Wednesday, September 19, 2018

First impressions of The Benedict Option

I've been hearing about this for some time, and after AVI said he was going to be teaching from it, decided maybe it was time to get and read it.

Thumbnail: Western Christendom is in free fall, and the West is already becoming hostile to orthodox Christianity. Christians need to build Christian communities to preserve the faith, encourage and sustain each other, and most importantly worship God. Most churches are not such communities.

His view that Western Christendom is in collapse seems accurate. He doesn't address the eventual side effects of this on the secular West, since that isn't his focus, but even the best case is pretty grim for everybody but the lucky elite. "What can't go on forever, won't."

He describes the desacralization of the West (from Charles Taylor) and the changes in philosophy that led us to our current mess. He doesn't suggest that there's an intelligence behind the changes, but I think there is.

In several places the book assumes that the local church can serve as a nucleus of community-building. Looking around at a few I know, that seems a bit optimistic, and even in the book he suggests that quite a few churches are past saving already. (Who knows what God will do, though.)

He emphasizes (rightly, I judge) the importance of liturgy--that's kryptonite to a number of people I know.

Understanding our history he calls vitally important--and that's something that's been on my mind for years. I noticed that the youth weren't getting much in the way of instruction, but a lot in the way of entertainment, and decided to do something about it. That's taken a lot longer than I hoped.

Teaching your children is vital too. He mentions some things I wish we had tried, and some things we did.

He doesn't know how these communities should organize. He describes a few, but recognizes that they will have to be organic, and probably vary somewhat depending on the circumstances. They will be local; there's no substitute for being there when somebody needs you.

Prayer, focus on God, and mutual support for living, working, and teaching will be the foundations of whatever finally works. Hold tight to the truth. Tell the positive story of sex and its importance, against the deluge of trivialization and nonsense we're immersed in. (Robot sex dolls? Really?)

Discipline yourselves--fasting, fasting from electronics, learning to appreciate manual labor. Recognize now that many professional jobs will be closed to orthodox Christians, and be ready to rework your life accordingly.

He comes back over and over to the monks at Nursa and how the principles of their community point to things we need.

My thoughts: To first order, as he points out himself, the Benedict Option is essentially trying to live a Christian life in community--something we should be doing no matter what the socio-political weather.

What should I be doing? Maybe following through with the education plan, assuming I haven't wasted my time on it. Collaring a few people in the church and talking with them about this. Maybe doing some legal research on mutual responsibilities in communities.

Most plans are going to fail, and sometimes dramatically, when people are too lax or too tight with the community rules. As little hierarchy as possible is probably best--otherwise you lose the organic nature of the community and wind up with an out-of-touch elite. Some is needed.

I need to think about this some more, and learn about what's been tried.

UPDATE: Another, much more detailed, take.

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