Another name for the Benedict Option is the Great Fundamentalist Retreat of the early 20th century, when we abandoned the culture to secular forces. A better choice is the Wesleyan Option. Following their founder’s dictum—“Practical holiness throughout the land”—the Wesleyans transformed 18th-century Britain. From the bottom, they evangelized and created small discipleship and fellowship groups. From the top, they elected Wilberforce and others to Parliament, ended slavery, and enacted other transforming legislation. We do not need to retreat but to respond like the Wesleyans. Evangelicals and other social conservatives must promote more constructive policies than the secular hedonists.
I consider The Rule of Saint Benedict one of the most powerful and practical handbooks on pastoral leadership ever written, allowing that some of what he suggested was specific to his time and not ours. So I read about the Benedict Option with great interest and anticipation. However, I was disappointed in three ways. First, that the rationale introducing the idea was cast in terms of recent culture wars and seemed to reflect a nostalgia for a “Christian” America that never existed rather than a vigorous pursuit of Christian discipleship. Second, that it did not include any interaction with how the Anabaptist tradition has wrestled with these issues nor any of the other voices from intentional Christian communities. And third, that it felt like a withdrawal into an insular fortress rather than challenging leadership that presents the larger society with attractive alternate ways to live.
I believe Dreher’s thinking is flawed. Jesus prepared his disciples for confrontation ...1
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