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The Benedict Option & ‘Faithful Presence Within’

I received over the weekend a very thoughtful e-mail from a college professor, which I reproduce below:

Like you [1], I too was frustrated by Claes Ryn’s piece [2] and the general obstinacy of people in getting the Benedict Option [3].  The problems seem to be many:

1) A refusal to admit defeat.  A lot of the older culture warriors are like those Japanese soldiers on Pacific atolls after World War II who never heard of the atomic bombs and the Emperor’s surrender.  Moreover, they seem to think that the proper response to the utter failure of a political strategy is to double down on it and keep banging our heads against the same wall.  It won’t work.  The culture is so much further gone than they think–they can’t see the import of Memories Pizza and Indiana and Arkansas.

That’s where your point about being the true Resistance kicks in.  Havel’s anti-politics is a way to keep fighting the war.  It’s also a way to stay true to our principles, unlike the sell-outs to the current nominee, which leads to….

2) Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.  Moreover, no man can serve two masters, and it’s pretty clear that a bunch of the older culture warriors have put mammon or Caesar ahead of God.  When Ben Carson can say bald-facedly that we have to put aside our Christian principles to get the job done, or when Falwell Jr and Dobson et al can toss aside all scruple in support of Trump, they not only ignore their faith, they also cheapen it and appear hypocrites in the eyes of the world and of prospective believers.  That’s not to say that one can’t take the Eric Metaxas line that the alternative is even worse, but it is to say that one can’t sugar-coat how awful things are and how badly they pull against Christian principles.

If our choice is between losing power and losing faith, we must take losing power any day.  What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?

3) A complacency about the state of the church.  It’s bad enough that Ryn et al. are willfully blind to how bad things are out in the world and how things have failed.  They also think things are hunky-dory in the church or at least their own part of it.  Well, sorry to say, the evidence is strongly to the contrary.  Sunday-morning-only feel-good MTD is no match for our culture.  Sure, at the end of the day the Ben Op boils down to “Be the Church,” but we are so, so, so far from the world of the Tipi Loschi [4]and the monks of Norcia yet oblivious to how poorly it is going and how much more interior work we have to do.  Your alarmism is far preferable to their complacency.  That is not just for monastics, but for all believers.

We all need to be far more intentional about our spiritual life, and far more dedicated to building community and planning for the Flood that is upon us, daubing our arks with pitch and preparing to stay afloat.

This is where I think you need to be more overt: the Ben Op is indeed a shift in emphasis, in tone, in focus, and in energy.  Sure, fight some public battles.  But check out of the culture far more, care about the politics far less, direct our time, talent, and treasures far more to religious and cultural matters than political ones.  Some inward turn is necessary, and our outward turn should be more about religious witness and missionary activity than straight politics, and our straight politics should be more about religious liberty than anything else.

I think that checking out of the culture far more than most of us do is terribly important.  People of Ryn’s age have no clue how badly their own grandchildren and nephews and nieces are being formed by it, and how that is the most immediate threat–we have met the enemy and he is us.  The law could leave us alone tomorrow and we’d still be in the deepest, gravest peril from the culture, mindset, and temptation to go along to get along.  We have to be self-conscious about being a creative minority, not a majority about to be absorbed into the Borg.

4) A blindness to the anti-religion of the Zeitgeist.  What you really have to see is that most younger people have substituted a new religion for Christianity.  MTD as you note is one way of viewing it.  But for a lot of people, SJW is itself a religion–they are not really willing to tolerate, but rather go on witch-hunts to purify themselves of heretics in their midst.  Lots of people think they are Catholic or Protestant but are really MTD or SJW.  And the subversion from within the faith is in some ways worse–traitors and infiltrators are more dangerous than uniformed combatants.

Related to this is a blindness of the scale of the problem.  Winning one presidential election wouldn’t do it.  We need to be settling in for decades, probably centuries, staying faithful and laying the groundwork for a later renaissance.  This is like the Christians hanging on under the Ottoman dhimmitude or the Jews in Bablyonian Captivity, not a few years of civil warfare.

I think it’s absolutely fascinating that the split over the Ben Op seems to correlate with age and generation.  The older generation is still refighting the last battle and can’t believe the tectonic plates have moved even in the last few years.  The younger folks, your generation and below, see how bad things are and that the pace of change accelerates.

5) Removing the logs from our own eyes. Yet another problem with the culture-war framing is that it focuses only on the threat the Left poses to traditional believers–the SJWs and MTDs.

But we are far too complacent about problems that either lean right or have no particular political valence. Materialism and worldly ambition are false gods that tempt all Americans, perhaps especially those on the right. And the dangers of social media, distraction, fast-paced and overly mobile modern life, and all-consuming technology threaten our peace, prayerfulness, and attentiveness. Excessive media consumption is a problem not only because of Hollywood indoctrination, but even more because it rots the brain into passivity and lassitude.

Yet the anti-Ben Op folks seem either to ignore or downplay the spiritual peril we are in by going with the flow. Because it doesn’t fit into a culture-war narrative as a problem of the Left, we minimize the importance of resisting these pathologies of modernity.

The Ben Op seeks to open our eyes to what seems natural and inevitable to most Americans, so we can again see clearly. We must first heal ourselves in order to have a strong foundation for helping others. In short, we forget how spiritually ill we all really are.

I am deeply grateful to the professor for these insights. Last Friday, James Davison Hunter gave a talk at the Baylor conference I attended, in which he criticized what he called “the Benedictine Option” as a mistake. I was still on the road to Waco when he spoke, and unfortunately didn’t get to hear the speech. Friends who did told me about it. At the risk of sounding nit-picky, it irritates me when people dismiss the Ben Op but don’t even get the name right. That tells me that they only have a superficial understanding of what I’m talking about.

I don’t want to make the same mistake by criticizing Prof. Hunter’s talk without having heard it. Nevertheless, I do feel that it’s fair to make a general remark, based on several accounts given to me by people who were there. Hunter — a scholar I greatly respect, and whose work has taught me a lot — criticized what he perceived to be the withdrawal element of the Ben Op, positing instead his own model of “faithful presence within” institutions of the world.

Hunter introduced that concept in his 2010 book To Change The World, which reflects on Christian prospects in a world growing ever more hostile to Christianity. Unfortunately my copy of the book is in storage, so I can’t pull it out and look at all the passages I underlined. As I recall, Hunter’s basic thesis is to acknowledge that Christianity has failed to transform the culture, and has failed in part because Christians have not grasped that elites drive cultural change. He explodes the idea that Christians can entirely transform the modern world (as it is often said among Evangelicals, “take back America for Christ”), but also denounces the “neo-Anabaptists” for wanting to create “utopian enclaves.” Hunter doesn’t offer a strong solution, because he (rightly, in my view) sees that the solution is by no means clear. It will have to be worked out by the church. He advocates maintaining a “faithful presence within” the world: that is, staying engaged with the world, but bearing witness as faithful Christians.

Now, with the qualification that I did not hear his Friday address, and may get this wrong (I invite correction from anyone who was there), I think that the Benedict Option falls somewhere between Hunter’s categories of “neo-Anabaptist” and “faithful presence within.”

