- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Benedict Option In The Flood

I’ve been out doing errands around Baton Rouge this morning. It’s great to see handmade signs in shopping center parking lots, saying things like SHELTER DONATION DROP-OFF POINT. People are really, really pitching in.

I’ve been complaining on Twitter and here about the relative lack of attention the national media have been giving this disaster given its immensity and severity. A friend of ours who has been doing Cajun Navy rescue runs in Livingston Parish told us that he’s seen bodies floating in the floodwaters there. It’s bad. It’s real bad. And for people farther south and west of Baton Rouge, it’s getting worse.

But here’s a story you should know about. It shatters the standard media narrative about America. And it involves a member of this blog’s community. Members, actually, because this also involves Brother Ignatius (see above), the guest master at the Benedictine monastery in Norcia [1].

You’re going to want to sit down for this one. I’m literally typing through tears.

Ryan Booth comments here from time to time. He’s a personal friend too, and an avid follower of the Benedict Option. We’ve been talking about it for as long as I’ve known him, which is just about as long as we’ve been back in Louisiana. He owns three Mathnasium tutoring centers in Baton Rouge. [2] Ryan is a white, churchgoing, Southern Baptist, conservative, heterosexual male. Ryan has been a public school math teacher, and now tutors kids in math through his small business. In 2014, he resigned his post on the Central Committee of the Louisiana GOP in disgust over what he regarded as the party’s demagoguery over Common Core. Read his public statement here. [3] It says, in part:

While part of my decision to quit my political involvement has to do with disillusionment, a much bigger part of it is the higher calling that God has put on my life. Over the last few years, I have increasingly felt God pulling me into full-time ministry. Over the last few years, I’ve taught an adult Sunday school class at my church and led our Guatemala mission trips, but the call goes beyond that. In response to that call, I have applied to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to begin a Masters of Divinity degree in January, attending part time at first and commuting twice a week.

But I really can’t wait until January to begin my studies. For one thing, I took 18 hours of ancient Greek as an undergrad, and I can save myself six credit hours and $1000 if I can relearn that language on my own by January. But, beyond that, I am ready now to more fully devote myself to my calling, but I have a very limited amount of free time, because I still need to work over 50 hours every week at Mathnasium, and especially because we plan to open a third location in the fall. Oh, and yeah, I need time to be a good father.

So, I really need to “cast off that which hinders me,” and politics hinders me. I don’t have the time, and no tax cut ever saved anyone’s soul. I need to stay off Facebook in general, but I especially need to give up my habit of reading and commenting on political issues for a couple of hours every day. So, this is a farewell of sorts, for now. I have other work to do.

Ryan has not yet been able to start his seminary studies, in part, or maybe mostly, I’m not sure, over money issues. But that’s where his heart is, not in politics. He does not consider himself a Republican any more, but is every bit the conservative — especially religious and social conservative — that he ever was. He and I talk often about religious liberty.

With that as background, let me tell you what he did yesterday. I interviewed him earlier today about it, because it was just so astonishing and inspiring.

Because Ryan is a close friend with a real interest in the Ben Op, I shared with him the most recent draft of The Benedict Option, which I’m close to finishing (publication date is March 14, 2017). He has been reading the manuscript at my request, to make suggestions for the final revision. Here’s what he told me this afternoon, verbatim:

I was reading, among other things, your post about what’s going on at Celtic [4] [one of the shelters in Baton Rouge], and knew from that, and other people, about the work going on there,” he said. “It’s funny, Rod, because I had just read in your draft the part where you were talking about the monks’ hospitality. In the manuscript, you quote Brother Ignatius quoting Matthew 25:35, where Jesus says, ‘I was a stranger and I took you in.

It occurred to me, Why should we care for people at a giant shelter when we can take them into our homes? I have room to take a couple of people in.

Ryan is divorced, and shares custody of his daughter Grace with his ex-wife. Grace’s mother just bought a new house, and spent a lot of money and effort furnishing it. It’s now underwater. Ryan saw to it that his former in-laws made it to safety. If I understood correctly, his former wife is taking care of them in another Louisiana town, where they are not under flood threat. Grace is with her dad. Let’s pick the story back up with Ryan:

Grace and I went to Celtic, looking for people we could offer a bedroom to. We live on the third floor, so we couldn’t take anybody frail or infirm, which is what we would have preferred. There’s no elevator, so we had to get people who could climb the stairs. We don’t have room for a big family, but for one or two people.

We found an African-American woman about 50, who looked like she needed a place to stay. We asked her, but she thought for a second and said, “You know, there are a lot of people who need it more than me.” I thought maybe she might have some hesitation about going into a stranger’s home, but Grace could see that the lady was tearing up when she said it.

Think about that. Here is a woman who has lost her home, and who is living in a shelter. A man and his daughter come in and offer her a bed and a good, safe, comfortable place to stay. She thinks about it, but says no, there are people needier than I am. Ryan again:

It took us a while to find somebody who wasn’t part of a big family. Grace and I weren’t going to take a single man, which may not be the best fit for our home, with just me and Grace there. Since the Salvation Army men’s shelter had flooded out, you could tell there are a lot of people at Celtic who would normally be at the Salvation Army. We couldn’t risk taking one of them in.

