Thursday, April 13, 2017

Too Many Options - My review of The Benedict Option


I really wanted this book to be good.

It was a mishmash.

I got bogged down in this book like the American government in a Middle Eastern Nation.
Maybe I expected too much. You say "Benedict Option" and I expected a coherent plan to build a community based on the Rule of St. Benedict, a disciplined rule based society that would keep the flame of Western Civilization going. Instead, I got a build it yourself lego system that seemed to defer to the idea of "whatever trips your trigger" ecumenicalism. I honestly, had no idea after reading this book, what the author actually thought his communities should look like.
I will admit, it did make me rethink the initial idea I had in my head going on for this idea.

It would never work.

Monastic life was not some lone outpost of civilization that by itself kept Christianity and Western Civilization alive and kicking. Monasteries were part of the culture. The culture was Christian and included the feudal lords protection and support. There were many factors that aided the monasteries.
If we want a solution to build communities that will outlast the coming craziness, We need to resurrect old ideas for sure, but a Benedictine Rule Community can only be part of the solution. You need things that people will recoil from today because feminism, liberalism and even conservatism have poisoned the well of thought. I saw the author pull back often on the brink of these ideas. You need patriarchy, hierarchy and discipline. American individualism would recoil at most of these also. I myself think individualism is highly overrated.

So, here are the good points and bad points.

Good:
1. High emphasis on tradition, Western civilization and liturgy. I myself have been thinking a lot on liturgy lately and the lack of it in Baptist churches and their abandonment of Tradition. I am a Baptist, by the way.

2. Lot of good ideas in the book with which to build.

Bad:
1. Base idea of Benedict Option being needed due to increasing hostility to Christianity. Benedictines developed not in an air of Christian persecution, but one of a culture based in Christianity. The entire culture was supportive of monasteries. A secret church attitude, like in China, would be the more likely scenario for Christian persecution. Big visible communities would be targeted in this cultural attitude. I myself, think the persecution thing is possible, but it could be that balkanization of US creates regions of greater support of Christianity.

2. Like the title of the review suggests, too many options. I would prefer a system thrown out there that people can critique and think about.

3. The author loves Western Civilization, but pulls back from actually admitting to his own mind that this option is an overwhelmingly "white" option. It comes from Western Civilization and appeals to those who created it. I actually know plenty of black people and if I mentioned this too them they would look at me like I had a horn growing out of the middle of my head. Not all, but most would. We need to start admitting to ourselves that there are vast divides even between Western Christianity and African-American Christianity. The reason I do not go to a black church is because the experience would be foreign to me, just as they find our churches foreign. It is what it is. We have Christ in common and we need to rejoice in that, but the idea that diversity would work in a Benedict Option community is ignoring all the evidence to the contrary. People naturally segregate themselves. It is what it is.

4. This Benedict Option would never work because of too much diversity of Christian thought. Baptists, Episcopals, Methodists and so forth are never going to come together on any ideas to form a community together. It would soon split just like churches do. There are cultural differences even among white Americans that render them foreign to each other also. I lived in South Dakota for a while, I liked the people, but they acted differently than people I grew up with in the South. I am reading another book right now that explains the cultural differences in American regions more thoroughly. What works for South Dakota, with a larger Lutheran presence, wouldn't work in Mississippi. I would say, that maybe the author was thinking along the lines of "different types of communities for different places" was the goal, except for the fact that he fawns over mixed denomination communities too often.