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Benedict and The Borg

July 7, 2015

It has been quite a few posts since I last managed to work the Borg into my thoughts so I thought I’d give it another shot, this time paired with St. Benedict.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage it seems as if evangelicals and other religious conservatives are focusing on what should they do now and not so much on political answers.  Those who are calling for a political answer, usually a constitutional amendment of one type or another, are still out there but the majority of evangelicals seem to sense that this isn’t going to happen.  So what do we do now?

One option I see being discussed is the Benedict Option that was proposed by Rod Dreher a few years ago.  It draws from the work of St. Benedict who, at the dawn of the Dark Ages, withdrew from the evil world and founded monastic communities that eventually gave a model distinctly different than the world around them.  Their piety drew people to them.  Their charity as they ministered to others in ways that helped cement the virtues of the Christian faith in those troubled times was alluring.

Advocates of this model say that we are entering a new dark age, or at least a moral dark age, and that withdrawal, regathering, and humble service is perhaps the only valid way to respond.  My fellow evangelicals have been a little leery of the Benedict Option, in part because the idea is distinctly Catholic, but also because it reminds them of the retreat of the Pietism movement in early 20th century.  But pietism called for a full disengagement while Benedict never lost his focus on ministering in the wider world, he just led a time of regrouping and strengthening, as well as a time of moral preparation for the task ahead.

If this model has one weakness I think it is that most American evangelicals, myself included, live comfortable lives and we may find it difficult to switch to lives of self-denial, sacrifice, and humble witness.  Time will tell.  We certainly are good at speaking the language of being, or needing to be, a people who are distinctly different than the world even if it hard for an objective onlooker to actually see that difference in positive ways.

One thing we must do, whether we choose this path or not, is to set aside fear-based language.  Benedict saw clearly, and accurately, the horrific decline that was coming.  Yet none of his saying reflects the hand-wringing pessimism I hear now.  Ted Cruz called the decision by the Supremes “the worst day in American history.”  Hardly.  Setting aside D-Day and 9/11, it was not even the worst decision by the court; Dred Scott and Roe v Wade are decisions most evangelicals will agree were worse.

Yet many of my fellow evangelicals, while maintaining a “stiff upper lip, God is in control” narrative, seem to be engaged in some sort of informal contest to come up with the most colorful ways to describe the horrible situation now.  We are told that “they” will stop at nothing less than our full 100% agreement that same sex marriage is wonderful.  If that is true, a recent Barna poll shows evangelical agreement with the recent decision at 2% so they have a long way to go.  But the whole fear campaign makes me think they view those who differ with us as something akin to the Borg collective.  “You will be assimilated!”

So is the Benedict Option worth considering?  While it may need to be adapted in some considerable ways to fit our culture it surely is worth looking at.  At least it is a proposal to do something that makes some degree of sense.  And at the very least it gives us a place to hide when the Borg/Progressives start to hunt us down.


From → Christianity

  1. Peter permalink

    Where will the Benedict Option give us a place to hide when the Borg/Progressives start to hunt us down?

    • Sorry,Peter,perhaps I was not clear. Benedict founded monasteries for his monks to retreat into. I was trying to suggest (tongue in cheek) that our churches could mimic such places. Benedict’s monasteries were places of outreach but others (or our churches) could be places to retreat and shut the door.

  2. “If this model has one weakness I think it is that most American evangelicals, myself included, live comfortable lives and we may find it difficult to switch to lives of self-denial, sacrifice, and humble witness.”
    You got that right! We are are a pretty independent-minded lot, all wanting our own space, and we like to partake of most of the offerings of this old world. Then if there would be some strict rules, things could get sticky. Look how often people change churches because they aren’t happy with the rules, lack of rules, or incompatible fellow members. There are communes now — we knew an ex-Amish bishop who started one — and they tend to break up after a few years, as his did.

    • Correct. While I don’t think actual retreat in physical communities are practical in our interconnected world where so many of us have jobs and responsibilities, I can’t help but wonder if some sort of monastic attitude where we see our churches as places of study, contemplation and self-examination might be good. Part of this may be examining the way we spend our lives, our time and our money. The (rather idealistic) goal would be to equip us to engage the world with humility. We Americans are both enterprise oriented, seeing even things like evangelism as a task to be organized and implemented. We are also, as you say, independent. We choose our churches and the way we fit into them based on our own needs and desires.

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