Eventually we found Jacob and Josh [Note: I’ve changed their names to protect their privacy — RD]. They were very eager to come. They had not slept the night before because of all the crying babies around them. They had been rescued by boat. They live in a second floor apartment, so most of their personal belongings are probably okay. They’re still asleep right now. We’re going to go over and check in a little while. I think the water has gone down now.

When people leave the shelter, they have to check out with the Red Cross, so the Red Cross can keep track of who’s where. When they were checking out, Josh gave his real name: Annabella.

Ryan Booth — a straight, Southern Baptist conservative — had inadvertently invited a female-to-male transgender and his boyfriend into his home. Did that give Ryan pause?

“Not at all,” he told me. “In a sense, the opportunity to be a witness to somebody who may be more unlike me might make my witness more powerful.”

I told Ryan that a lot of people would think that someone who fits his demographic profile would want to have nothing to do with someone who fits Josh’s demographic profile. I added, “It sounds to me like you didn’t take Jacob and Josh in in spite of being a traditional Christian, but you did it because you are a traditional Christian. Am I right?

“That’s exactly why I did it,” Ryan said. He added that he wanted to make sure Jacob and Josh knew that he was a Christian, so they wouldn’t be freaked out by that. They weren’t, or if they were, they were too tired to show it.

“I told them that this is what Jesus told us to do,” Ryan said. “It’s that Benedictine hospitality. Brother Ignatius in the Benedict Option book says that when we take somebody in, we see Christ in them. They bear the image of God. Again, it’s just like Jesus said in Matthew: when you take in someone who has nowhere to go, you are taking Him in.”

Has Ryan changed his mind about moral values and cultural politics? Not at all, nor should he. Despite what many liberals think, Ryan’s the sort of traditional Christian who believes what he does about sex, sexuality, and gender identity not because he hates the Other — he plainly does not — but because he believes Scripture is true. Understand it clearly, though: Ryan is an Evangelical Christian who believes all Scripture is true, including this part, from Matthew 25:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Adds Ryan:

“It’s not my place to judge them. In these circumstances, it’s my place to love them.”

That, my friends, is the Benedict Option. No tax cut gave shelter to these refugees, a transgendered man and his boyfriend. A conservative Southern Baptist and his young daughter did. Because those strangers needed it, because Ryan saw the image of God in them, and because Ryan is a servant of the Lord.

Folks, this kind of thing is happening all over south Louisiana, right now! Yes, the national media are not (yet) paying the kind of attention a disaster this vast deserves, but they’re not all like that. NPR’s Debbie Elliott had a great report on All Things Considered yesterday [5], reporting from the Celtic Media Center soundstage shelter. Look at this excerpt, in which she interviews Augustine and Ngozi Amechi:

ELLIOTT: The Amechis, originally from Nigeria, live in east Baton Rouge. Their Park Forest subdivision is under water.

A. AMECHI: Oh, we were trapped.

ELLIOTT: They were rescued by boat at 4 in the morning on Sunday. Amechi used a flashlight to signal out the window for help as the water rose thigh-high in their house.

A. AMECHI: We didn’t know the extent of the disaster until we were on the boat. And all the streets in the neighborhood were all flooded almost to the roof of the house, you know? It was terrible. It was just an experience.

ELLIOTT: They lost everything, but Ngozi Amechi is thankful they got out alive.

N. AMECHI: My thanks goes to those boats men, those boat – they worked day and night…

A. AMECHI: Right.

N. AMECHI: …Throughout all this period.

ELLIOTT: The Amechis say they thought the flooding would stop when the rain did, but then the water just kept rising. That’s a scenario playing out across south Louisiana now as rivers, streams, lakes and canals overflow their banks. Governor John Bel Edwards warns the worst might not be over.

JOHN BEL EDWARDS: So we are still in the response phase. We’re about saving lives. We’re going to get to making people comfortable and looking after their property.

ELLIOTT: The National Guard and the Coast Guard are helping first responders, but hordes of volunteers have also launched boats to conduct rescues. Officials have evacuated several nursing homes and hospitals. The facilities that have remained open are having trouble remaining fully staffed because so many people are affected by the flood.

Debbie Baham is a home health worker whose apartment complex in Amite was destroyed. She’s now in a shelter in that small town east of Baton Rouge.

DEBBIE BAHAM: I mean, we lost everything. I got up at 5 o’clock in the morning to go to work, went in, and the water was just coming in. I mean it just came out of nowhere.

ELLIOTT: She says the water was waist-deep when firefighters came to take them out on fire trucks.

BAHAM: I’m in a world of hurt right now, don’t know where I’m going or what’s going to happen.

BAHAM: Back at the Baton Rouge shelter, Augustine Amechi says all they can do is depend on one another.

A. AMECHI: In a disaster like this, people should thank God and know that we all are human – same race, human race, OK? And in a disaster like this, you know that people care for each other.

It’s so true! I have NEVER been more proud than to be from Louisiana as I am in these awful days. Look, the national media all found there way down here when Alton Sterling was shot and killed. But now, when thousands of black lives are shattered by catastrophic losses, where are they? If they came, and if they had eyes to see, they would know that what Augustine Amechi says is for real. We are seeing black folks and white folks rescuing each other, and caring for each other in the shelters, and even in each others’ homes. This kind of thing is happening everywhere, all around us. We are even seeing a conservative Southern Baptist man opening his apartment to a transgender man and his boyfriend, because they are strangers who needed a place to go, but also because they are not strangers at all, but neighbors, Louisianians, fellow human beings.

