Happy Independence Day! You, too, marriage!
Is this an example of the Benedict Option? Well, really, why not?
In any case, St. Benedict wasn't running away from an oppressive state. Had there been a state wanting to stamp out monasticism, he would have been a sitting duck. The Protestant rulers of Ireland found it extremely difficult to impose Anglicanism on the hearts of the people, but childishly simple to burn down the monasteries. Later there were secret seminaries, but even this had to wait for the persecution to move into a less militant phase.
St. Benedict is the wrong model; his was a capital-intensive approach to preserving learning and Catholic orthodoxy. We are going to need to be lighter on our feet. St. Edmund Campion and St. Oliver Plunket are the people to study. The exiled institutions, the secret printing presses, the underground Cathedrals, the network of trusted Catholics, and a resistance to torture.
A ghetto has a lot to say for it, for a beleagured cultural minority, but it requires at least a degree of cooperation with the civil authorities. The original 'geto' was the Jewish quarter in Venice: half protected space, half prison camp.
Gay couples will demand to be 'married' in Church. Some priests will give them some kind of ceremony: some priests will refuse. The latter will be prosecuted for discrimination. It will be no protection to them to say they are not acting as agents of the state. It is not only agents of the state who are under the law. They are offering a service to the public: they should not discriminate. The difference between making a reasoned distinction between real and pseudo marriage, on the one hand, and homophobia, on the other, has already been collapsed by the courts in England.
There are presently some legal hurdles to a successful prosecution, at least in the UK, but those hurdles will come under intense pressure and, if the success of the so-called progressive agenda continues, they will disappear. Faithful priests will go to prison. On present trends, this will happen in the next few years.
"This is life as it ought to be lived."
Grimly pursuing the Benedict Option in post-Christian America? That isn't life as it ought to be lived - well, for you maybe, but not for Rod Dreher, impresario of that black hole of meaning.
While you try to make sense of it, maybe even deform your life and values in pursuit of it, Rod might end up writing a book about it, or he might not, but "life as it ought to be lived" won't include any Benedict Option he gulls you into for him. Instead, "life as it ought to be lived" for him will be vacationing in Italy for the Palio, then on to Lyon for a palate-cleanser of French cuisine, and then later - who knows?
Rod's having the time of his life. You? You're the mark that makes it all possible, BOpper.
The last several days were sort of rough for the so-called Benedict Option. It's not like the future guru-architect probably cared, though. He was to busy being Mr. World Traveler with his companion, Sordello.
The Rome Benedict fled in the late fifth century surely was chaotic and troubling. But Benedict did not flee to the woods to pray because he was told his God was not welcome in the public square. And when God refused to allow him to pray alone, sending him acolytes and fellow believers to build a community, it was as a means of evangelizing to spread the good news throughout his land and the lands beyond the borders of old Rome, into the pagan forests. Those who went beyond those borders often were martyred because they refused any tactical retreat to the supposedly safe and hospitable regions in and around Rome. They reinvigorated as well as spread the Church, because they refused to be cowed, refused to back down, and refused to retreat, instead recognizing their duty to combat the ignorance and superficial understanding of the nature of reality that ruled most of the world.
Such a vision is attacked as prideful and even oppressive today, as one would expect, given the repaganization of our culture. But it is precisely this hostility toward evangelization that must be fought. As Dreher openly admits, Christians will be persecuted in a culture such as ours has become—we will lose careers, opportunities, and even our freedom if we step too far out of line with the ruling ideology. But there will be no safe place to reorganize for the future. Should we withdraw we will merely devolve into insular groups, many run by crackpots (there already are too many examples to mention) and most so cut off from one another that they will die out. The faith will not be lost, just as the cause of a Christian society will not be lost, because no cause is ever truly lost. But our duty is not to hope for better days. It is to work for better days in the here and now, including by confronting a political and legal regime increasingly hostile to our faith and way of life.
So is it time to give up, hide, and hope for the best? Should we throw down the weapons we still have, which God provided us? Shall we surrender America to the sex radicals, and leave our children with none of the liberty that we inherited from our parents? Is it moral to abandon our fellow citizens and neighbors to the ever-escalating demands of the secular culture of death? Is it time to dissolve all activist divisions of the pro-life movement, which has made so many strides, and accept that abortion on demand, for nine months, for any reason, will be legal here forever?
All of these outcomes would flow from the misnamed “Benedict Option,” favored by Dreher, who for years has advocated a sort of apolitical Christian separatism. I am not surprised that the same magazine that publishes a piece from a writer wanting to crush the churches with the tax code has given Dreher a venue to counsel surrender. Any conquering army hopes to sow defeatism in the enemy. Remember all those leaflets in Arabic we dropped on Saddam’s troops in 2003, promising good treatment and hefty rations for those who defected? Think of Marshal Petain’s appeal to the French Army in 1940 to throw down their guns and collaborate. The Germans were happy to broadcast it.
Brendan Eich is quoted here refusing to play the victim. (I capitalized the Theological Virtues; I don't think Mr. Eich will mind.) Excerpt:
On Obergefell and the inevitable SSM story, I do wish Rod [Dreher] would not drop my name so much, because while I did lose my job, and also FYI I did have to face a blackball-dropping event at one other Valley big company, I’m not a martyr. We should all pray for greater Faith, Hope and Charity, and stop whinging about SSM or the US-based global elite that’s pushing it as just one step along a revolutionary road. More and worse is coming, and complaining is far from being ready. Pulling out of society also isn’t going to work, or satisfy Christ’s injunction to be “salt and light” to the world.
