ayjay + benop   13

Inside and Outside the Cage – spottedtoad
School, as I’ve said a number of times, serves this purpose already. I’ll sometimes encounter people who treat the idea that kids learn relatively little in school, that it’s a pointless hamster wheel that doesn’t get anyone anywhere, as some kind of scandal or shock. Maybe, but have you seen adult life lately? Is what kids do on an average school day so much more pointless and lonely and anomic than what you did yesterday- not than your ideal of what a ten year old or thirty year old should be doing, but what you actually, personally did? American parents are insanely competitive and push their kids and their kids’ schools to do all kinds of pointless shit, because we literally don’t have any other idea how to fill their and our days. They’re already staring at screens for nine hours a day. It could get worse. Four times as many young women 25-34 years old overdosed last year as in 1999. I don’t think school is the problem.

Maybe it’s a Tragedy of the (Missing) Commons. Maybe if you, and you, and you, and you, all pulled your kid out of school, tuned in, turned on (to Jesus or Allah or John Dewey or whoever), and dropped out, let them run around and build forts and make out or read Dante or whatever, maybe they can reinvent society on better grounds. The Benedict Option, like Rod Dreher says.  I’m not saying it’s impossible, and maybe we all need to be more utopian on our home turf even while being less so on other people’s. The ideal- or at least our own ideals- might be more within our grasp than we think. Maybe.

Or maybe what limited store of self-reliance we have is going to be destroyed, utterly, by the next wave of technology, or the next, and the best we can hope for is a benevolently paternalist technostate, the FitBit vibrating on our wrist to tell us to stop being inert, urging us to less self-destruction than we’d otherwise tend, telling us, whether we’re ten or fifty, to turn in our homework next time they see us and to remember to put our names on our papers if we want to get credit on the test.
BenOp  education  homeschool 
december 2017 by ayjay
The Perils of Confession as a Public Act | Comment Magazine
ll of which points to a realization now dawning on a great many Christians, including even some hitherto entirely nominal ones, that nothing less than an intense, whole‐souled, and seriously demanding church life is adequate to the conditions of today's world. For many years we have been able to rely on a mainstream public culture that carried along much of the form and weight of Christian moral commitments, even if it did not consciously or explicitly carry the substance of them. But that is no longer the case. The culture cannot be relied on, not for now or for the foreseeable future, particularly in matters as delicate as the forms of public confession, where it distorts what it does not abjure entirely. Perhaps it could never be relied on. The persistence in our public life of pathological levels of guilt and moral accusation, accompanied by false forms of pseudo‐expiation, which so often work to poison our common life rather than cleanse it, is an indication that the forms themselves have taken on a perverse life of their own, separated from the moral and transcendental convictions that gave rise to them.

This does not mean that the only answer is wholesale withdrawal from the world, although some might feel legitimately called to that. But it does mean the sustenance of thick and morally demanding ecclesiastical communities, willing and able to be "against the world for the world," if we are to carry these things forward and nurture them. We have settled for too long for an emaciated and diminished idea of what the church can and should be. Circumstances now have delivered us from that illusion. We should be thankful for that.
church  BenOp 
october 2017 by ayjay
Catacombs or Cloister? | Blog & Mablog
We should be grateful to Dreher for the wake-up call. Things really are bad.

But what kind of bad? Bad news could include the fact that you have bone cancer, or it could alternatively mention the fact that an asteroid is going to land on your house. Both of these things are sufficiently bad, but the remedial measures will look completely different in each case. And this means that before taking remedial measures, you have to decide what kind of bad you are up against. If it is going to be the asteroid, there will be no point standing on your front porch with a bottle of chemo pills.

Dreher appears not to have settled this crucial question in his mind, and unfortunately it affects his entire Benedict thesis. This is what I mean. In the ancient world, Christians were up against it in the first century, when Rome began her first persecution of the Christians, and they were up against it in the sixth century, when Benedict laid down his rule. But in the first case, they were up against a hegemonic, swollen, persecuting world power, and in the latter case they were up against the disarray and ruin that had resulted from the collapse of that civilization.