One of you readers, can’t remember who, chastised me recently for being too caught up in what’s going on in the media and online. Most people do not live in a world of perpetual culture war, the reader said. I know that’s true in theory, but that does not mean that the culture war is not happening, and that the decisions being made in courts, in Congress, in state legislatures, in church assemblies, in the media, and so forth, aren’t crucially important. The fact that most ordinary people are ignoring this stuff doesn’t make it unreal or unimportant, from either a conservative or a liberal point of view.

On the other hand, it is also true, as my critical reader said, that it’s much too easy for people like me to mistake what happens online and in TV Land for what’s happening in real life outside my front door. This disaster that has overtaken my community has been a mercy from God to me in this one way: it has shown me how true this is, and how much I, too, live in a bubble of my own, as much as the people in the national media that I’m now criticizing harshly. I am guilty as well. Mea maxima culpa, as they say in the Norcia monastery.

I can tell you this for sure: parts of The Benedict Option are going to be heavily revised this week, to include things that I’m seeing and learning in my own community. I’ve written there, as I’ve written on this blog, how the kind of politics that concern me now are the politics of building local community, and local community institutions. I am not saying that what happens in Washington doesn’t matter. It does matter, and we cannot be naive about that. But I’m saying that I cannot bring myself to feel much connection to those fights. I hadn’t thought of it this way till this afternoon, but what Ryan Booth did last night for those strangers is the essence of Benedict Option politics, or rather, anti-politics. Ryan is a devout churchgoing Baptist, so he knows his Bible. But it was the words of a Benedictine guest master, an Indonesian-born monk who lives in the mountains of Umbria at a monastery built over the birthplace of St. Benedict of Nursia, that moved his heart last night.

St. Benedict, born in 480, would never have known that his simple acts of fidelity to Christ as a monk in the ruins of the Western Roman Empire would one day be partly responsible for the fact that refugees Jacob and Josh found a warm, comfortable place to stay last night in flood-ravaged south Louisiana, in the home of a Christian man and his young daughter. But God knew.

Only God knows what He’s doing here in our time and place. But I know that despite my own pettiness, vanity, wrathfulness and weakness, I want to be a part of it, somehow. I want to be like Brother Ignatius, the Catholic monk, and like Ryan Booth, the Southern Baptist math teacher, because they want to be like Jesus, in all things.

Follow Ryan Booth on Twitter @brteacher [6] — he’s going to have some great stories to tell. And by the way, for those who loved my book The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, and remember the stories in it about how all of St. Francisville and West Feliciana Parish came together to help Katrina refugees in 2005, you’ll be happy to know that I talked to my Starhill friend and neighbor Julie Ralph this morning. AT&T somehow got a call through. She said she was at First Baptist Church, which is a hive of activity. Lots of refugees sheltering in St. Francisville now, and all the church people in town are working hard to help. Julie says that Facebook has been immensely helpful in allowing people to get specific needs taken care of quickly. But all the technology in the world would be useless if not for spark of love that comes from the human heart.

Advertisement
48 Comments (Open | Close)

48 Comments To "Benedict Option In The Flood"

#1 Comment By mrscracker On August 16, 2016 @ 4:38 pm

Thank you. Matthew 25 is one of my favorite parts of scripture & I chose those verses to be read for my husband’s funeral.
I just spoke to someone who’s family is serving in the “Cajun Navy”. She said volunteers are need of prayers, too because of what they’re encountering. It takes a toll.

#2 Comment By Scott Parker On August 16, 2016 @ 5:13 pm

Powerful words again. Thanks for your daily updates.

As a fellow author, I’m now curious about your revisions. When the book comes out, would you make your original versions available somewhere for readers to compare and see how this disaster affected your thinking and conclusions, or would the newer revisions stand on their own?

[NFR: No, I can’t do that, for legal reasons, and also because once things get taken out of their original context, they get distorted and misinterpreted. Look at how I and others misread that Louisiana flood map. — RD]

#3 Comment By DG On August 16, 2016 @ 5:18 pm

Rod, don’t know if you’ve seen it yet but I just came across this (sorry about the length of the link):

[7]

#4 Comment By Ryan Booth On August 16, 2016 @ 5:25 pm

I just took Jacob and Josh back over to their apartment. Since they live on the 2nd floor, all their stuff is fine, and their cat is fine as well. (The rescuers
evacuating people wouldn’t take pets.) Best of all, their car is fine, since they had driven it up over a curb and parked it on a high area. Most of their neighbors lost all their possessions, because the water came up so quickly with no warning.

They will probably only need to stay with us for a couple of days, until the power in their complex gets turned back on.

#5 Comment By James C On August 16, 2016 @ 5:26 pm

When sceptics ask why God allows bad things to happen, when they scoff and wonder how on earth or in heaven God’s grace can shine through the agonies of our mortal lives, they have their answer.

It is this.

This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes (Psalm 118)

#6 Comment By Stubbs On August 16, 2016 @ 5:26 pm

I say again- thank you so much for writing these posts. Among other things, it’s allowed me to see what a good reporter you are.

Be safe.

#7 Comment By Pastor Brian On August 16, 2016 @ 5:34 pm

I rejoice to hear of Ryan’s ability to bless these two people in their time of need.

