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sábado, 18 de marzo de 2017

The battlefield is going on in our own communities and in our own homes


The Benedict Option or the Constantine Project?
by DAVID KERN
The Benedict Option is out March 14th from Sentinal Books

According to Rod Dreher an end is nigh. A flood is coming in the form of a new secular Dark Age, “There are people alive today,” he writes in his new book, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, “who may live to see the effective death of Christianity within our civilization.”

What the church needs now, Dreher argues, are Christians who will "deepen their prayer lives . . . focus on families and communities instead of on partisan politics . . . and [on] building churches, schools, and other institutions within which the orothodox Christian faith can survive and prosper through the flood." Dreher's solution is the Benedict Option, a strategy based on the writing of a sixth-century monk named Benedict of Nursia that embraces "exile in place" to form a "vibrant counterculture," made up of Christians who spend "more time away from the world . . . just as Jesus retreated to the desert to pray before ministering to the people."

Meanwhile, John Mark Reynolds, the founder of The Saint Constantine School and the author of When Athens Met Jerusalem: An Introduction to Classical and Christian Thought, agrees that twenty-first century American Christianity is in a rough place. But rather than the Benedict Option, he proposes the Saint Constantine Project, an approach that promotes political action and cultural engagement. The Benedict Option is based on fear, Reynolds claims, while the St. Constantine Project is built on confidence.

Given that their approaches come from similar premises, it seemed only right to let them hash out their differences in a public forum. Anyone who knows Rod and John Mark knows this.

So a while back I invited them to join me for a Skype call to chat all things Benedict Option, Constantine Project, and modern Christianity. We’ll be bringing you the transcript of this conversation in three parts this week. This is part one.

It’s been edited slightly for clarity and length. (here you will find part 2: www.circeinstitute.org)


Dreher: By the “Benedict Option” I start with the famous final paragraph of the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre’s book After Virtue, in which he talks about the parallels between our own time and the fall of the Roman Empire in the West. MacIntyre says that there’s a time in which men and women of goodwill withdraw their consent and their efforts to shoring up the imperium and instead set out to create new communities through which the life of virtue can be lived throughout Dark Ages. 

MacIntyre believes that we are in a similar dark age, just like the one that started when the Roman Empire fell in the West. And MacIntrye says that we are looking for a new and quite different St. Benedict to help us figure out how to start these communities.

St. Benedict of Nursia was the monk who founded the Benedictine religious order. He was in Rome studying after the empire had fallen and he was disgusted by the chaos and the disorder and the immorality there. So he went out into the woods to pray. He lived in a cave. And a monk took care of him. Eventually, Benedict got a reputation for sanctity and men gathered around him and he became the prior of their monastery. He wrote his famous rule, The Rule of St. Benedict, which became the most influential book in Western history behind the Bible. Over ten-thousand monasteries were founded on that rule. The Rule is a simple set of instructions, sort of a constitution for the founding of the monastic community, telling the monks how to live together, pray together, eat together, work together, and so on. He called the monastery a school for the service of the Lord. The whole purpose of their community was to serve Christ and St. Benedict was trying to figure out how they could serve Christ the best way under the conditions in which they lived. Eventually, more and more of these Benedictine communities formed throughout Western Europe. They brought the gospel to the people living under the Barbarians. And they taught them how to live. They taught them basic skills like agriculture. Eventually, they laid the groundwork for the rebirth of Christian civilization in the West.

Now I’m asking what a new St. Benedict would look like in our own time? How would he respond to the crisis of culture that we are facing today? What I propose is that we Christians—that is to say Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox who believe in the historical Christian faith—we’re going to have to find new ways to live in community so that our faith can not only endure what is to come, but also to prosper and thrive and grow. I believe that we are living in a time unlike any since the fall of Rome. Pope Benedict the XVI in the year 2012 said that too. It was his challenge to Christians today: we’ve got to get a lot more serious about our faith and find out ways to live because we are in a post-Christian civilization. That in a nutshell is the Benedict option.

Reynolds: I think that the Benedict option, without Constantine, will fail. That it has no hope, whatsoever. Let’s remind ourselves that Rome did not, in fact, fall. Rome continued for another thousand years, or most of us would not be Christian and we certainly wouldn’t have access to classical education. When Rome fell in the West, Rome was doing quite nicely in the East and experienced at least two major revivals and helped provide the seabed for the Renaissance of Western education that was to come.

What Constantine did was very important. He was trying to defend a city, Rome, that was no longer defensible. It had no natural resources, it was not in a great location, it was a historical accident that it became the center of the Mediterranean part of the civilized world, and so Constantine simply declared victory and moved the city. He moved the city to Constantinople. He changed the discussion and as, a result, there was an ability to continue secular education along with religious education without interruption except when the West interfered for about a thousand years.

And, of course, Constantinople was the Minas Tirith of the ancient world. Its long walls stood as a buttress against barbarian tribes who otherwise would have vented their wrath on the West and destroyed these embryonic civilizations. The Byzantine Commonwealth, by being able to spread out its culture to places like Romania and Bulgaria (who otherwise would have been barbaric) and Russia, provided a cushion against, for example, the Mongol invasion that otherwise may have destroyed Europe.

So what’s the Benedictine option without the Constantine option? It’s dead. The Constantine Project is to say something like this: ‘it’s absolutely true, we’ve lost control of Washington. We’ve lost control of New York City and Los Angeles. But we no longer define our culture geographically. So, we can go anywhere we want, create our own television and our own film, set up an alternative society that aggressively begins to seek to replace the external society. In other words, we don’t retreat: we change the rules and move to a place like Houston and simply declare victory and began to rebuild culture. I’ll also point out that it’s a great big world and just as Christianity is decaying a bit in places like the United States and Western Europe, it’s advancing in some form or another all over Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, China, and South Korea. One could imagine the Benedictine Option being best protected from the island city of Singapore, which becomes the new Constantinople.


Part 1 - read more here: www.circeinstitute.org

Part 2 - read more here: www.circeinstitute.org

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