Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Brand confusion about the Benedict Option

I had been meaning to post on this for awhile, but better late than never. I was reading a post from Father Shenan Boquet of Human Life International when another of his older posts caught my eye about Sanctuary Cities for Christians. Immediately I though "Hmmm, sounds kind of Benedict Option-y." And since he invokes the term and links to Dreher's blog, it seems upon a quick, first like he's getting on board the BenOp train. Except:

Still, it’s time we give this a shot before it is too late, if for no other reason than to help awaken those believers who are still sleepily going along with the culture. As one LGBT-celebratory Christian leader has recently argued, the “middle ground is disappearing.” Writer Rod Dreher and others have noted this has been underway for some time. Dreher reports on his blog how a growing number of parents are surprised to find themselves having to pull their children out of grade school as gender ideology has become dogmatic seemingly overnight, and schools are constantly undermining parental rights and privileges.

He even throws in the obligatory Benedict Option "we're not cutting and running" disclaimer which we are used to hearing:

I want to make this perfectly clear: There is a difference between running in fear and trying to escape reality, and a strategic retreat to a place of strong footing, from which a community can act in love and truth and build a real culture again.

Upon a closer reading, however, Father seems to be asking for a greater civic involvement of Christians and other people of good will who respect religious freedom to achieve the goal of justice and spiritual flourishing. The tone of the article is much more akin to "taking the country back" than the building of religious Christians-only safe spaces. One of the reasons it's difficult to see this first is that Fr. Boquet is very careful not to call for any direct political action, but instead uses the illegal-alien sanctuary city concept analogically:

....We need sanctuary cities for Christians.

There is a precedent for this: There are some 200 cities in the United States that have decided, through official policy if not in law, to not enforce federal laws on immigration. In essence, these “sanctuary cities” refuse to cooperate with federal agents when it comes to reporting crimes committed by those in the country illegally, arguing that such reporting would create a climate of fear and would ensure a lack of cooperation between migrant communities and local law enforcement.

There is an insinuation between the lines that in his proposed Christian sanctuary cities, officials would look the other way when someone refuses to sign a same-sex marriage license or break any other ordinance which violates a federal ordinance and yet upholds the moral law. That is his clear intention, yet, as I stated, he is careful not to explicitly lay out this rebellious course of action.

I think that Fr. Boquet is "glomming onto" the Benedict Option because it is a term out there already, but there is a pretty big difference between it and what he is advocating. A Christian Sanctuary City as he describes is would be a place where you don't have to be a Christian to live in or belong to the way a Benedict Option community is described. These cities would become strategic outposts in the culture wars rather than strategic withdrawals from the culture wars.

It has become unfashionable to speak of the "culture wars" due to the scorn of the elite cultural leftists who are claiming victory, those like Dreher who are advocating surrender and those still fighting in the ranks but tempted by war-weariness to cease. But this war is merely a part of the ancient War of good versus evil, and there is no reason to shy away from calling it a war. We didn't start it, and it will never end until Judgment Day. Each Christian and person of good will must fight these battles in the way he sees fit, trying not to rebuke others who fight it differently, at least not publicly.

On the other hand, I will continue to rebuke the Benedict Option because it represents a refusal to fight, withdrawing from the battle to instead hurl inane insults from their towers at those still fighting on the ground like those Frenchmen in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The rest of us will continue to fight the culture war, even if to many it seems like we're merely banging coconuts together.