I have sometimes struggled with an issue, and I’d like to hear the thoughts of other readers. Is there an issue with putting two people in a bed under my roof who I sincerely believe ought not be sharing a bed? Is this a bad witness to my daughters?

I have struggled off and on with this, mostly with friends or relatives who are cohabiting outside of wedlock. I honestly don’t know what the right thing to do is. Perhaps offering hospitality in an emergency situation like Ryan is doing makes the choice easier, since there are larger, more pressing issues.

#8 Comment By mle detroit On August 16, 2016 @ 5:47 pm

You’ve been wondering why the national media have not covered the floods. The answer: It’s not news anymore.
“The flooding in Louisiana is the eighth event since May of last year in which the amount of rainfall in an area in a specified window of time matches or exceeds the NOAA predictions for an amount of precipitation that will occur once every five hundred years”
“Louisiana joins five other states, most of them in the South, that have experienced deadly flooding in the last 15 months”
“In the last three months alone, floods in Maryland, West Virginia and Louisiana have combined to kill dozens of people and damage tens of thousands of homes and vehicles”
Why give attention to the results of climate change when, as we all know, it is a hoax perpetrated by those who wish to deny religious liberty, or something like that.

#9 Comment By panda On August 16, 2016 @ 5:57 pm

This is a wonderful story, and while I don’t pray, my heart goes to you and your neighbors (as a donation from me to the Red Cross went out the other day..). However, let me gently point out that you have referred to Ryan’s guest, a female to male transgender as a “he.” This could be a simple a slip of a tongue, or a simple sign of respect, but it also points out to something profound, in my opinion at least: that once you decide to open your heart and house to someone, even if you consider their choices/lifestyles problematic, that decision necessarily has implications for your stands on cosmic issues. Because, if you recognize the human in someone (and I never for a second doubted you do), referring to them by their preferred pronoun is not only an act of kindness, but an extension of dignity to them.

[NFR: It’s a matter of respect. I don’t think this female is a male. But I don’t care to fight about it when that person is flat on his/her back. — RD]

#10 Comment By Scott Miller On August 16, 2016 @ 5:59 pm

“Ryan Booth — a straight, Southern Baptist conservative — had inadvertently invited a female-to-male transgender and his boyfriend into his home.”

Did you inadvertently use the wrong possessive pronoun?

#11 Comment By GregR On August 16, 2016 @ 6:09 pm

Rod,

while I may be a frequent critic of yours, and clash with you on culture war issues almost always. It is posts like this that keep me coming back. The truth of the sentiment, the power of the words, and the honesty of the self assesment give me so much hope.

While we may never agree on culture wars issues it is acts of giving like this that leads me to hope. But even given the vast divide in many of our views, the responce to tragedy like this reinforces my believe that people of good will and honest intentions populate both sides of these issues. Even if we disagree on how, we are both trying to help those in need.

This is the third time a boat of mine has deployed to help those in need (Katrina, Rita, and this). And for the third time I have been out of town when it happened. While I am happy to loan my boat to the people helping, there is a degree of frustration in not being able to help directly. There is a lesson here as well though. Despite my best intentions to help and doing what I can (the loans) sometimes we have to work thru others and simply do our part in the larger whole.

#12 Comment By Jen On August 16, 2016 @ 6:18 pm

News flash — transgender people are not scary monsters and there is no need to be afraid to invite them to your home. I hope your friend will come to realize that these young men are just regular people who happen to be transgender.

On a different note, the NYT public editor just issued a mea culpa for the lack of coverage of your floods.

#13 Comment By chela429 On August 16, 2016 @ 6:26 pm

That is a true Christian. You have very good friends.

#14 Comment By Charles Cosimano On August 16, 2016 @ 6:34 pm

None of this surprises me. This all just what people do. If your neighbor is in trouble you do what you can to help.

On the other hand, this is a good time to practice your snappy answers to stupid questions and when the media finally discovers the story and asks why there is no looting, say, “Everything worth stealing is under water so we are busy helping each other get dry.”

The look on the reporter’s face should be worth the price of admission.

#15 Comment By Camus On August 16, 2016 @ 6:58 pm

This post hit close to home in that I have not done enough to live out the Kingdom. Email some good local charities doing work down there. I can’t be there in person but I can contribute to help people out. Perhaps we could fundraise to pay for this guys tuition.

#16 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 16, 2016 @ 7:25 pm

“No tax cut gave shelter to these refugees, a transgendered man and his boyfriend.”

Excuse me. The sheep and the goats is a very well known scripture among people who lean on scripture. I think Keith Green does a very powerful job of laying out the stakes.

All of the above is well and good. And while one is fine a male ad his boyfriend, not on a bet, unless they clearly understood that they could not engage in any such expression while in my home.

And that is me needing over backwards thrice to make it fit in my own mind. But more than likely I would seek accommodation for the one or the other somewhere else.

And do so with a clear conscience.

Though its link to the BenOpt is unclear to me. among the evangelicals I have known – this is expected behavior. Including those with caveats.