There is no question that the Ben Op calls for a much greater sense of withdrawal than the church has today. The idea is not to create a “utopian enclave,” as if that kind of thing could exist, but rather to live within stronger boundaries between the church and the world, for the sake of better Christian formation, both of individuals and local communities. Most of us will continue to have a “faithful presence within” the structures of the world outside the church. The Ben Op intends to shore up the “faithful” part, because the church has failed miserably to do so. The current moment is an “apocalypse” in the strict sense of an “unveiling”: a revelation of the nakedness and powerlessness of the church before the modern world. This is simple reality.

Does that mean we withdraw from political life? No. But we have to change our emphasis. As my correspondent said in point #3 above, we have been so active in engaging the world that we have neglected to care for our own most important polis, the church. The Benedict Option would be necessary even if Republicans held the White House and Congress, and gay marriage had never come about. Back in 2004, when all of this was the case, historian Robert Louis Wilken wrote [5]:

Nothing is more needful today than the survival of Christian culture, because in recent generations this culture has become dangerously thin. At this moment in the Church’s history in this country (and in the West more generally) it is less urgent to convince the alternative culture in which we live of the truth of Christ than it is for the Church to tell itself its own story and to nurture its own life, the culture of the city of God, the Christian republic. This is not going to happen without a rebirth of moral and spiritual discipline and a resolute effort on the part of Christians to comprehend and to defend the remnants of Christian culture.

I believe this to be true. As I see it, the Benedict Option is an affirmative response to Wilken’s insight. As you will see when the book comes out in March [3], the Ben Op assumes that most Christians will be trying to maintain a “faithful presence within;” the Ben Op (which is just my name for the church being what the church should be) intends to help them to just that. In order to maintain that faithful presence, they, their families, and their church communities have to withdraw from the mainstream culture far more than most of us do.

Second, the Ben Op assumes that the decision on whether or not to maintain a faithful presence within is out of our hands to a degree not fully appreciated by most Christians today. We may wish to maintain a faithful presence in the institutions of culture, but that doesn’t mean the culture wants us there, or will let us remain without crossing lines that we cannot in good conscience cross. What then? At the present moment, the literature professor, Dante scholar, and orthodox Catholic Anthony Esolen is under severe attack at his own institution, Providence College, for having recently written a couple of essays criticizing the present conception of “diversity” on his Catholic campus, and reflecting on the persecutorial phase of our culture (here’s one [6], and here’s the other [7]). Protesting students and even some faculty are attempting to drive him out of the college for wrongthink. They may not succeed, not if tenure means anything, but they are likely to succeed in making his life there hell, such that he would love to shake the dust off his feet and get out of town.

But where would he go? I can think of a few colleges that would love to have him on faculty. Ten years from now, will they? Besides, what about the younger orthodox Christian scholars who, unlike Tony Esolen and James Davison Hunter, don’t have tenure? If they disclose their faith commitments, they may not be let into the institution in the first place. The Benedict Option says the church has to reckon with this present reality, which is only going to get much worse in the near future.

I think one big conceptual difference between the way I see things and the way folks like Hunter and my friend Ryan T. Anderson see things is that I am more pessimistic than they are about where we are and what can be meaningfully accomplished under current conditions. I don’t believe faithful presence within is possible without massively more formation and discipleship than churches offer now — nor do I believe that faithful presence itself will be possible in many institutions for much longer. Though they are still important to make, I don’t believe rational arguments help us much these days.

When I think of the position of orthodox Christians in this culture, I think of the monks and the nuns of Norcia, kneeling on the piazza by the statue of St. Benedict, praying in the presence of the ruins of the basilica brought down by the earthquake over the weekend. The façade is all that remains; the rest is rubble. We are left with only our faith, our memories of what was, and each other. What do we do next? How do we begin the rebuilding, a project that will take decades, maybe even centuries? That is the question before us.

Here’s a point to consider, especially in light of my correspondent’s commentary. Because earthquakes earlier this year made the basilica and the monastery unstable, the monks had the good sense to flee outside the town’s walls and set up camp in tents on the side of a nearby mountain. This is why they are alive today. If the monks had been maintaining a faithful presence within the basilica on Sunday morning when the earthquake struck, they would all be dead.

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47 Comments To "The Benedict Option & ‘Faithful Presence Within’"

#1 Comment By Jon.Rakerson On October 31, 2016 @ 10:14 am

You make a profound point at the end there, Rod: maintaining a faithful presence in the right things is more important than a faithful presence in anything.

That point will be lost on most Christians.

I remain pessimistic on the Benedict Option – and maybe I just need to read the book – because I want a clear model for when the world completely ceases to tolerate and instead becomes voracious.

It will sooner or later. I do not believe there will be a renaissance – we’ve reached our highwater cultural impact mark and (here’s where my Evangelicalism will punch through) I believe we’re heading into the End Times.

That’s something only the grace of Jesus Christ will sustain, Benedict Option or no.

#2 Comment By bmj On October 31, 2016 @ 10:21 am

I believe that a few of the “faithful presence from within” institutions here in the States have been forced to re-assess at least parts of their strategy based on the current conditions on the ground. That’s not say that they have pulled stakes and headed for the hills, but they do understand the terms of engagement have changed, and therefore our engagement as faithful Christians will need to change, too.

Here’s a point to consider, especially in light of my correspondent’s commentary. Because earthquakes earlier this year made the basilica and the monastery unstable, the monks had the good sense to flee outside the town’s walls and set up camp in tents on the side of a nearby mountain. This is why they are alive today. If the monks had been maintaining a faithful presence within the basilica on Sunday morning when the earthquake struck, they would all be dead.

I will admit that I don’t carefully follow your posts on the monks, but I assume they do still interact with their larger community, even if they are living “outside the walls” as it were, right? If so, I think this is critical in helping folks understand the root of the Benedict Option–the Church needs to understand that the world has changed, and that means the Church must respond to those changes to protect itself (that is, it needs to help people see those changes, and what they mean). But it doesn’t change the mission of the Church: to be the presence of Christ’s kingdom in the world. We can’t just sequester ourselves because that isn’t what Christ asks of us.

[NFR: Yes, they do, though their interaction is limited by their status as cloistered. They don’t go outside the monastery more than they have to. Yesterday I saw video of three priest-monks (most of the monks are not priests) running, literally, through the streets of Norcia after the quake, searching for people who might need Last Rites. To be clear, lay Christians are not called to live in seclusion and separation to the same degree as monastics. But there is a lot more to the Benedict Option model than simply putting up a wall and calling it the Benedict Option. What distinguishes the monk is not that he lives behind a wall, but what he does behind that wall, with the silence and space his separation creates for him. — RD]

#3 Comment By John Turner On October 31, 2016 @ 10:31 am

I agree with your comments.

Regarding James Davison Hunter’s writing, my 2013 book, “Living the Full Bible: Embracing God’s Vision for Your Life, Your Church, and the World,” includes mostly positive and but some negative responses to Hunter.

