Thursday, July 13, 2017

"The Benedict Option," Is It Too Dire?

The Summer Book Club that I facilitate read, "The Benedict Option-A Strategy For Christians In A Post-Christian Nation," by Rod Dreher. The book has received so much press, so many reviews and I was curious what the fuss was about, so I thought it was a good choice for the book club. I heard Cardinal Dolan talking about it on "Conversations with Cardinal Dolan," I saw a panel discussion about it on TV, with notable people including Rod Dreher, the author, discussing "The Option," so what's all the hype about.
Dreher who is a journalist, author and blogger who coined the expression, "The Benedict Option," has a rather dire assessment of modern culture and the West. He thinks we are about to enter another Dark Age (similar to what happened to Rome after the Roman Empire fell) and just as St. Benedict of Nursia in the 6th century withdrew from the chaos and maintained the Christian faith, building a community based on "principles of order, hospitality, stability and prayer," he thinks serious Christians will have to do the same.  He suggests that Christians of all denominations, consider withdrawing from the "fallen" society and forming intentional Christian communities based around monasteries, churches etc, to be in the company of like-minded, serious Christians.  He thinks the culture and all the ills associated with young people's obsession with modern technology (most especially their phones and the internet), and all the negative influences that abound in society along with the fact that young people are turned off to institutions (including organized religion) demands a new and creative response.
He thinks that most priests, ministers, pastors, religious and the hierarchy don't realize the perilous situation we're in. He wrote, "I have written "The Benedict Option," to wake up the church and to encourage it to act to strengthen itself, while there is still time."
He makes the startling claim that if current trends continue, our churches will soon be empty. Sounds like the apocalypse is coming or creeping in without too many noticing.
I'm not sure what to make of it. I do think he's onto something in that the Church needs new and creative ways which are practical (and work) to evangelize young adults and teens. They are the future of the Church and the Church needs to listen to them.
I've visited the community of Ave Maria in Naples, Florida many times. I've spoken to young adults there. They like it there. They are surrounded by like-minded young people and faith filled families. Its the only community I've ever visited that is close to what Dreher is suggesting. A lot centers around the beautiful Church and town square. (There is also a Catholic university there-Ave Maria University). According to what the young adults told me, some of the Catholic families have large families, with lots of children, so there is a lot of energy.
Is withdrawing the answer? Or do faith filled Catholics have to stay near their churches trying to build them up, make them more appealing to young people and newcomers. I'm not sure what the answer is but I do know that the book gave us a lot of interesting things to discuss.