#17 Comment By Forxaathletic On August 16, 2016 @ 7:28 pm

You got a shout out from Wendell Pierce, Rod. I saw his tweet in the Daily Mail.
[8]

[NFR: Wendell is a friend. We worked together on his memoir, “The Wind In The Reeds,” which is about Louisiana, Katrina, family, and resilience. You might check it out. It was a total privilege to be part of telling his family’s story. — RD]

#18 Comment By Joe Mack On August 16, 2016 @ 7:44 pm

Take care of people whose lifestyle/gender/whatever I deem sinful, but we are called to love our neighbor, not our sinless neighbor (don’t think living with that person would be so great either).
I think America is doomed by the 2012 election and am told despair is a sin. America is not humanity and pointing out a descent I foresee has little to do with Christ’s direction to spread the Gospel. I try to do what my Lord would like as much as I can and appreciate your work. LA don’t matter if it can’t be used as a club against W. What a wicked world.

Wish Obama knew about the flood, sure he would do something. Like the Czar.

#19 Comment By Buck Farmer On August 16, 2016 @ 8:10 pm

Thank you, Rod, for these stories.

I grew up in New Orleans and long ago left to seek my fortune among the great and good, but these stories apart from moving me to help the affected in my own distant way also move me to reconsider my separation from southern Louisiana and the deep roots of that community in my experience and in my blood.

I have also been frustrated by the deafening lack of coverage from nearly every type of media outlet. I am just now seeing a story in the Atlantic. It is good that NPR was there, and it is good that you are sharing these stories and this experience with all of us.

#20 Comment By Aaron On August 16, 2016 @ 8:12 pm

Wow! God bless you all.

#21 Comment By Hound of Ulster On August 16, 2016 @ 8:13 pm

That is Christanity in a nutshell…we need to stop overthinking and just practice holy love of all humanity, for all it’s brokenness

#22 Comment By Sam M On August 16, 2016 @ 8:29 pm

I have to admit I’m a little confused. How old is Grace? He wouldn’t take a single man… But he’s taking two men?

I honestly don’t know if I’d do that. Or if it’s wise. Yes, if you live in the bush and a freezing couple of guys show up at the door, you take them in, but you get rid of them ASAP, right? This is not an acute emergency for these guys. An old lady, I can see. But a biological man and his trans boyfriend that I don’t know at ALL?

I’m all for Christian charity. But.., I guess he’s a better man than I am.

Even on the Waltons, the hard-put people asking for shelter sleep in the barn. Same as the old jokes about the farmer with the beautiful daughter.

#23 Comment By Joseph On August 16, 2016 @ 8:49 pm

Tragedy brings out the best in people. It’s true.

But why is it important that the character witness in this story is straight? He demonstrated compassion and charity for an LGBT person. That’s awesome.

But I read something about his witness being stronger? I do not know what that means. Because he was kind to a person, that person will be more receptive to his message that being trans is rebellious against G-d’s plan?

I cannot understand how it is possible to see the image of G-d in a person, and simultaneously believe that the core of that person’s identity is inherently disordered.

I do not discount the decency of this person’s kindness. But the measure of acceptance should be how we treat “others” when times are good, not when times are bad.

[NFR: I say this with respect, but you must not know very much about Christian theology. Every single one of us is disordered. It’s the Fall. There’s a difference between bearing the image of God (as we are told by Genesis that we do) and being Jesus Christ. — RD]

#24 Comment By Anand On August 16, 2016 @ 8:52 pm

This. A hundred times this.

#25 Comment By Randy On August 16, 2016 @ 9:12 pm

St. Benedict, born in 480, would never have known that his simple acts of fidelity to Christ as a monk in the ruins of the Western Roman Empire would one day be partly responsible for the fact that refugees Jacob and Josh found a warm, comfortable place to stay last night in flood-ravaged south Louisiana, in the home of a Christian man and his young daughter. But God knew. — Rod

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.

He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.

As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.

In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

#26 Comment By Rosita On August 16, 2016 @ 9:14 pm

Wonderful, wish Ryan, his family and you God speed.

#27 Comment By Sawbuck On August 16, 2016 @ 9:23 pm

I have been trying for hours to draft some words that can adequately express my feelings on this post – and that fact is I cannot help smiling. God finds us where we are, as we are, and sometimes He lights a lantern for us to better see the way.

May we all aspire to be such an instrument.

#28 Comment By Chris 1 On August 16, 2016 @ 10:02 pm

Amen to the entire post, Rod.

#29 Comment By Mary G On August 16, 2016 @ 10:11 pm

Balloon Juice, a blog full of mostly atheist liberals, has a [9] with a very affecting story from a Baton Rouge reader with suggestions for donations. The community there is very generous. If there are any other organizations that need money, please let me know via my email and I’ll pass them on.

#30 Comment By Ryan Booth On August 16, 2016 @ 10:22 pm

Ryan has not yet been able to start his seminary studies, in part, or maybe mostly, I’m not sure, over money issues.

That’s accurate. When I decided to take my daughter out of public school last year and pay for tuition at Parkview Baptist School, it meant that my own studies would have to wait.

#31 Comment By Matt On August 16, 2016 @ 10:50 pm

Yes I walked into Benedicts cave. That was where western civilisation began. The western monastic tradition began there, and monastery was the heart of the civilisation to come. The knowledge of the old order was preserved in the monasteries and the development of the new culture, arts and sciences began.
Prayer and work, the foundation is both supernatural labour and natural labour combined. It was stable spiritually and materially to be a place of refuge, learning and healing. It served its surrounding community on the spiritual and temporal planes.
Just about every town in Europe had a monastery at its heart, sustaining it spiritually, intellectually and materially. The monastery raised people’s minds and hearts to higher things, eternal things.
The monastery created the conditions for building western culture.