There is a difference, in other words, between a totalitarian surveillance state and a failed state. Now if I were seeking to prepare Christians for the coming hardscrabble times, it would matter whether I was preparing Christians in Beijing for another crack-down from the commies, or Christians in Somalia, preparing for a period of anarchistic foment and unrest. The difference in response is the difference between the catacombs and the cloister.
march 2017 by ayjay
The Benedict Option or the Augustinian Call? | Comment Magazine
The uniquely Dreher-ish rendition of these analyses and proposals by others repurposes them within a project that is narrow and reactionary, with little of the outlandish beauty of grace. This is probably my biggest concern: that Dreher's idiosyncratic repackaging of the historic disciplines and formative practices of the church retroactively makes newcomers and outsiders mistake the Great Tradition with the narrowness of the Benedict Option—that the catholic heritage of the faith gets owned by the BenOp™, thereby associating the treasures and riches of the tradition with a particular take that is ultimately parochial and reactionary.

For example, was John Calvin extolling Rod Dreher's Benedict Option when he hoped that the entire city of Geneva could be reformed as a magnum monasterium? When Abraham Kuyper founded a Christian political party, a Christian newspaper, and a Christian university, was he unwittingly a practitioner of the Benedict Option? When Reformed communities in Michigan or Ontario built Christians schools alongside their churches, were they building arks in despair of the culture around them? Is Stanley Hauerwas merely an early adopter of the BenOp™? No, because they all had a fundamentally different posture and hope. Their proposals and actions grew out of the logic of mission and not merely as a "strategy" reacting to the times. They had fundamentally different understandings of the relationship between the church and the world.
march 2017 by ayjay
The Benedict Option in Percentages < Andy Crouch

1. Social hostility and legal restrictions will undermine the viability of many Christian institutions, and significantly limit individual Christians’ participation in many professions and aspects of public life, in the United States within a generation or so.

Portion of The Benedict Option devoted to this claim: 20%

Portion of journalistic coverage of the book devoted to this claim: 90%

Portion of social media buzz (pro and con) devoted to this claim: 98%

Likelihood of this claim being true: 50%

How much this should cause acute distress for those who believe that Jesus is Lord: 5%

2. Due to a lack of meaningful discipleship and accommodation to various features of secularized modernity and consumer culture, the collapse of Christian belief and practice is likely among members of the dominant culture (and many minority cultures) in the United States within a generation or so.

