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Boomers, Stickers, & Evangelicals

C.S. Lewis's house, Oxford (Mike Blyth/Flickr)

While I was on vacation, there were a few really good essays on Benedict Option-related topics. One I especially loved was Jake Meador’s piece on how C.S. Lewis’s novel That Hideous Strength is going to be the text that helps Evangelicals navigate through the world to come. Excerpts:

At the heart of American Evangelicalism has always been an unhealthy alliance between the two types of Americans that Wallace Stegner has described as “boomers” and “stickers.” Boomers are the industrialists, the progressives (in the general sense of believing in inevitable social progress, not the more specific political sense), the people who move from work to work, always in motion, always growing, always trying new things in hopes of earning more money or “advancing” society. Stickers are the Hobbits of the world, the people committed to a small way of life who tend to be less concerned with abstractions like “social progress” or even “economic growth,” which is a kind of abstraction as well.

For most of our history and certainly since the Second Great Awakening we have attempted to blend these two approaches, mixing an emphasis on revival, innovative techniques for preaching the gospel, and for growing churches with a desire to retain our commitment to basic Christian orthodoxy and piety. Whether it is George Whitefield, Charles Finney, Billy Sunday, Bill Hybels, or Mark Driscoll we evangelicals, like any good marketer hawking a product, have always had a talent for Americanizing our faith to suit the tastes of our target audience.

That alliance, however, is now collapsing. The boomers outside the church, who have always been averse to limitation, have now decided that even the natural design of our bodies should not limit our sexual expression just as their industrialist predecessors of the 19th century decided that the natural design of creation should not inhibit their ambition or wealth. And so the American business world has become one of the places most hostile to traditional Christian orthodoxy. This explains why “liberal” companies like Apple as well as more “conservative” companies like Walmart had the same reaction to religious freedom bills adopted in Indiana and Arkansas. Today’s boomers have discovered that orthodoxy is bad for business. And so they have turned on orthodoxy.

The result of this will be that it will become more and more difficult for American evangelicals to cozily nestle in with the bourgeois bohemian establishment in modern America as they will increasingly be forced to choose between faithful Christian practice or their place in the mainstream world of middle-to-upper class Americans. As my friend Matthew Anderson noted on Twitter the other day, we will soon find out who the serious leaders of Evangelicalism are.

Read the whole thing to find out what this has to do with That Hideous Strength and the culture war. The words “Benedict Option” do not come up at all in this piece, but that’s what he’s talking about, in an Evangelical key. Meador is one of the brightest lights among Evangelical writers of the Millennial generation.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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