#32 Comment By E. Potson On August 16, 2016 @ 11:33 pm

You seem to think the rest of us should be surprised a Christian, Ryan Booth, helped out a transgender who was in need. Not only is it not surprising that a professed Christian helped out a person in need, it’s kind of expected. Without diminishing Mr. Booth’s good deeds, he’s never made comments in this forum that would suggest he would not have helped.

You really have a caricatured vision of what people outside your tribe are like and it hampers your understanding of the culture you critique. While it is certainly admirable that Christians and other people in Baton Rouge are performing so many selfless acts, it’s not unique or unusual to see this kind of altruism when catastrophe strikes, fortunately.

[NFR: Just one day, just one minute of one day, I would like to read a comment by you that says something nice. Just once. — RD]

#33 Comment By Ryan Booth On August 16, 2016 @ 11:56 pm

I have to admit I’m a little confused. How old is Grace? He wouldn’t take a single man… But he’s taking two men?

I honestly don’t know if I’d do that. Or if it’s wise. Yes, if you live in the bush and a freezing couple of guys show up at the door, you take them in, but you get rid of them ASAP, right? This is not an acute emergency for these guys.

Anyone who ever accomplished anything for the Gospel took risks. Countless Christian missionaries around the world regularly increase the risk of harm to their families in order to serve Christ. The risk of taking these two people into my home seemed (and continues to seem) very reasonable.

By contrast, a single man at the Celtic shelter stood a very good chance of being a mentally ill person who was homeless before this flood and would’ve ordinarily been staying at the big Baton Rouge men’s homeless shelter run by the Salvation Army—until that shelter flooded in this storm. That’s why, when we went to the shelter, I didn’t want to take a single man home with us: it seemed too great a risk.

#34 Comment By chas On August 17, 2016 @ 12:35 am

I think what this man did was a very good thing to do – a Good Samaritan response. You wrote something interesting recently where you distinguished between culture and humanity. And it caused me to think of what degree Christ is a respecter of culture; though there would seem to be a degree to which He would be. But, in this circumstance, this Samaritan’s action would seem to be a spirit-led response to the human condition, which, ultimately, stripped away of everything else is what Christ really was dealing with – the human condition as manifested in sin. He came to save. And I doubt that the folks being helped in this circumstance would abuse the Samaritan’s hospitality either. It reinforces the idea that if we, as Christians, are open to seeing and are able to discern real vulnerability, we don’t need a natural disaster to occur in order to reach out.

#35 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 17, 2016 @ 2:41 am

As for no press coverage. Import some illegal immigrants and you’ll have all the press coverage you want.

The sheep and the goats is often use to pan handle all manner of messages about supporting illegal immigrants and immigration — that is just not a case that can be made.

There are ways of being charitable that don’t require support prohibited behavior.

#36 Comment By Kristoofus On August 17, 2016 @ 5:31 am

I’m profoundly moved by Ryan’s action.

I would love for him to get the opportunity to know those two guys better, to understand the human experience and suffering that lies beneath the flying rhetoric about disordered life choices.

That kind of generosity and selflessness is beautiful when encountered–and there are pockets of it everywhere–but I don’t think that it’s normative for American Christianity as a whole. There are a lot of righteous goats in that flock.

For every transgendered person taken in with love because of Matthew 25, there are a dozen trans or gay youth thrown out onto the streets–often as teenagers–because of a verse in Paul.

I’m sitting in the dimly lit Celtic evacuee shelter as I type this on my phone, on the graveyard shift, watching several hundred desperate people escape the horror of their waking life in fitful dreams.

Many of them would probably disapprove of me just because I’m gay if we had that conversation. Some of them have probably disowned gay relatives. But it’s none of my business or theirs today. I’m not going to ask if they’re Republican or Trump supporters or hard-core fundamentalists before I get them some water, or clean up their trash, or offer some comfort.

They are my brothers and sisters, and they’re suffering. The most important thing for me to communicate to them today is that they are loved.

#37 Comment By galanx On August 17, 2016 @ 8:41 am

I know the feeling. A month ago, in my small town on the east coast of Taiwan, we had a record-setting typhoon: super-Typhoon Nepartak- highest winds ever recorded. Since this didn’t hit the big west coast city centres of Taipei, Taichung or Kaoshiung, it was largely blipped over in the news. My next door neighbour helped me in the middle of the storm to batten down the hatches,and I did the same for the old lady next to me. The next day the street was full of volunteers picking up the mess, and the local Buddhist, Taoist and other volunteer organizations were out working in force( not many Christians in the neighborhod, but the nuns-mostly Filipinas- were out there digging away) . All neighbours helping each other. Of course we were grateful when the national government sent workers , supplies and the army down to help. Times like this, we all pull together.

#38 Comment By Oakinhou On August 17, 2016 @ 9:57 am

@EliteComminc

I (intellectually) understand that you believe you are acting out of love by proposing that the right action is to separate a couple for fear they might support and console each other through the night under your roof.

But you should also intellectually understand that the majority of people will see little love in your actions

Yes, the majority of people might be wrong, like the proverbial 100,000 flies in the t-shirt, but consider the slim possibility that they might not be.

#39 Comment By LouisM On August 17, 2016 @ 10:32 am

There are many many people who do not understand the nuances in Christian love and tolerance.