They are summed up in my annotated bibliography:
Hunter, James Davison. “To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World.” New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2010. This is an important book challenging the political idolatries of the Christian Right, the Christian Left, and (surprisingly) the Neo-Anabaptists. Hunter’s alternative to these movements is for Christians to involve themselves creatively in making a positive shalom difference at all levels of our cultural institutions. His analysis of passages from Jeremiah and 1 Peter is helpful. He develops his own positive contribution to our thinking on pp.225-286. While I agree with him about the Christian Right and Left, I am not persuaded that the Neo-Anabaptist efforts are either idolatrous or futile, more like creative models, albeit longshots to produce significant change. Still, Hunter’s instinct to bet on working from within the cultural system in all its manifestations seems to be one viable way for Christians to make an impact. See the book by Amy L. Sherman, “Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship fo the Common Good,” for creative ways to use our vocation for the common good. Her approach can include both Hunter’s proposals and those of the Neo-Anabaptists. Interestingly, both Hunter and Sherman are in Charlottesville, VA.

Sherman’s book, by the way, can apply within institutional systems, but also outside the existing systems.

In retrospect, the events of the last three years show how hard it will be to work within the system, and this trend makes the Neo-Anabaptist way and the Benedict Option way seem more attractive… and more practical.

#4 Comment By Caleb Bernacchio On October 31, 2016 @ 10:40 am

One additional problem is that we have accepted a certain dichotomy in our thought about politics. Broadly, we suppose that the sole aim of politics is ensuring that the state legally codify traditional norms and values – concerns about marriage, abortion, euthanasia, etc. that are very important. And likewise, we assume that anyone is does not vote, and organize, and try to attain these goals has failed to be a good citizen and a good Christian.

But these goals are unfortunately unrealistic in today’s context. It seems that what has been done politically, i.e. the religious right, is no longer working and has not worked for some time. The nomination of Trump is a reductio ad absurdum.

We should pay attention to MacIntyre’s comments in the new Prologue to After Virtue:

“This critique of liberalism [presented in After Virtue] should not be interpreted as a sign of any sympathy on my part for contemporary conservatism. That conservatism is in too many ways a mirror image of the liberalism that it professedly opposes… And, where liberalism by permissive legal enactments has tried to use the power of the modern state to transform social relationships, conservatism by prohibitive legal enactments now tries to use that same power for its own coercive purposes. Such conservatism is as alien to the projects of After Virtue as liberalism is. And the figure cut by present-day conservative moralists, with their inflated and self-righteous unironic rhetoric, should be set alongside those figures whom I identified in chapter 3 of After Virtue as notable characters in the cultural dramas of modernity: that of the therapist, who has in the last twenty years become bemused by biochemical discoveries; that of the corporate manager, who is now mouthing formulas that she or he learned in a course in business ethics, while still trying to justify her or his pretensions to expertise; and that of the aesthete, who is presently emerging from a devotion to conceptual art. So the conservative moralist has become one more stock character in the scripted conversations of the ruling elites of advanced modernity.”

Although harsh in his rhetoric it is hard to avoid the conclusion that these words are even more fitting after countless religious leaders endorsed Donald Trump. But what if this is not the only option? Macintyre suggests another option besides that of the “conservative moralists,” what he calls “a politics of self-defense.” What if the realization that our communities are in shambles is not accompanied by political quietism as has seemingly been called for by Michael Hanby and Russell Moore among others?

What is needed is an articulation of a political philosophy and political practice that is aimed at promoting subsidiarity, preserving the integrity of our communities – for instance, navigating the debate between individual and communal rights at a local level. Likewise a discourse about the economy and publicly provided safety nets can promote jobs and welfare in our communities without ripping them apart. The same concerns apply at the level of institutions especially religious hospitals and schools. Why is it not possible to to engage in a politics of self-defense – that might have a lot in common with many liberal approaches to politics – while focusing shape the state to protect and promote our ‘thick’ associations and communities where religious and moral traditions are cultivated. In short why are our options either MacIntyre’s conservative moralism or religious quietism?

#5 Comment By Christopher Landrum On October 31, 2016 @ 10:49 am

But where would he go? I can think of a few colleges that would love to have him on faculty. Ten years from now, will they? Besides, what about the younger orthodox Christian scholars who, unlike Tony Esolen and James Davison Hunter, don’t have tenure?

Do oRTHODOX Christian plumbers, truck-drivers, oil rig workers, insurance salesmen, bank tellers, and feel the same urgency?

Or is this only a worry for Christians affluent enough to attend universities in the first place?

Do the forgotten citizens of NOLA’s Ninth Ward or Houston’s Fifth Ward really feel the same threat from SJWs and MTDs as those who live in the Woodlands and send their sons and daughters to private universities like Baylor?

It is an unfair simplification to be sure, but, as an outsider, it often seems like in America, the more complex and rigid the theology one believes, the more money one’s got in their wallet.

#6 Comment By John On October 31, 2016 @ 11:02 am

‘Hunter — a scholar I greatly respect, and whose work has taught me a lot — criticized what he perceived to be the withdrawal element of the Ben Op, positing instead his own model of “faithful presence within” institutions of the world.’

Hunter’s alternatives as you report them miss the point. Setting up Christian institutions and groups is not surrender, but combat. Suppose a country started to form groups of men that were subject to military discipline and that engaged in military training. Is that a kind of withdrawal from conflict and surrender to the enemy? Obviously not. And the alleged ‘faithful presence within the institutions of the world’ is obviously a retreat and surrender.

#7 Comment By T.S.Gay On October 31, 2016 @ 11:17 am

The Ben Op book should dispel superficial understandings. We appreciate you saying some things things in this post that resonate strongly with us. One that the Ben Op is your way of saying the church being what the church should be. Also that the Ben Op is most likely somewhere between Hunter’s faithful presence and neo-Anabaptist categories.(and to be clear, the latter by Hunter means being a purity culture apart from the mainstream). Also, that you are more pessimistic about current realities.
Just thinking about church( or for that matter teams, clubs, businesses, gangs, or families) we like the philosophy of Patrick Lencioni. He’s known for business, especially team management. Philosophy quote…”It’s as simple as this. When people don’t unload their opinion and feel like they’ve been listened to, they won’t really get on board”. Now this blog has consistently showed the ability to do this, and a similar community would be functional. But think about many a church( and any dysfunctional group)….not so much.

#8 Comment By Colonel Blimp On October 31, 2016 @ 11:17 am

There is no dropping out of our centralised society. You may want to withdraw from the world, but those in control of it are not minded to be reciprocal; that is the criticism that Ryn made. The administrative state is not like the Mormons; it will not go away politely if you ask it to leave. Surely, you not understand that? One can indeed scorn involvement in the secular world, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself in the same fix as Dustin Hoffmann when the goons catch him the bathroom in Marathon Man. He bolts the door, smashes the window and yells for help, but still ends up being carried off to face Larry Olivier in dentist mode. The question is whether you are indifferent to facing that situation, or whether you would willingly labour in the world to prevent that happening. That means politics. It means forming alliances with those who disagree with you on other points, but that is part of living in the real world that God has made. Even Christ was prepared to pay the Temple Tax for form’s sake, and St Paul was willing to use his status as a Roman citizen to prevent being whipped.