Portion of The Benedict Option devoted to this claim: 80%

Portion of journalistic coverage devoted to this claim: 10%

Portion of social media buzz (pro and con) devoted to this claim: 2%

Likelihood of this claim being true: 90%

How much this should cause acute distress for those who believe that Jesus is Lord: 100%
march 2017 by ayjay
Reviewing Rod Dreher’s “The Benedict Option”
This brings me back to the opening of this now almost certainly over-long review. In the lede I distinguished between two sorts of critics of the basic premises of Rod’s book. On the one hand, I said, there are orthodox Christians who disagree with Rod’s diagnosis but who are worth engaging because our basic goals and ambitions are the same. On the other, I said there are critics who we ought to just ignore because our foundational values and beliefs are so different that we can’t really do productive work together. The challenge here is that the lines between these two groups are not always clear. Jamie Smith and Katelyn Beaty are two people whose core principles and theological orthodoxy I trust and so I put them both in the former category. Someone like Rachel Held Evans obviously belongs in the latter category. But our churches are full of people whose position is not going to be nearly so obvious. Indeed, many of them probably are in the first group right now but could easily drift into the second if those orthodox believers around them conduct themselves badly.
march 2017 by ayjay
City of Rod : Democracy Journal
Christians who engage in politics have reason to engage beyond their own interests; politics can’t save one’s soul, but it can decree that children receive health care, or that poor families be able to purchase food, or that mothers can take time off work after a birth without suffering poverty or unemployment. Building communities of virtue is fine, but withdrawing from conventional politics is difficult to parse with Christ’s command that we love our neighbors. Politics order our society on every level, from deciding property laws to housing codes to social welfare policy to war and foreign intervention. An individual Christian might comfortably abandon the whole filthy mess of it, but she can’t do so cleanly: Her neighbors still need her, and not just personally, but politically. So long as we live in a democracy, each of us has agency and a responsibility for the stewardship of our fellow citizens, and though we may not succeed in all our goals, we are obligated to try.
[This argument would seem to make monasticism morally illegitimate -- and indeed any model of loving one's neighbors that neglects voting. The person who is too busy feeding the hungry or comforting the dying to get to the voting booth is, by Bruenig's logic, morally deficient.]
march 2017 by ayjay
Book Review: "The Benedict Option" — Conciliar Post
No conservative I know would defend Bob Jones University’s racist policy on its merits. But the logic of Bob Jones University suggests that when sufficiently compelling antidiscrimination interests are juxtaposed against religious freedom claims, religious freedom claims lose. And on the other side of the political spectrum, Bob Jones University helps explain why so many progressives are uncomfortable supporting religion-based exceptions to secular antidiscrimination laws: arguments for religious freedom have periodically been deployed in support of racial separatism.

I’m certainly not implying that religious freedom claims should consistently lose to antidiscrimination arguments—after all, the very existence of religious institutions is predicated upon the ability to set group boundaries and define the terms of membership. Rather, I mean to point out that in the legal/political sphere, these types of arguments aren’t just about sexuality. Dreher doesn’t comment on the fact that conflicts between secular antidiscrimination law and the free exercise of religion are not new.
BenOp  from instapaper
march 2017 by ayjay
Why We Need the Benedict Option and How It Doesn’t Have to Return to Fundamentalism
For my own setting, my ears are deaf to accusations that Dreher is fearmongering regarding the loss of job and educational opportunities for conservative Christians. I work at an evangelical postsecondary institution, and among such universities we are currently planning for not if we lose our accreditation or our students become ineligible for state and federal loans but when in respect to our institutional stances on traditional sexual ethics.

When recent alums have talked to me about career aspirations as faculty in conservative Christian universities, I have praised their desires but told them that they may need to consider one of the parallel structures that Dreher writes about: Christian study centers near major public universities. Perhaps more shocking, a friend of mine is reconsidering his option to send his graduating high schooler to a prestigious evangelical institution because he’s concerned his child will have less job opportunities with that institution’s name on her resume.
BenOp  from instapaper
march 2017 by ayjay
A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching | The American Conservative
The “radical” school rejects the view that Catholicism and liberal democracy are fundamentally compatible. Rather, liberalism cannot be understood to be merely neutral and ultimately tolerant toward (and even potentially benefitting from) Catholicism. Rather, liberalism is premised on a contrary view of human nature (and even a competing theology) to Catholicism. Liberalism holds that human beings are essentially separate, sovereign selves who will cooperate based upon grounds of utility. According to this view, liberalism is not a “shell” philosophy that allows a thousand flowers to bloom. Rather, liberalism is constituted by a substantive set of philosophical commitments that are deeply contrary to the basic beliefs of Catholicism, among which (Catholics hold) are the belief that we are by nature relational, social and political creatures; that social units like the family, community and Church are “natural,” not merely the result of individuals contracting temporary arrangements; that liberty is not a condition in which we experience the absence of constraint, but the exercise of self-limitation; and that both the “social” realm and the economic realm must be governed by a thick set of moral norms, above all, self-limitation and virtue.