In the case of a monk caring for a transgender immigrant, there is a chasm of difference between showing concern (recognition of their humanity, compassion for their situation, faith they are a child of god, etc)….and….say supporting mandatory transgender rights in grammer schools with pre-adolescent children or transgender in the public sphere of society.

These are decisions people and societies make everyday. Some societies refrain from public displays of affection. Some societies are stiff upper lip reserved. ETC.

#40 Comment By Ryan Booth On August 17, 2016 @ 10:32 am

Reading over these comments again this morning is really depressing. It’s as though the story of the Good Samaritan is unknown, instead of being one of the first lessons that kids learn in Sunday school.

Excuse me. The sheep and the goats is a very well known scripture among people who lean on scripture.

All of the above is well and good. And while one is fine a male ad his boyfriend, not on a bet, unless they clearly understood that they could not engage in any such expression while in my home.

And that is me needing over backwards thrice to make it fit in my own mind. But more than likely I would seek accommodation for the one or the other somewhere else.

And do so with a clear conscience.

Though its link to the BenOpt is unclear to me. among the evangelicals I have known – this is expected behavior. Including those with caveats.

There are ways of being charitable that don’t require support prohibited behavior.

I certainly understand that you, like the priest and the Levite, would “pass by on the other side.” After all, the guy was a Samaritan! We don’t have anything to do with them, because they are sinners. Don’t you know that they are unclean? There are plenty of widows here in Jerusalem who need help, and giving money to support a Samaritan and his sinful lifestyle is wrong.

I’m sure that the priest and the Levite had a clean conscience as well.

I honestly don’t know if I’d do that. Or if it’s wise.

I’m all for Christian charity. But.., I guess he’s a better man than I am.

Don’t you know that the robbers are probably still right here in this same area? If they beat and robbed the Samaritan guy, they are likely to do it do you as well.

This is not an acute emergency for these guys.

Trapped in a flooded apartment complex, rescued by boat, and spending a sleepless night in a giant warehouse-sized building next to thousands of others, including many screaming babies … and that’s not an emergency for them?

That kind of generosity and selflessness is beautiful when encountered–and there are pockets of it everywhere–but I don’t think that it’s normative for American Christianity as a whole. There are a lot of righteous goats in that flock.

You can see some of it in this thread. But that’s why the Benedict Option is so important. American Christianity is so corrupted by worldliness, and we Christians have to separate ourselves somewhat in order to be the radical example that Christ wants us to be.

What the Good Samaritan did in Jesus’s story was so much more powerful and risky that my small act. And, yet, that is what Jesus calls upon Christians to do, to risk and give to the utmost.

“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

#41 Comment By Potato On August 17, 2016 @ 10:43 am

If that is what it is all about – sheltering and caring for everyone – then we have nothing to fear.

The fear about those who campaign for “religious freedom” is that what they really want is the freedom to deny gays and lesbians and transgender people the right to employment, housing and the ordinary rights of citizens. I cannot imagine someone who takes in and protects people from this natural disaster turning around and trying to deny the very same people an equal right to housing under ordinary conditions, for example.

#42 Comment By JonF On August 17, 2016 @ 12:27 pm

Hi mrscracker,
Is everything OK with you and yours? Last I saw in the comments you were sheltered behind sandbags.

Ryan,
In other stories we heard about rescuers who did take pets along with people (e.g., the unfortunate old lady in the shelter with her two cats). I gather this is something that varies by the rescuer? Also, there’s stories about specific pet rescues being done too.
My best wishes to you in your quest for the ministry. IMO, while Greek and the like may be of academic importance, what you are doing today is vastly more meaningful in the long run. (Oh, and preach it, brother, to the nattering nabobs of negativism)

Joe Mack,
Everything is ultimately “doomed” if by that you mean “It will come to an end– probably a bad one– some day.” Yet we are called to hope– not in the things of the Earth, but in the things that endure beyond the Time and Space that we inhabit but which is not our true home.
Now, Obama (as others have pointed out before) is aware of this disaster, and has directed all due federal aid to assist.

Matt,
I’ve made the point before here– the face of Christianity, both East and West, for most people was a monastic face for many, many centuries. Bishops and grand cathedrals were for the major cities– where not that many people lived. This only began to change with the Reformation when the Protestant chucked monasticism outright, and even the Catholic powers greatly curtailed it, while in the East a bit later the tsars began closing monasteries too, though Eastern monasticism remained much healthier longer than it did in the west. The Christianity of our day is much the poorer though for the dearth of this ancient institution.

#43 Comment By GregR On August 17, 2016 @ 1:23 pm

Pastor Brian asks:

I rejoice to hear of Ryan’s ability to bless these two people in their time of need.

I have sometimes struggled with an issue, and I’d like to hear the thoughts of other readers. Is there an issue with putting two people in a bed under my roof who I sincerely believe ought not be sharing a bed? Is this a bad witness to my daughters?

I have struggled off and on with this, mostly with friends or relatives who are cohabiting outside of wedlock. I honestly don’t know what the right thing to do is. Perhaps offering hospitality in an emergency situation like Ryan is doing makes the choice easier, since there are larger, more pressing issues.

There are two radically different questions here.

1) during normal times is it wrong/right/acceptable to refuse to allow co-habitations couples to share a room in your home? Sure, it’s your place, you pay the bills, and you get to set the rules. To my knowledge there is no biblical requirement to provide charity for those who have plenty.

