Monday, July 6, 2015

The Benedict Option: It's Attractive, but We Shouldn't Do It!

Original Photo from Pixabay.
I’ve seen a few posts in the not-too-distant past regarding something called “The Benedict Option.” I was intrigued by the the idea, and I did some reading.

What is "The Benedict Option"?

As I understand it, the Benedict Option is to withdraw from politics, just like St. Benedict did when he came to Rome, found its morality crumbling before its ultimate collapse, and established the first monasteries.

It’s mostly a response by some members of the so-called “religious right” to the realization that they might no longer represent the way most Americans think about matters of morality (the “moral majority”), because the country’s morality has “crumbled” just as Rome’s did.

This is only a partial characterization, but these were the details that stood out to me. It means that we would focus our evangelistic eyes inward only, and don’t worry about everywhere else.

Why do people like it?

People are contemplating this for some of the same reasons that I essentially abandoned my personal Facebook account six months ago - not deleted, abandoned.

I found that no matter what the cultural battle of the moment was, it was being thrown into my face, and I was being dared to say something to somebody about it.

If I waded into the fray, I was maligned on every side. If I didn’t, I felt like I was being a bad Christian. Catch-22, right?

It’s an emotionally exhausting place to be.

You heard a joke about people’s feeds looking like war broke out between the Confederate Army and a Skittles factory? I heard about that joke, and I thought it was funny for about three seconds, and then I just got sad. They’re both important cultural battles, and I still don’t think I’d have had the emotional fortitude to wade into either one.
Why’s that? It is exhausting to fight every culture battle, especially when it seems that I can’t ever win.
On Facebook, the thing is that, most of the people that want to argue (with me, at least) are the ones who already have their minds made up. Feeling like they’ve won an argument makes them feel important. And somehow, I can’t seem to make myself believe that Facebook is the only place that’s true.
Moreover, standing up for your right to practice your religion in every area of your life is somehow always seen as the big mean religious right trying to push its religion down everyone else's throats. Having to also fight this perception kind of eats at you a little bit. Or at least, it eats at me.

In some ways, we are in a similar position to the early Church. Did you know that people really in Rome really believed that early Christians ate babies as some kind of barbaric initiation rite? Some early apologetic treatises actually dealt with disproving this lie, because it was so widespread.

The difference between today and the early Church is in our approach. For the early Church, the battle was understood as a battle for the truth. Nowadays, we are arguing in an environment of moral relativism, where the truth is widely perceived to be “relative”.

In some ways, we’ve bought into this, insofar as the argument is concerned, and we’re no longer trying to persuade people of THE truth, but only to accept ours as A possible truth.
This trouble and others have made some members of the religious right to ask the myopic question, isn’t it better to have a smaller, purer Church of people who actually want to be there, instead of people we have to fight with all the time?
I’ve found myself in a period of my life where I, too, have been asking this question. It doesn’t sound too bad, right? 

Jettisoning the part of my life where most of the culture battles were has made my life a lot easier, that’s for sure. My life is waay nicer now that I don’t have “Facebook drama” making things more complicated than they need to be.
But we can’t “Benedict” our way out of this. And there are a lot of reasons why not.
(1) An ostrich can’t escape from a lion by burying its head in the sand.
That lion? Oh, he's still there, and if the ostrich buries its head, it’s going to have a worse situation than an approaching lion on its hands very soon.
(2) We’re missionaries. Hiding from the issues makes us “bad” missionaries.
We need to be in the world so that people can see the light of Christ in our daily witness of living. They need to see it, and it’s our responsibility to put ourselves in a position to let them see it.
(3) Satan would love it if we gave up the culture to him.
It would be very convenient for him if he suddenly didn’t have the Church standing in the way of his poisoning as many souls as possible against the Lord.

We cannot cede the culture. In his love for us, God gave us the responsibility of going out to make disciples of all the nations. It’s a big job, but if we don’t do it, Satan will gladly take them for his own disciples.
So, the Benedict Option isn’t really a good one for the Church, because we have a job to do. So, what should we do?

In some ways, this is a complicated question, because you have to first deal with people like me who are just getting to feel kind of downtrodden about the culture and everything in it, and that is not a simple thing.

About a month ago, when I was initially outlining this post, I had a lot of ideas come to me in the middle of the night (quite literally), and I will be sharing some of those ideas next week.

Part 1    |    Part 2

No comments:

Post a Comment