Diane mentioned a word-coupling oft-heard in circles of serious Catholics, Domestic Church, and something sort or half-clicked in my head. Then I see the phrase again in this piece by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz in reaction to the SSM ruling:
We have perhaps not done enough to teach the beauty of marriage and the purpose and inherent design of family life, but the Church is here to accompany couples as they make the courageous choice to follow this life-giving vocation. We will pray with them and will advocate for them. It is a good time to recommit ourselves — all of us whether clergy or lay — to cherishing marriage and the children of each union as a joy, a place of love and a path to virtue and holiness. If you do not know the deep beauty of the Church’s teachings on marriage and family life, I urge you to make a little time to read and ask questions. Many of the great saints have spoken about the family as the domestic church, the dignity of every person, the sacrament of marriage as a path to holiness, the complete gift of self, the blessedness of fruitful marriage and other topics worthy of contemplation and pursuit.
I would propose that the Benedict Option is something simple, which anyone can live, whether they have withdrawn to an enclave or not.... The Benedict Option is really quite simple: it is living the Christian life in a coherent, simple, and prayer centered way in the modern world.
There are a lot of books I'd like to read still in my life, and there is a book which, if it is on the list at all, is fairly close to the bottom. The name of that book is something like "It takes a village to raise a child." [snickers from the congregation] Because truthfully, it doesn't take a village to raise a child. All it takes to do that is a Mother and a Father.
|Rod Dreher enjoying the Benedict Option immensely|
Unlike institutions kept by the State, churches and other religious institutions which spurn such ownership agreements as conditioned special tax treatments have no worries about losing what they do not possess when the time comes to speak out about individual politicians and their policies from the pulpit.
Having both individual and hegemonies of churches directly addressing the specific people and policies in their communities and nationally which affect them and their religious liberty is a pressure from which the political class has previously been free.
Why not give those who would remove special religious tax treatment exactly what they want, good and hard?
That is, with respect to the free exercise clause, has Kennedy and the majority just left us now with a Bill of Rights containing, in order, a 3/4th Amendment, a Second Amendment, a Third Amendment, etc? A lot of people fainting onto their blogging couches today seem to think so, finding evidence for it both in Kennedy's reference to religious liberty and even in the words of the four dissenting Justices.
But Obergefell simply wasn't about the First Amendment or religious liberty, it was about a federal right to gay marriage. Like many badly built thought structures - ::coughObamacarecough:: - Obergefell almost certainly contains deformative logic bombs which will continue to detonate at later times, more likely unpredictably than predictably, and, as I continue to argue, very, very likely with predictable consequence to Obergefell itself as a legal precedent.
But while, of course, Obergefell has immediately set up imminent clashes with religious liberty protections under the First Amendment - duh...that's what legal logic bombs do - that is patently not the same thing as a claim that the former has now effectively trumped and subordinated the latter (I had originally written "not the same thing as suggesting that", but that is patently what it is: mere suggestion, preying upon suggestibility).
Still, like my grocery list (ribeye steaks, Macallan 12,...), First Amendment constitutional protections of religious liberty remain just words on a piece of paper until someone acts on them one way or another. I usually find that, if I don't make it a point to buy my groceries myself, those words just continue to lie there and I don't get to enjoy their promise.
If you believe Obergefell has immediately and directly threatened or curtailed your separate First Amendment religious rights, let's hear about it.
And if you think, as I do, that religious liberty questions will always be their own, separate and distinct battles, let's hear your arguments as well.
UPDATE (as they say): Unifying marriage, or fun with logic bombs.
This is entirely tangential to the thrust of this post, but I'm sticking this addendum here anyway. The question is, if the courts can unify marriage federally with respect to gender, on what basis could any state still argue its primacy with respect to any other discriminating marital provision such as blood tests, waiting periods, expiration of marriage licences, etc?
UPDATE 2 (also a non-sequitur):
Q: Why are people terrified of doing to Scientologists what they'll cheerfully do to Christians?
A: Because they know that Scientologists will legally tear your legs off and beat you to death with them for trying while Christians will simply take it.
In his latest post calling For a New Middle Age, Rod Dreher now identifies his chimerical Benedict Option with a return to the Middle Ages, citing a post-Bolshevik Russian from 1923 as the authority who guides him (you can sample other quotes from the mentor Rod would guide your life by here):
In his 1923 book The End of Our Time, the Russian thinker Nikolai Berdyaev says that modernity has spiritually exhausted mankind, and that the time is ripe for a return to interiority, to a world in which the spiritual was more important than the material. To enter into this “new middle age” requires, he says, a “revolution in spirit.”
The Benedict Option is the term I use to describe this rising movement for a new Middle Age, a spiritual revolution in a time of spiritual and cultural darkness. The monk was the ideal personality type of the Middle Ages. Few of us will be called to the monastery, but all of us who profess orthodox Christianity are called to rediscover a monastic temperament, putting the service of God before all things, and ordering our lives — our prayer and our work, and our communal existence — to that end. We are going to have to recover a sense of monastic asceticism, and do so in hope and joy, together.