My now wife’s parents had a house rule that we were not allowed to sleep together under their roof. And while I disagreed with it, it was absolutely their decision. So we would always get a hotel room when we went to visit. Because it was more important to us to share out lives than it was to stay at her parent house.

After about a year of this they decided it was more important to them to have more time together than implement their rule and they invited us to stay there together.

The second question is during times of an emergency such as what’s happening in BR currently. You are obviously under no legal requirement to offer aid, or offer it on other that your own grounds whatever they may be. But if your God demands compassion and charity of you then are you not required to provide it?

During times of tragedy the most healing thing there maybe is to hold close the ones we love. To hold my wife as I go to sleep, and this was no less true before we were wed. In large part I asked her to marry me because she could provide such comfort. How then could you condition charity on the restriction that those in need forgo their best medicine.

I make no claims to be a biblical scholar, but isn’t there something to the effect that prioritizes carrying for someone’s soul over their body? Providing a place to sleep and a meal may help their body, holding their loved ones and knowing they are safe heals the soul.

#44 Comment By Jeremy Hickerson On August 17, 2016 @ 2:18 pm

Amazing post, Rod! And I’m so glad you’ll be incorporating this real-life stuff, where you really find out what is real, into your book.

#45 Comment By Sam M On August 17, 2016 @ 3:46 pm

“Trapped in a flooded apartment complex, rescued by boat, and spending a sleepless night in a giant warehouse-sized building next to thousands of others, including many screaming babies … and that’s not an emergency for them?”

Yes. It’s an emergency, but not an acute emergency. There life was no longer in danger. As discussed in my original comment, if I live in the woods and two freezing gents happen by, I feel compelled to give them shelter in my home even if I have a young daughter in the home.

But these guys were rescued and had food and shelter and were safe. Annoyed by babies, yes. And that’s no small thing. But they had been saved, broadly speaking.

All I am saying is that with a daughter in the house, I’d be inclined to pick different, non-male or non-young people. Or I’d send the daughter elsewhere. Has nothing to do with the trans thing at all. Generally, I don’t think it’s nuts to keep strange young men out of your home unless there is no other way. In this case, they could have endured the babies, or deferred in favor of old ladies. Although if I were an old lady I might not take you up on it.

Again, I would put my daughter at some degree of risk to protect a life. But not to save people from noisy babies.

I’m not saying that what you did is not a grand gesture. I just would have sent the daughter away or selected different tenants. I am sure they appreciated the fact that you didn’t. And I did offer the distinct possibility that you are likely just a nicer person than I am.

#46 Comment By Franklin Evans On August 17, 2016 @ 4:13 pm

Ryan,

I sincerely hope to meet you next June. I’m frustrated that I can’t offer you my thoughts in person, because especially in situations like this, the human element is just too important and so very distant in a text-only exchange.

In case you don’t know, I’m a practicing Pagan of Rod’s acquaintance and I’m honored to be considered his friend. I love him and his family very much.

I’m also about as liberal as one can be, and right at the fringe amongst other liberals who frequent Rod’s blog. I’ve written at length in support of issues conservatives oppose, I’ve written at greater length in sometimes harsh criticism of Christians and the beliefs the hold dear.

I need you to understand that, because I’m writing now to say that I know of no more honorable man than you. I know a very few as honorable, and my family history and my very existence is defined by some of them, their generosity, courage and compassion.

From Rod and you here, I also know that you won’t be given to immodest claims. Indeed, your witness is impeccable, by my never humble standards. You are also a man of integrity.

Be of good cheer. Be assured of yourself and your witness. Weather the storm of disapprobation in the knowledge that for some of us non-believers, honesty and integrity are the only evidence we need to trust and admire you, and all of our faith-based and religious conflicts become a distant second in our consideration.

Finally, if I may be so bold…

May the Great Mother watch over you and yours, uplift you in your joys, and hold you close to Her in your in your pain.

#47 Comment By Ryan Booth On August 17, 2016 @ 11:01 pm

Update: my houseguests have gone home. Their power was turned back on today, so they went back to their apartment.

Right after they left, Grace told me “I’m going to miss them,” and I agreed. It was good to have company, to make new friends. Was it ideal that for two nights I pulled out a spare mattress and slept on it on the floor in Grace’s bedroom? No, not ideal. It might’ve been a burden if they had needed to stay for weeks, but it was truly a joy to have them here for two nights.

As I said, they live in a 2nd floor apartment, so all their stuff was fine, and they had managed to save their car by pulling it up over a curb and parking it on an elevated area. They are very fortunate, as their net losses amount to only the food in their fridge and a couple of days’ lost wages.

As Rod is pointing out, many others suffered catastrophic loss. One of my best friends had his house flood, and Grace and I spent some time this afternoon helping his family throw out waterlogged furnishings. We’ll do the same thing tomorrow morning at the house of one of my employees. People are helping each other out everywhere, and the community is coming together as never before.

So, there’s a lot of pain in Baton Rouge right now, but there might be even more joy. And I know that there’s some in my home as a result of inviting some strangers to stay with us.

#48 Comment By Ryan Booth On August 17, 2016 @ 11:14 pm

Franklin, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you as well. I was in Guatemala with my church for this year’s WP Festival, but I have no excuse for not showing up two years ago. See you in June, and thanks for your very kind words.