Bags of Bran

Ex-Gluttons Need to Eat
October 9, 2015, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Biography

The Christians who are going to survive the decay of the West will be the Christians who learn to recognize decay. Learning to recognize decay goes hand in hand with learning to recognize those who recognize decay, even when those others who recognize the decay aren’t really part of anything we’d be comfortable calling “us.” Take this example: Rod Dreher cites an Orthodox bishop who is critical of what he brilliantly calls “Pink Christianity.”

I’ve thought much about the similarities between what is called the Benedict Option and the kind of fundamentalism that would have been worth saving, were it to have existed in anything other than theory. I’ve tentatively concluded that the tactical retreat from the rat race proposed in the Benedict Option bears a striking resemblance to a consistently applied doctrine of separation. But we don’t like that word. When we use that word we have to start thinking about guys like Billy Graham, and guys like Billy Graham financed a lot of our nice stuff.

Both Dreher and the bishop recognize decay and advocate leaving the lurid legacy of American Christianity behind. Lots of buildings, books, and bozos, if I might be indulged to alliterate.

Leave it behind; but embrace what? Repent of our gluttony; but eat what?


4 Comments so far
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Maybe I neeed to read Dreher more on this, but for now maybe you can help me understand this. It sounds too much like monkism to me. If Paul tells us not to go out of the world, well, how is the Benedictine option not that?


Comment by d4v34x

I’d like to think that it’s how I’m doing it, but I know me better than that! 🙂

Here is what Dreher himself says:

There are no safe places to raise Christian kids in America other than the countercultural places we make for ourselves, together. If we do not form our consciences and the consciences of our children to be distinctly Christian and distinctly countercultural, even if that means some degree of intentional separation from the mainstream, we are not going to survive.

Christianity in America still lives in places and among people who have not yet sold out to moralistic therapeutic deism. Those Christians who have a vocation to politics should exercise it, and they need our support. But Christians who believe that politics will save us should discard those illusions now. The primary focus of orthodox Christians in America should be cultural—or rather, countercultural—building the institutions and habits that will carry the faith and the faithful forward through the next Dark Age.

Read it here.

Now, my interpretation of Dreher’s notions (and where the discussion needs to happen) is that “we” need to stop looking to the institutions of this world and start building/excavating/renovating our own. Like what you’re doing with poetry. You can probably identify poets who are not worth bringing home to your family, and poets who are; and you would like to write poetry that builds a sturdy platform from which someone could get a worthwhile perspective of a permanent thing. You’re building, not desecrating.

Although I’ve given up on TV and movies for the benefit of my attention span and conscience, I’m not convinced that we boycott indiscriminately; we start cultivating things that have lain dormant. Is the form “epic poetry” dead to us? It shouldn’t be. But it’s going to take people better’n me to write it. Opera? Well… I can’t music. Hopefully I can turn off some of the noise and begin to hear the music of the spheres again. And hopefully, I can convince others that it is worth doing together. Maybe then we’ll find our voices again.

But I know that I’m fighting an uphill battle. I already feel that separation is happening with Christians who quote TV, movies, and sports statistics among themselves; but whose speech is strangely devoid of the Biblical allusions that would ideally characterize people who are being transformed by the renewing of their minds.

Like I say, I’m still thinking about this. Paul did indeed say that we ought not go out of the world (1 Cor 5:10), but we have to balance that with the genuine strangerhood and pilgrimhood (Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11) that drove the monks to do what they did. Paul said some other things in 1 Cor 5 that seem to support a tactical retreat: our exposure to the world must never be at the level of “fellowship,” for one thing. Also, if there are “those who are outside, [whom] God judges” then there must be an “inside” where such behavior is not welcome. Results may vary, but I understand the goal is to keep ourselves unspotted so that our testimony to the world may be pure.


Comment by christopheram

Ok, so it sounds like, at least the way you interpret him, Dreher is along the lines of what I (influenced by D.G. Hart) advocate for. I call it “exiles in plain sight.”

And that “countercultural place” he refers to must be, I believe, primarily the church. Which has not been an otherworldly place, for the most part. The first project, then, is to return the church to what it ought to have been and be.


Comment by d4v34x

More or less. “Exiles in plain sight” works. I’m not entirely comfortable with the extent of what passes for liberty among the OL fellas: some of them seem to be inmates more than exiles. The pursuit of an invisible city takes us through grocery stores; but I’m not sure it needs to take me through the catalogues of human depravity.

“Church” is “people,” so it is going to be a metaphysical people/place primarily. Maybe church hasn’t always been otherworldly; I suspect from NT and early church records that it was varied even back then. Some will be more than others.


Comment by christopheram

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