I promise I won’t turn this site solely into a Benedict Option commentary. I’ve just been pondering it a lot recently!
I notice a friend of mine commenting that the Benedict Option is a tacit admission of absolute defeat, the “path to Amish-like obsolescence”. I’ve seen a number of similar comments from within the mainstream of Catholic/Christian thought, but it’s interesting to see people outside that arena begin to pick up that theme as well.
It’s certainly an understandable point of view, but on both sides it stems from what I think is a fundamental misunderstanding of the mission and raison d’etre of Christianity. This is in short the idea that the ultimate success metric is that of dominance, or market-share, or something similar.
On the secular side, this is a popular conceit that you see hinted every time there is a mention of what the Church should do in order to appeal to new members, or how to stem the tide of those leaving. The Church is seen really as a kind of institution, or even a business. Whenever there is a position held by the Church which doesn’t jibe with the current progressive viewpoint, it’s seen as a product error, as if a department store was still filling their shelves with washboards and petticoats.
One can hardly fault the non-religious for a failure to grasp the transcendant solidity of the foundation upon which the Church is built, from which it derives its policies and worldview. If they truly believed that the Church gets its mission directly from a God who exists outside of time and space, holding all things in being with His will, one would expect to see them in a pew on Sunday!
A forgivable error. But why are so many Christians bewailing the loss of the so-called “Culture War”? Yes, we have recieved the Great Commission, to make disciples of all nations. But interior conversion doesn’t start at the top, with political hegemony and a homogenous culture. Rather, it begins in the soul of a person, in the family, in the day-to-day interactions between parents, children and the rest of the small core groups which are the building blocks of society.
A retreat from the world may not be what we wish for, and it may not taste good in the mouths of those who still believe that America is destined to be a pureblooded Christian country. But our absolute highest priority should never be the culture around us, but the state of our own souls, and the salvation of those closest to us.
If withdrawing in some sense from the world (whatever that means in the context of BenOp) is what is necessary to weather the antipathy of the world and keep your personal faith alive, then so be it. It’s only defeat if you really believe that maintaining cultural dominance, not believing in Jesus, is what will get you into heaven.
If you actually believe that He has a plan, then start acting like it! Who’s to say that the Church isn’t just as strong, spiritually speaking, in a world which hates it and rejects its message? “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”