their sex, their political beliefs, their economic status, their development, or their health?

Do you wonder if the crises facing us can be meaningfully addressed only by tackling the dehumanizing assumptions implicit in the larger framework of our society? Do you think we can’t face any of our problems without honestly addressing the consumerism, throw-away culture, and hostile attitudes towards true stewardship and the human person? And do you think we may need a guide greater than ourselves in order to meaningfully critique ourselves, perhaps even a rediscovery of orthodoxy?

Then consider the Western Pennsylvania Benedict Option. It’s our wish to open a dialogue about the open ills that plague us, as well as the unspoken ones. Legal defeats or victories come after what’s in the hearts and minds of a people. If we cannot show the fruits of a theology of love, all nuance will be dismissed as cruel. If we cannot ourselves live out the grace of “See how they love one another” then we will win no friends and influence no persons. And if we refuse to understand the magnitude of the problems facing us, hoping we can keep our heads down and avoid confronting the zeitgeist, then we will have given away all we love for the illusion of security.

So come discuss and seek alternatives to the consumerist, community-devouring Leviathan. Gather with us to discuss how to love our neighbor while holding true to a creed; let’s seek to regain perspective free from the constraints of instant gratification and rootlessness. Gather with us to find how to live the Benedict Option, and how to bring the Benedict Option into a world for healing.

Go to the site and join up with them! I met Tara and her husband at the Front Porch Republic conference this fall at Notre Dame. Really good people.

A reader wrote yesterday to say that the situation at her church has become intolerable after the election. She’s conservative, but the congregation is mostly liberal. She reports that her fellow churchgoers have become obsessed with politics, and with politicizing everything there, in an in-your-face, hostile way. She and her husband feel that their days are numbered at that church, though they have been part of the congregation for a long time. She asked me if I was keeping up with local folks interested in the Ben Op in cities and towns around the country.

The answer is no, but my publisher and I are building a website for The Benedict Option book that I intend to make in part a clearing house for local Ben Op initiatives around the country, and even overseas.

Readers, the Benedict Option is going to have to be something we all do together, in our own communities. I am happy to help get the word out. When you hear about an initiative in your area, like the one Tara Ann Thieke has started in western Pennsylvania, please join in and see how you can help. There are already 30 members of the group, and they’ve got a meetup planned in Harmony, PA, on December 10. Click here to learn how you can be a part of the group.

This is really exciting to me. The book will be a success only if it inspires readers all over to take action locally. Go, western PA, go!

UPDATE: Tara has posted a link to her Western Pennsylvania Benedict Option blog.