Sure, politics is not salvation but neither can the things that fall under ‘politics’ be ignored. They never were during the long ages of Christendom. Furthermore, in so far as I understand the Benedict Option, I cannot see how it relates to mission, which is an inescapable part of the faith. That doesn’t mean we all have to become roving preachers; mission comes in many forms. Yet mission demands involvement with the world – that is the point of it. It was Israel’s failure to be the light of the world, its commitment to hiding its light under a bushel that led Christ to be so scathing of his own people. Furthermore, early medieval monasticism understood this, because the monastic life was a vital facet of missionary work in many heathen lands.

Has the faith made hideous compromises with the secular mentality? Has it turned itself into a replicant of the liberal mind? Is a purposeful renunciation of our materialistic culture absolutely necessary? In all cases yes. It will be a hard task indeed to renew the Church’s sense of itself. However, I do not believe it can be achieved while at the same time isolating oneself from the world itself. That is not what the Church can do. You may say I have misconceived what you mean. Yet it seems a common misconception.

#9 Comment By ScottC On October 31, 2016 @ 11:19 am

One note Rod, I think that Hunter’s “faithful presence” concept was as much (if not more) about cultural institutions as about individuals. I think that Paste magazine was given as an example as an institution that maintained a Christian witness while participating within the culture. I would suggest that the upcoming film Hacksaw Ridge might be another example.

#10 Comment By Ben H On October 31, 2016 @ 11:34 am

Maybe by ‘Benedictine Option’ he was referring to the liqueur? You can see why a Baptist would have a problem with that.

#11 Comment By Fran Macadam On October 31, 2016 @ 11:46 am

” At the risk of sounding nit-picky, it irritates me when people dismiss the Ben Op but don’t even get the name right. That tells me that they only have a superficial understanding of what I’m talking about.”

Kind of like how referring to “Revelations” casts skepticism about what is offered thereafter.

The thinness of Christendom faith doesn’t get revealed until there is a crisis which demands either compromise or sacrifice. Note well that Jesus’ own words which we are bound to take authoritatively warn that Christians will always be few. That’s always been revealed as true – especially if we learn from recent Nazi Germany, where the putative Christian churches offered almost no resistance, despite supposed Christian universality and state sponsorship. Under such circumstances, whether fair or foul, the command is to be salt and light to the majority. We can’t do that if we are either a MTD “church,” or a War Jesus patriot one either. The latter, discredited by the Bush administration, has hastened the overt rejection of public Christian influence – while ironically doubling down on the warfare state and the proliferation of every sinful appetite, individual and corporate.

#12 Comment By red6020 On October 31, 2016 @ 11:49 am

I don’t think the professor’s comments are fair to Claes Ryn. Even a cursory review of his past articles (in The American Conservative no less) would reveal he doesn’t believe what the professor attributes to him.

There’s “Not By Politics Alone” and the title says it all. “The New Jacobins” which critiques the “conservatives” that believe only a return to the “Original Meaning!” of the Constitution is needed to save the Republic and ignore the “moral and cultural preconditions” in favor of their abstract principles. Among other writings and speeches.

Does acknowledging sound like “a refusal to admit defeat” of a “political strategy”? How ‘bout putting “mammon or Caesar ahead of God”? A “blindness to the anti-religion of the Zeitgeist”? Etc.?

That doesn’t sound like a reasoned argument, just invective, ad hominem attacks and rank calumny. It’s fascinating to see an attack like this (and I can’t call it anything but an attack) speak to the “other side” about “removing the logs from our own eyes”. As the professor admits, the Benedict Option is really just “being the Church”. Maybe we can assume that others are misunderstanding the name and the rhetoric of “BenOp” promoters rather than assuming interlocutors are whoring themselves out to “mammon or Caesar” and are “hypocrites in the eyes of the world”?

Is everything the fault of other people who just “refuse” to understand what you’re saying? When people notice, agree, and point out the same points you’re trying to make but still criticize your proposal, can’t we assume you have a messaging problem? Isn’t a little charity called for here?

I don’t like the rhetoric of many promoters of the “Benedict Option” and this letter is a great example. And if such tactics are prominent than why would I wish to associate myself with such a name?

[NFR: I have no problem with people who criticize and reject what I’m saying. My beef is with people who reject it without apparently making an attempt to understand the claims I’m making. Funny in Ryn’s case, because in the presentation I delivered with him in the audience, I quoted one of his past essays, to support my thesis. — RD]

#13 Comment By Bernie On October 31, 2016 @ 11:53 am

I agree with this, particularly: “The Benedict Option would be necessary even if Republicans held the White House and Congress, and gay marriage had never come about.”

The Ben Op is necessary no matter who wins the Presidency. I opt for the candidate I believe will do the least damage to religious freedom. It is one thing to take measures to preserve and defend our faith; it is quite another to invite the enemy’s power to intensify its attack on the Kingdom of God. This is disordered desire.

#14 Comment By jt On October 31, 2016 @ 11:54 am

Rod
Forgive me if you’ve said it before, when is your rewrite or new edition of the Benedict Option coming out? Maybe a post about the book that you can link to every time you write about it?

[NFR: The book will be published (for the first time!) on March 14, 2017. I keep linking to it because you can pre-order it on Amazon.com. — RD]

#15 Comment By Oakinhou On October 31, 2016 @ 11:55 am

Let me try to respectfully express what I see as a difference between (most) American Christians, and the monks in Norcia. It hinges on what “living as a Christian” means.

The Norcia type Christians(laypeople as well as the actual monks) live themselves a Christian life. Their witnessing is mostly through works, through their own silent prayer, though acts of mercy and good will towards strangers. Through wholesomeness. Very little, of any, of their effort, is dedicated towards arguing for why others should embrace a Christian life. Even less effort is devoted into managing the political process to mandate everybody live a Christian life.

In general, American Christians (with millions of exceptions, but nevertheless, what is perceived as a majority), perhaps due to the Protestant skepticism of Works, understand witnessing not as acting in your own life, but as preaching to others. With the conviction that you are saved, there is nothing else you need to do in your life to make you a Christian. Instead, you believe your duty to be towards moving those who you believe are not saved, towards salvation. If they refuse to do willingly, use the political process to mandate they live a Christian life.

On an abstract level, there is nothing wrong -on the contrary- with wanting to bring others towards salvation. On a practical level, it’s hubris. It disrespects the other’s freedom and moral agency, and their own ideas about Truth and salvation.

This is what I think the Norcia monks are doing:

“Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words”

[NFR: If you think the monks aren’t evangelical, you aren’t paying attention. They want everyone to come to Christ. It’s just that they don’t see their vocation within the broader church as one of preaching. — RD]

#16 Comment By ceemac On October 31, 2016 @ 11:57 am

You, Esolen, and Chaput (sp?) all have books coming out in the near future.

I own Haerwas and Willimon’s books Resident Aliens and the followup Where residents Aliens Live.

I also have Hauerwas’s book After Chirstendom that came out between those two books. As well as Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible From American Captivity.