Because of these positions, the “radical” position—while similarly committed to the pro-life, pro-marriage teachings of the Church—is deeply critical of contemporary arrangements of market capitalism, is deeply suspicious of America’s imperial ambitions, and wary of the basic premises of liberal government. It is comfortable with neither party, and holds that the basic political division in America merely represents two iterations of liberalism—the pursuit of individual autonomy in either the social/personal sphere (liberalism) or the economic realm (“conservatism”—better designated as market liberalism). Because America was founded as a liberal nation, “radical” Catholicism tends to view America as a deeply flawed project, and fears that the anthropological falsehood at the heart of the American founding is leading inexorably to civilizational catastrophe. It wavers between a defensive posture, encouraging the creation of small moral communities that exist apart from society—what Rod Dreher, following Alasdair MacIntyre, has dubbed “the Benedict Option”—and, occasionally, a more proactive posture that hopes for the conversion of the nation to a fundamentally different and truer philosophy and theology.
Catholic  BenOp 
march 2017 by ayjay
Moral Minority | Patrick J. Deneen
“Politics will not save us,” Dreher concludes. Perhaps—but in the absence of a good polity, it’s unlikely a healthy culture can be cultivated and sustained. The monasteries were not only religious institutions, but also served as the center of political life for many medieval towns, with abbots functioning as civic as well as religious leaders. The Church was the source of Christian culture in no small part because she developed systems of law and courts, in addition to rules and practices governing markets. Aristotle understood that law and culture, like ethics and politics, must be mutually reinforcing. (One of the marked shortcomings of MacIntyre has always been his greater attentiveness to Aristotle’s Ethics than to his Politics, a reflection of MacIntyre’s Marxism rather than his Catholicism.)

Christianity is inevitably political. If Christians are to eschew Washington, D.C., as a lost cause, they should not imagine they can just build familial monasteries. Instead, we need to focus on our town and city halls, our neighborhood associations, seeking to foster the kinds of communities where our children can—and will—roam the fields again. At some scale, however small, the moral minority must become a majority again.
politics  Christianity  BenOp  from instapaper
march 2017 by ayjay
A Gregorian corollary to the Benedict Option | Covenant
Perhaps the oldest running paradox within monasticism, from Antony to Thomas Merton, is that when you’ve done it right, so to speak, you leave society only to have it come running out to meet you in your supposed isolation. Monasticism is a counterculture, and the proper function of a counterculture, like a political third party, is sometimes not so much its own long-term survival but the re-direction of a larger unit. Historically, the movements that thrived didn’t so much break the tie between a monastic community and its broader culture as let that tie stretch and, like a lever, exert the greatest possible torque at the greatest possible distance. The key lies in the precise amount of distance: if the connection was lost altogether, the community nearly always failed for lack of members; too close, however, and the community merged into society at large.

The relationship between monastic communities and their parent society, therefore, has never been truly fixed or static but is always reinventing itself: in Europe the Benedictines would be succeeded by the Cistercians in the twelfth century, the true pioneers of the medieval world, who, by taming uncultivated land and experimenting with livestock breeding, became, very shortly, filthy rich, losing their reputation as reformers in the process. The urban environment of the late Middle Ages inspired an entire series of experiments in how to live religiously in the midst of a rapidly changing world: the friars, the beguines, the devotio moderna. Like the Cistercians, the Franciscans struggled to reconcile Lady Poverty with being an institution, splintering their order in the process. Francis never wanted his order to build buildings at all; Italian towns are dotted with Franciscan churches. Arguably, no one to this day really knows how to define the beguines: communities of women in the Low Countries and in Germany, some of them containing thousands of members, who were nevertheless not nuns and who were living within an urban context engaged in charitable ministry. Likewise, the devotio moderna — emphasis on the “modern” — deliberately subverted expectations of what a traditional order was supposed to look like and blurred boundaries between monastic, clerical, and lay identities. My own personal conviction is that the devotio moderna, also known as the Sisters and Brothers of the Common Life, have as much to offer us today as the Rule of St. Benedict as models for intentional Christian community.
history  BenOp 
october 2015 by ayjay

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