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Author: Christians need ‘some distance’ between them, ‘chaotic mainstream’

new 10 4.6.17_dreherRod Dreher

April 6, 2017
Julie Asher

WASHINGTON – Author Rod Dreher’s critics call him an “alarmist” for proposing that Christians today “put some distance” between themselves and “the chaotic mainstream,” or Christianity will not survive.

Those critics are right, he said.

“I am alarmist about the state of our culture and of our civilization and the condition of the church within it,” Dreher told a Washington audience. “If you’re a faithful Christian and you’re not alarmed, I think you’re failing to pay attention, you’re failing to read the signs of the times.

“I do not claim ‘the’ world is coming to an end. ... What I am claiming, though, is that ‘a’ world is coming to an end,” he explained. “And if believing Christians don’t take radical action right now, the faith that made Western civilization will not survive for long into Western civilization’s post-Christian phase.”

Dreher, currently senior editor at The American Conservative and author of several books, has written “The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation.” He spoke about his book at the National Press Club at an evening event sponsored by the Trinity Forum March 15.

He said the term “Benedict Option” comes from “the famous final paragraph” in philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre’s 1981 book “After Virtue.”

In that book, MacIntyre explains “how Enlightenment modernity overthrew the old traditional source of moral order rooted in Christianity and classical philosophy,” Dreher said. “But it could not produce an authoritative binding replacement for it. The West, in MacIntyre’s view, has been unraveling for some time now and it’s finally reaching a point of reckoning.”

Dreher also quoted a “noted public intellectual” who once said, “It is obligatory to compare today’s situation with the decline of the Roman Empire,” and who lamented “the collapse of the spiritual forces that sustain our civilization.” It was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI.

Dreher strongly believes the “reckoning” MacIntyre described is a clarion call that Christians need to “put some distance” between themselves and “the chaotic mainstream,” and what has been a “steady erosion of authentic Christianity by the relentlessness of individualism, hedonism and consumerism” in the culture.

“The West is living through a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity, (but) there is a mounting sense of political crisis throughout our civilization,” Dreher said. “The signs also of our spiritual depletion are impossible to deny, and if we are spiritually depleted and morally exhausted, our peace and prosperity will not long last.”

Dreher interviewed the Benedictine monks in Norcia, Italy. Their founder, St. Benedict of Nursia, patron saint of Europe, was the fifth-century father of Western monasticism. He founded monasteries as a time when Europe was experiencing a crisis of values and turmoil caused by the fall of the Roman Empire, decadence and the death of traditional customs.

“Monks moved all over barbarian-ruled Europe,” Dreher said. “They brought the faith to unchurched people. They taught them how to pray, but they also taught the peasants how to make things, how to build things, how to grow things, skills that had been lost in Rome’s collapse, and in their rituals and in their libraries, the monks kept alive the cultural memory of Christian Rome.”

The Benedict Option calls for “a strategic separation from the everyday world,” he said. “We have to erect some walls, so to speak, between ourselves and our communities and the world for the sake of our own spiritual formation and discipleship.”

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