I seem to recall that Hauerwas/Willimon noted that Resident Aliens was criticized by the Left and ignored by the Right.

I am wondering what the new books will offer that cannot be found in the Hauerwas/Willimon material?

[NFR: I haven’t read all of Hauerwas and Willimon’s books, but I openly acknowledge the debt I owe to the excellent “Resident Aliens” in my book. You might say that mine is “Resident Aliens” for the Right. — RD]

#17 Comment By DRK On October 31, 2016 @ 12:05 pm

What, exactly, are the actions being taken against Anthony Esolen? I looked all over the net and couldn’t find a reference, though I found lots of his columns. He’s certainly a very prolific writer. He has tenure, right? That would make him tough to fire.

#18 Comment By seven sleepers On October 31, 2016 @ 12:06 pm

Well, I invite you all to consider a similar but different answer. Let’s just focus on two comments in this article, and two that are not. The first, a poll from Gallup, June 2016 : 89% of Americans “believe in a God”, 9/10. Exact question was asked by Eurobarometer in 2010 and France, answer? 27%. Our former cultural partner, the UK, 37%.

So, the thing is, Americans ARE believers. America does not have a faith problem. America, as Mr. Douthat pointed out in his book, “Bad Religion: A Nation of Heretics”, has a doctrinal and confessional issue. Always has, and perhaps, after the submarining of Catholicism from its pinnacle in 1950’s America, always will. America’s invidiualist attitiude to scripture will continue to fracture and undermine the unity of Christians. How will these doctrinal chasms that separate us affect the BenOp when the rubber meets the road?

On to the comments from the article. The first comment:

“Excessive media consumption is a problem not only because of Hollywood indoctrination, but even more because it rots the brain into passivity and lassitude.”

This is hugely important. And I think it speaks to the professors point about an age gap. I have noticed that the older one is, the choice in entertainment, and consumption, is controlled and deliberate, ever moderated by responsibilities and a penchant for the stuff you liked as a kid. Along with this, older people cannot accept a vision of American culture where popular culture is the synonymous term. That is, hear me out, the oldest people around still have a firewall between TV (Media) and Life.

That is NOT the case at ALL, anymore.

The younger the person is, the more you can be certain there is absolutely no gap whatsoever between this word “Media” and the once separate thing called “Life”. They are one and the same. From birth. They begin their lives on their parents facebook page, and spend the rest of the life updating. They watch TV only when the show is about other people living. Otherwise, they watch youtube and other streaming services of people just living. Media is Life. Concomitantly, to be absent from media is Death.

Don’t believe me? Delete your daughter’s instagram. Delete a friend on Facebook. Take your son’s ipad away.

The key point is this: TV has destroyed culture, and the followup media is just picking over the corpse. The dangers of media consumption were broadcast far and wide in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Never hear that anymore, do you? Yes sure, you hear, there is bad Content. But you never hear, the media ITSELF is the problem. And since Media is Life, and the Media hates Christianity at worst, or at best is numbingly silent about it, both attitudes reinforce the same outcome in younger people: Religion either doesn’t matter or is positively toxic.

Think about this; you can go YEARS without hearing the word “God”, unless someone sneezes, is shocked, pleasantly or otherwise, or a tragedy, political speech or sporting event is occurring. And even these moments are mostly trivial.

So the very thing which we are using as a barometer of our neighbors beliefs and the health of our culture considers religion bad for business, bad for advertisement, and just bad. Or totally inconsequential and worthy of total media blackout. Christianity is completely absent from traditional media unless a butt of a joke. Older people didn’t mind that, since TV went off at 11, there wasn’t much on, homes were smaller and less accommodating to the growing horde of sheltered binge watchers, and social networks were more homogenous and therefore, yes, “safe”. Oh, and they were real.

If you have been to Italy, you notice two things quickly; the first is the TV programming and signal is absolutely AWFUL. And then you look out the window and notice, maybe for the first time, that there is life outside. People are just….out. Walking, sitting, standing, strolling, talking, together. Together. Eating. Laughing. Living. I do not think these two things are coincidental.

The older people who still rely on Elk’s clubs, and Church life and friends, that’s all great. But the young people are suffocating under a media that is waging Total War against them, by silence and occasional outburst, and growing political action and heretic hunting. For these young people, any culture whose only presence on the national media is John F’n Hagee one heretical shouty hour a week, is a culture you need to barricade yourself against, not just wag a finger at.

As Gil Scott Heron once declared, the question remains, will the revolution be televised?

Fortunately, traditional media is losing its grip. The internet is leading to a balkanization, and empowers people to consume the information they want. Maybe, you will see a generation of readers rise, who disregard TV and monolithic platforms which blackout Religion, and instead BenOp… virtually. This, to me, seems very likely.

#19 Comment By chasachip On October 31, 2016 @ 12:16 pm

I just believe that you folks are a little wrong on some of this, and I can’t ferret it out. In fact, I think someone, including maybe Russell Moore or maybe me, isn’t quite understanding the mission statement of the office he holds that was created in 1997. I don’t believe that it is to be interpreted as a directive to have Southern Baptists get out of the political arena. To me, it says just the opposite. The book of Romans talks about how to live under the authority of a government. Well, in this country, the people are the government, and the people include multiple millions of Christians who have a responsibility to participate in the political process at all levels and bring to bear their beliefs. But if the real issue is the fact that many evangelicals have supported Trump, again, go to Romans. We have a responsibility to participate. We will support someone. More and more people seem to be of the mindset, just mellow out, have a little more pink Floyd mellow, lets the lights be dim at church, put the blue jeans on and venerate however it makes you feel good. There is a lot to the old hymns and music. The focus is on God a bit more to my liking with the older ways. And believe me, I’ve walked both roads.

#20 Comment By Fran Macadam On October 31, 2016 @ 12:30 pm

What is taken as the visible church by the world, has lost credibility through identification with all our discredited secular institutions. A lamp needs to be lit that will shine through the darkness and be seen, which effort will come to fruition through real faithfulness.

#21 Comment By AJ On October 31, 2016 @ 12:50 pm

It’s also a way to stay true to our principles, unlike the sell-outs to the current nominee, which leads to….Where your treasure is, there your heart is also. Moreover, no man can serve two masters, and it’s pretty clear that a bunch of the older culture warriors have put mammon or Caesar ahead of God…

This kind of holier-than-thou Pharisaical approach is more of a rabbit trail that is completely unrelated to all considerations of the Benedict Option and only serves to divide at a time when we should be looking to unite. That is not to say I agree with Ben Carson’s reasoning, but reality is we are in a binary political system with two deeply flawed candidates, neither of which exemplifies Christian principles. So, unless a Christian is choosing not to vote, or to do what amounts functionally to the same thing, vote for one of the minor party candidates, they are stuck with one or the other. In the name of charity we should extend some understanding to Christians who have grappled with the troubling moral issues of both candidates and have chosen to vote in this election, even if you do not agree with the choice that they came up with.

That being said, I have to say that most of those making these kind of charges are looking out a very small window of what they term “Christian morality” and in that respect have much in common with those they criticize, more than they will admit. If you have ever once acknowledged in your blog what is common knowledge by many other writers on TAC, that a Hillary Clinton presidency poses a grave threat to the world order if she makes good on her threats, I have not seen it. Caught up in the pettiness of the politics of Peyton Place, you all on both sides of this issue miss the big picture over and over and over. You, the Ben Carsons and the Russell Moores on both sides of the equation, squinting out the small window while a bomb hangs suspended in the air over the house.

War, world war. You think you have abridged religious freedom now? Just you wait until all Hillary breaks loose and the world lies in flames. A plague on both your houses.

#22 Comment By Josh K On October 31, 2016 @ 1:25 pm

The debate over how much engagement with the wider culture is the right amount isn’t easy to resolve. It’s the central line of division within the Orthodox Jewish world and inspires a LOT of passion and division.

On one flank, you have various Hassidic groups who go so far as to wear distinct clothing. On the other flank, we’re currently losing the left wing of the Modern Orthodox movement to a variety of MTD (google the controversy over “Open Orthodoxy”).

I don’t think there is one right answer either by the way. There is a role for a more inward focused part of the community, and a more outward focused part working in tandem to balance each others’ weaknesses and excesses.

#23 Comment By Dan On October 31, 2016 @ 1:38 pm

If needing to explain the need for religious liberty, I found it effective against liberals to say, “I don’t wasn’t to punish the Amish for being different.” There’s something just non-threatening enough about them that a partisan tripwire remains untripped and the issue can be talked about with more nuance. I imagine growing closer to the Amish in practice would be “surrender” in many people’s book, but maybe there’s something that could be learned from their conduct that makes the larger culture more willing to grant them concessions rather than include them in the SJW witch hunt. Or maybe it’s just that the stories so routinely told in our culture – including the trope of the hypocrite priest – don’t include the Amish. They get filed into a different category in the popular mind.

#24 Comment By gk On October 31, 2016 @ 2:34 pm

“…????? ??????? ?????? ???? ? ???? ?? ?ℎ? ?????? ?????????? ? ????????, ?? ?ℎ??ℎ ℎ? ?????????? ?ℎ?? ℎ? ?????? ‘?ℎ? ??????????? ??????’ ?? ? ???????.”

The BenOp is not a ‘mistake.’ It’s that it already exists in the Catholic Church.

#25 Comment By Mark On October 31, 2016 @ 2:47 pm

I think we need to be careful in weighing Dr. Hunter’s overall argument. To Change The World is not the only book he wrote, previous to that was his book The Death of Character which points to the necessity of local communities in the development and cultivation of moral character and virtues. That volume may comport better with what Rod is trying to accomplish with his Benedict Option.

While I wait for Rod’s book, in the back of my mind, I keep wondering how the Benedict Option is so different from the old fundamentalism of the fifties and sixties with their hyper-separation…Is Bob Jones University a sort of a Benedict Option?

#26 Comment By Publius On October 31, 2016 @ 2:56 pm

seven sleepers (excellent nic)

“The key point is this: TV has destroyed culture, and the followup media is just picking over the corpse.”

Correct as far as it goes. To cultivate, you have to be active. There is cultivation, however, in the online world of gaming. It’s not cultivating the things I would like to see cultivated, but it is a strange new global demos that is self-conscious about how it develops. It is not entirely passive, as TV was.

Don’t construe this as a defense. I’m just lodging an observation that “screen-time” in the gaming world does represent something different than the anti-culture of passive television. My preference, like yours, is to get the kids back outside.

#27 Comment By Perichoresis On October 31, 2016 @ 2:56 pm

Caleb Bernacchio: “Why is it not possible to to engage in a politics of self-defense – that might have a lot in common with many liberal approaches to politics – while focusing shape the state to protect and promote our ‘thick’ associations and communities where religious and moral traditions are cultivated.”

It is, which is why future political efforts of orthodox Christians should be to throw support to candidates and parties that emphasize federalism and libertarian approaches to culture war issues (not necessarily the Libertarian Party, but in line with what some call the “Leave Me Alone” coalition). It may not involve running many candidates for office, but instead block voting along the lines of orthodox Jews in New York, who have been fairly effective at guarding their rights.

#28 Comment By Potato On October 31, 2016 @ 3:13 pm

Do oRTHODOX Christian plumbers, truck-drivers, oil rig workers, insurance salesmen, bank tellers, and feel the same urgency?

Or is this only a worry for Christians affluent enough to attend universities in the first place?

It might be mostly academics, hence the emphasis on universities in this blog. Lawyers, bankers, ordinary business people, are seldom fired because of their views on same sex marriage.

[NFR: You must not know what’s going on inside legal culture. And FYI, a senior banker I know at one of the country’s most important financial institutions believes it’s just a matter of time before he is asked to sign something he cannot in good conscience sign, as a condition of keeping his job. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, corporate executives, and those involved in the “helping professions” are all on the front lines. — RD]

#29 Comment By Will Harrington On October 31, 2016 @ 4:39 pm

Col Blimp

As a Christian who knows the history of my people, there is only one answer I can make to your criticism. That answer is “so what?”. Do you seriously believe that we will do any less than those Christians who lived and died under Communism, or Islam, or Roman paganism? I really must remind myself to take a page from our Copt brothers and sisters and get a cross tatoo on my wrist as a reminder if what may be asked of me.

#30 Comment By Nate On October 31, 2016 @ 4:55 pm

Rod,

These points are not insightful. Those people who would seriously consider a Benedict Option are well aware the Church has been compromised and has been for many years. The same people also have a deep understanding of how bad things are more broadly in culture and politics. Your thesis is wrong because the Left and its puppets in the State will never allow you to live out a Benedict Option. At best, an older adult may be able to squeeze by but that persons children will not be allowed to escape their ideological grasp. The only option with any chance of success is to fight and destroy the Left and its allies, even if the odds of victory are slim. The first step in that process is to stop supporting them with your money.

#31 Comment By Alan On October 31, 2016 @ 5:08 pm

4) A blindness to the anti-religion of the Zeitgeist. What you really have to see is that most younger people have substituted a new religion for Christianity. MTD as you note is one way of viewing it. But for a lot of people, SJW is itself a religion–they are not really willing to tolerate, but rather go on witch-hunts to purify themselves of heretics in their midst. Lots of people think they are Catholic or Protestant but are really MTD or SJW. And the subversion from within the faith is in some ways worse–traitors and infiltrators are more dangerous than uniformed combatants.

This point is simply outstanding. It’s very frustrating to be involved in a church that was very sound theologically, only to see it hijacked by a SJW.

#32 Comment By JZ On October 31, 2016 @ 5:14 pm

When I read the “faithful presence within” critique, I always come back to the same conclusion. Yes of course we need to maintain relationships with the world. How could we not? But that’s hardly the point. The point is HOW do we maintain that faithful presence? When you combine the fact that the world is post and often anti Christian with the weakness of the human condition, how can anybody argue against creating space outside worldly institutions whereby we create Christian community and culture? I admit my weakness…I am not a living saint. I cannot remain faithful by myself. It’s simple common sense really. We are what we eat so to speak. If what I consume every day is American culture, I will become a product of that culture.

#33 Comment By JonF On October 31, 2016 @ 9:33 pm

Re: nd FYI, a senior banker I know at one of the country’s most important financial institutions believes it’s just a matter of time before he is asked to sign something he cannot in good conscience sign, as a condition of keeping his job.

And because he believes this it’s necessarily true? Since when have bankers (!) been recipients of papal-type infallibility?
I worked at a major Wall Street firm for eight years– and at ground level, not in some ivory tower executive suite. Sure, there was a bunch of hippy-dippy stuff about diversity– but it was all a mile wide and an inch deep: the real sacred cause was Money. I never saw or heard anything on the diversity front I could not easily affirm (since for one thing, “minority rights” are really just human rights that apply to us all). And frankly given the ill repute in which these firms have fallen– with some reason let it be said– as a result of various scandals, some ongoing, I have to wonder just how tender your correspondent’s conscience can be. Apparently he’s fine with all that crap, yet is oh-so-fretful about stuff that happens off the clock in people’s bedrooms. I am reminded here of one Charles Keating a supposed Christian of tender morals who hobnobbed with Mother Teresa and gave money to pro-Life causes– while bilking the S&L industry of millions. As I said above, the real god is Money. All else is just window dressing.

#34 Comment By anonymousdr On October 31, 2016 @ 9:44 pm

I think that the professor gets it. Too many older Catholics that I talk to are unwilling to admit defeat. Some of this is personal, as in, they were heavily invested in the aggiornamento. In their minds the problem isn’t with “On Eagles Wings” and co-opting secular political language, it is that our rendition of “On Eagles Wings” wasn’t good enough and we just need to practice it more.

We can’t ever go back, (and I think that a lot of the popular pre-VII piety might feel saccirine) but we can borrow what is best from the past and move forward.

As for signing oaths, maybe I am just unprincipled but I take all of the anti-discrimination stuff with a huge grain (a pile?) of salt. At work I promise not to discriminate against Muslims and Hindus, it doesn’t mean that I think they are correct theologically. So I’d go pretty far in what I will sign. The time to really fight is when we are asked to participate in intrinsically evil acts–I’ve heard scuttlebut that there are people who want all medical students (not OB/Gyns mind you) to participate in abortion. That is worth fighting for, going to jail for, potentially dying for.

#35 Comment By kenneth On October 31, 2016 @ 9:48 pm

“I don’t wasn’t to punish the Amish for being different…”

The Amish never launched an all-out no-quarter culture war to try to force the entire country to live by their beliefs. They are the epitome of the old American live-and-let-live tradition. For the Amish, “Freedom of religion” is not a claim to some supra-legal status. It’s actually about their personal and familial relationship with their god.

They don’t proselytize, they don’t go around engineering conflicts and spinning micro aggressions into epic persecution narratives. They don’t taken public office and then refuse to do their sworn duty or use their office to bully non-believers. Even as I cheer the final crumbling of Christendom, I can co-exist with Christians like the Amish any day of the week even though their theology is as radically incompatible with mine as is that of evangelicals or trad Catholics. They get pluralism. Even if the younger generation of SJWs decides they can’t live with the Amish, the Amish offer virtually no fingerholds for interference. They little economic vulnerability as they live simply, without credit and on land that stays in families. They run their own schools. They don’t give a damn about being accepted by the overculture.

#36 Comment By Fran Macadam On October 31, 2016 @ 10:30 pm

“For the Amish, ‘Freedom of religion’ is not a claim to some supra-legal status. It’s actually about their personal and familial relationship with their god.”

You’re wrong about this. Their ancestors emigrated from Europe precisely because they were persecuted and the special exemptions from bearing arms they’d been promised were violated. In this country, persecution has occurred as well, when conscription was demanded to fight in wars, against earlier legal promises.

#37 Comment By Brendan from Oz On October 31, 2016 @ 10:50 pm

A couple of stray thoughts re Media, Internet and the necessity for a Ben Op to have a cyberspace presence if Media/Internet is Life:

The basic problem as I see it is that reality is not based on Sophistry – but VR is. It is an entirely human creation. In cyberspace I can play a female elf witch or alien space thing or … only the imagination is limiting. Now, if technology is available for us to fake this in reality people whose imaginations have been nurtured on this will think “Way cool!” not “This is inhuman.”

As the Internet of Things renders everyday objects and tools extensions of VR, the realm of Sophistry expands and intrudes into reality. People are genuinely distressed when their phone won’t connect or breaks – and rightly so if it only works when connected. Continuous immersion in, and the expanding intrusion of, VR makes that world the one you have to pay attention to. If my money is bits and bytes, it matters. If I will be required to wear a VR headset or glasses for employment then immersion in VR will be almost total, and I work in IT already – work and entertainment and shopping for food, all via VR beamed right into my brain.

The disconnection from reality I see in corporate management, SJWs, Academia and such I ascribe to Sophistry/Pyrrhonism – but they don’t merely disconnect from reality, but plug into VR where gender and race really is a personal choice, and free games are malware to fleece the unwary. Economic Correctness meets Political Correctness perfectly, and takes over the world. I work as a programmer, and the number of people who seem to think VR is perfect and magical is frightening.

You simply cannot have Cyberspace that is made by the Divine – but did it have to be so totalitarian?

How the Ben Op fits in a world controlled by Cyberspace is beyond me – I just think it is a real issue.

#38 Comment By B.E. Ward On October 31, 2016 @ 11:11 pm

[NFR: The book will be published (for the first time!) on March 14, 2017. I keep linking to it because you can pre-order it on Amazon.com. — RD]

What about the BenOp Bookstore (Eighth Day)?

[NFR: Well, I hope everybody will buy from Eighth Day, and I will link to them once the book is out. There are strategic reasons for linking through Amazon. For one, Amazon pre-orders can launch the book onto the NYT Bestseller List on week of publication (that’s how “Little Way” hit the Times list). For another, TAC has a deal with Amazon in which the magazine, as a non-profit entity, gets a small portion of the money from each book sold through a particular link I post. — RD]

#39 Comment By Valerian On October 31, 2016 @ 11:20 pm

No one can accuse Mr. Esolen of shrinking from violent rhetoric. You get the sense he’d like to permanently rip the chair of the women’s studies department limb from limb. And it baffles me that the same man who produced such a beautiful and subtle translation of Dante (my favorite translation by far) could have also penned the “Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization,” a satire of pseudoscholarship that would embarrass the stupidest know-nothing.

#40 Comment By George On November 1, 2016 @ 1:09 am

As a tactic, retreat can be strategically advantageous–a way for an army to regroup and recover its forces, and plan for battle at a future date on its own terms as opposed to that of the enemy. On the other hand, a poorly executed retreat can leave valuable things vulnerable to one’s enemy and leave the enemy in an even stronger position to attack.

At this time, even unfortnately after reading many blog posts on the subject including this one, I really don’t know enough about the details of what is being called for to take a clear position on the Benedict Option (the “Benedictine Option” comment shows top scholars may also be very confused). But what Claes Ryan, Professor Hunter, and others expressing skepticism I think fear is the Benedict Option will only compound the problems of Christians as retreat from things like politics will leave leftists, SJWs, LBGTers, and the rest of their enemies even more in control of the levers of power and society’s institutions. At the same time, the other side, while in the driver’s seat, has its problems as well. The media for instance has a 6% approval rating. Universities are controlled by leftists sure, but they have also become ideological echo chambers which are failing in their core missions and which are incredibly expensive. Many other examples I could cite like this where there leftists control, but they are not operating well and vulnerable to challenge from the right.

#41 Comment By Traveler On November 1, 2016 @ 2:41 am

It’s too bad that I don’t have a really good handle as to how you define “the Church”. And I’m not trying to be particularly thick here, but some Christians of some stripes believe “the Church” to be the mystical body of Christ while others’ concept of “the Church” seems to be as far removed from any semblance of the mystical (or transcendent, if one prefers). I think that this is pivotal in understanding what different scenarios of the BenOp would or could entail.

In short, I don’t see how a Baptist and a Roman Catholic, let’s say, would have the same approach or maybe even have all of the same ultimate goals. All of which kind of comes back to what some other commenters have mentioned. We might all be Christian but we are a very diverse group. Or is the BenOp an exercise in ecumenism of sorts?

I mean, I would have to agree with commenter gk: the Ben Op already exists in the Catholic Church *as The Church Herself*.

#42 Comment By Michael in Oceania On November 1, 2016 @ 4:21 am

@anonymousdr:

At work I promise not to discriminate against Muslims and Hindus, it doesn’t mean that I think they are correct theologically. So I’d go pretty far in what I will sign. The time to really fight is when we are asked to participate in intrinsically evil acts–I’ve heard scuttlebut that there are people who want all medical students (not OB/Gyns mind you) to participate in abortion. That is worth fighting for, going to jail for, potentially dying for.

I agree. As far as I am concerned, if all an employer, or a professional association, asks me to do is to act in a courteous, respectful, professional manner with everyone, regardless of their beliefs or lifestyles, I have no problem with that.

However, if I am called upon to sign a statement to the effect that I am an “ally” or that is positively affirm LGBT-QUERTY lifestyles, then I have no choice but to say, “I am an Orthodox Christian. I affirm and abide by the teachings of Christ and His Church. I will not deny my Lord by signing this statement. Do your worst and let God judge!”

You will probably lose your job. Your faithless, materialistic wife will dump you, screw you over in divorce court, and turn your children against you with threats and lies. You may lose your liberty or even your life. So be it. None of this is new. What did Christ say anyway? “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

#43 Comment By Colonel Blimp On November 1, 2016 @ 6:09 am

Will Harrington

I know perfectly well that the blood of the martyrs is the supreme witness to the faith. But it is one thing to endure it when there is no other way; it is another thing to welcome it or to be completely indifferent to the fate of the world in which it happens. By your definition, St Augustine was wrong to urge Count Boniface to abandon his epicurean ways and fight the Vandals. Similarly, so were the Byzantine people, clergy and laity alike, in there fight against the Muslims. So were all the rebels of the Vendee who took up arms against the Jacobin fanatics bent on nothing less than the elimination of their faith. Do you have the authority to say they were all wrong? Again, it is indeed the supreme witness to endure martyrdom, but I cannot think that many martyrs have welcomed it and not wished the world had not come to this evil pass. Steeling oneself to face a martyr’s fate if needs be but fighting to prevent that eventuality (and the destruction of your people and your country besides) are not mutually exclusive.

#44 Comment By Captain P On November 1, 2016 @ 12:50 pm

Rod, the refusal or inability to understand the BenOp on the part of many conservatives is a classic case of cognitive dissonance. On one level, they realize that their paradigms of “culture war” or “cultural engagement” are not succeeding, but they are reluctant to adopt a new paradigm, and so merely lash out at the BenOp without giving a coherent, well-developed counter-paradigm.

#45 Comment By Seven sleepers On November 1, 2016 @ 10:32 pm

Yes, I agree with both of you. I think the best combination is unplugging and/or curating your media, like vr. Because the fact is, television is still dictating culture, not reflecting it. Yes new media is challenging, but only because people are so exhausted with tv. However tv is still the queen of the world. Just think, if next Sunday you woke up, there was a show like all of these “serious” Sunday morning political shows, with five theologians, discussing in depth Christian doctrine, followed by mass, or service, and shows that explicitly taught morals and values that clearly emanate from a Christian worldview, then the need for a benop would disappear. We think we think like the tv that is thinking for us, and then we do. The conversation on tv, is anti Christian or agnostic at best. Christians are hounded by this conversation, which is everywhere the same chorus. Echoing…and the only way to be heard is to mimic the chorus. As soon as you sing out of tune, and say Christ is Risen on live tv, you will be not on live tv right quick.

But I just ask that we not act falsely nostalgic. Charles Schulz said it was outrageous to the media execs to include Linus actually quoting a verbatim scripture on a prime time family show….about Christ Mass… in 1965. Western culture has been shedding Christianity like a false skin for 1k years. It’s just the very last hour. The lights are out. The pews are empty. The darkness has come. Like this comment, no one cares or knows a thing about Christ. Or Buddha. Or whoever. The media is life. And that life is death. And until the media is cowed, BenOp is not possible.

Look it. Tomorrow a thousand people can show up at Rods house, like some divine freaky scripture or a Stephen King novel. They can say to each other, “something drew me here. I dun know what”. And Rod could come out with a nine foot beard and a hover board. And lead the thousand people to a new town. And it was actually utopia!

Tomorrow there would be news of groping and one nights amd accusations of fraud and racketeering and then an hour long expose on the imminent danger of the crunchy cult!!! And wall to wall cult coverage. And every maner of calumny and libel. And they would chase us across the country and put us on trial and worse! Am I being hyperbolic?

Well, actually, that’s Mormon history for you. Without the nine foot beard and hover board.

Tv and tv culture is evil. Unless something is done about th culture of tv, VR and private gated online communities are the only way. Otherwise, Ben op is a non starter.

You can see this already happening with new social media companies that just started to explode where you can actually share your political opinions without fear of hr snooping, adversaries snapping, and friends defriending.

Rod, you need a forum. Easy to setup. I know I am typing for no good reason lol. No one goes back to old blog posts!! 🙂

#46 Comment By Seven sleepers On November 1, 2016 @ 10:43 pm

Absolutely agree captain p. It’s because the culture war is using weapons the culture gave them. Not a wise tactic. You cannot overcome a paradigm within the paradigm. The framework was described by Chomsky in manufacturing consent. Putin said the other day that they would love to have a CNN or a BBC or something similar with such massive propagandizing power. Sadly, he quipped, nuttchett!!

#47 Comment By Nonna On November 2, 2016 @ 4:51 pm

I think your final paragraph says it all.

RE “If they disclose their faith commitments, they may not be let into the institution in the first place.” – question is, are we prepared to let the very idea of such careers go, and the middle or upper class life that goes with them. I think we are going to suffer lots of disappointment if we continue to expect nice, middle class careers to be accessible at least in the civic, education, political or major corporate world.