Benedict Option for Dummies

In our conversation last night some of the students expressed some confusion as to what the Benedict Option actually entailed. I said:

1) the culture is increasingly anti-Christian;

2) It’s not going to leave Christians alone;

3) Christians have accommodated too much to the culture, and don’t have the resources to defend themselves;

4) Much of it will get swept away, but that which will be left is purified.

To that list, I would add at least one more:

3a) If you want to know how to dis-accommodate yourself to the culture, and regain the resources to defend yourself (and your loved ones), here are some examples of how others are doing it. Do any of them fit? Could they be tailored to fit?

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“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Too many things to give up

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

(I Corinthians 9:24-27)

When we train there are all kinds of things we have to add to our regimen: stretching, weight-lifting, and so forth. But there are also things that we have to subtract: sweets, drinking, and other things. When you’re training, what you take away is just as important as what you add, but when you talk to Christians it’s all about what their faith adds to their lives and never about what it takes away. And the thing with college students, and the reason why they’re Moralistic Therapeutic Deists is not just because they haven’t been trained properly in certain practices, it’s because there are too many things they don’t want to give up, especially sex and drinking, but also their desire for material success. And so they think about God in a way that allows them to do things they want to do but not be held morally responsible for them, nor be required to take things out of their lives. In my Bible study I am constantly arguing with them about their claim that God wants us to be happy. “Where are you getting that from? That’s not in the Bible. God wants us to be holy, not happy.” But you can’t get anywhere with that argument.

(Student interacting with her prof after Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option lecture at Notre Dame)

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“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Memo to Guys

Memo to guys:

Yeah, I know you’re hot stuff. I know women like to be flattered and like to flirt. They’re really not all that much more monogamous than men. All of them. Doesn’t matter if they’re married or conspicuously religious.

Especially with guys who are really hot like you, not gross like Harvey Weinstein. They want you. They want you really bad.

But could I ask a wild hypothetical question? What if we’re wrong about that?

Respectfully,

Tipsy

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“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

 

A new take on Masterpiece Cakes

Professor Steven Smith has very skillfully laid out what the Masterpiece Cakes case in the Supreme Court is really all about. It has a helpful review of he evolution of anti-discrimination laws, about which more later.

Then in his second part, Smith adds an angle from the academic literature of free speech to add a dimension that I, a very interested amateur, had not appreciated:

In a thoughtful essay entitled “Who Cares Whether Cake-Baking is Expressive?” NYU Professor Rick Hills argues that the expressive quality of Jack Phillips’s cakes should be constitutionally irrelevant. Appealing to writings of (then) Professor Elena Kagan and Yale Professor Jed Rubenfeld, Hills contends that what should matter for First Amendment purposes is “governmental purpose, not private burdens.” …

And so we have to ask: why is government (in collaboration with and on behalf of same-sex couples) going after the bakers and florists and photographers in the marriage cases?

The Centrality of Expression

The question takes us back to the argument of yesterday’s essay. We saw there that in the litigated cases, the states and the same-sex complainants have not primarily relied on the contention that a Christian merchant’s refusal to assist with a same-sex wedding has deprived the couple of any needed product, service, or opportunity. In Masterpiece Cakeshop, another baker supplied complainants with a wedding cake for free; in Arlene’s Flowers, the case of the Washington florist that is currently on appeal to the Supreme Court, the same-sex couple claimed and received $7.91 in damages for the cost of driving to another florist. That was not why the couple and the state brought the lawsuit.

So why were these suits brought? Advocates are often forthright in explaining that these cases are not mainly about material deprivations, which are likely negligible or nonexistent, but rather about the “dignitary harm” or offense suffered when a same-sex couple is in effect told that a merchant regards their marriage as morally wrong or contrary to God’s will.

That claim may be perfectly sincere. But it amounts to a complaint that the couples feel injured by the communication of a message of disapproval. The injuries, in short, are primarily or exclusively expressive in nature. And the remedies sought by the plaintiffs and granted by the courts have likewise been expressive in their content and purpose. Objecting merchants have been ordered to assist with same-sex weddings in the future—not because their services are needed, but because complainants and the states seek to compel them to participate in, to borrow language from the Colorado court, “celebrat[ing] . . . same-sex wedding[s].”

The title of part 2 is “Why the Government Shouldn’t Force Bakers—Or Anyone—to Express Support for Same-Sex Marriage,” and I agree that the government’s purpose in applying nondiscrimination laws to these baker has been, precisely (and unconstitutionally) to compel them to express a message of approval of same-sex marriage. That must not be allowed to stand.

Do read both parts, because part 1 helps to show how an early non-discrimination purpose of assuring that people are not denied needed services has morphed into assuring that people don’t hear a message of disapproval before readily getting their needed services elsewhere.

 

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“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Filicide Tryptich

I had to go out and find what Judaism could offer me outside the institutional settings of my childhood.

My first step in that direction was an encounter with an Orthodox rebbetzin from a black hat yeshiva community near where I grew up. Home from college, I sat next to her on a bus one day and she invited me for Shabbat. I loved it and went back many times. Nobody cared what you had or what your outfit cost. Strangers were invited and fed. Shabbat was joyful, song-filled; there was no television or other distractions. Yes, it was the 1980s, and communities were less rigid. I was even allowed to visit a few homes while wearing pants. All summer, I studied with that rebbetzin. She encouraged me to ask her all kinds of hard and even disrespectful questions, and she answered them. Sometimes her husband, a rosh yeshiva, or leader of a talmudic academy, from a famous rabbinical dynasty, joined our discussions. I think he found my pushback entertaining.

No, I didn’t become ultra-Orthodox. Anyone who cares about women’s participation is not going to disappear into such a community — but there is still plenty to be learned from one. Nobody drops off the kids at synagogue and speeds off to go shopping, or teaches them about laws and traditions that are never used at home. Any Jew is welcome to walk into services, including on High Holidays. Nobody goes without a place for Shabbat. And kids aren’t studying or praying to reach a finish line, let alone a party with a buffet, a DJ and a bag filled with personal checks.

(Sharon Pomerantz, How My Bat Mitzvah Turned Me Off Judaism, via Rod Dreher)

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Victorinus was a Roman rhetor during St. Augustine’s time. His government position required him to make speeches honoring the gods of the empire. But he was interested in Christianity and read Scripture. One of St. Augustine’s friends, Simplicianus, often visited Victorinus. They would talk about spiritual matters. In private, the famous orator would confide, “I am already a Christian, you know.” Simplicianus, however, recognized that Christianity is a public identity, and he would reply, “I will not believe that, nor count you among Christians, until I see you in Christ’s Church.” Victorinus seems to have found this emphasis on outward expression of Christian faith superficial. Augustine reports that he said, “It’s the walls that make Christians, then?” To put it in contemporary terms, he needled Simplicianus, saying that this requirement of church attendance made him a “Doctor of the Law.”

Eventually, Victorinus realized that walls do make Christians. We are not with Christ in private. Our Lord has a body: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am in their midst.” And so Victorinus enrolled as a catechumen, was baptized, and professed the Church’s creed before a packed crowd in one of Rome’s churches.

(R.R. Reno in First Things)

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“It is surely a fact of inexhaustible significance that what our Lord left behind Him was not a book, nor a creed, nor a system of thought, nor a rule of life, but a visible community.  I think that we Protestants cannot too often reflect on that fact.  He committed the entire work of salvation to that community.  It was not that a community gathered around an idea, so that the idea was primary and the community secondary.  It was that a community called together by the deliberate choice of the Lord Himself, and re-created in Him, gradually sought–and is seeking–to make explicit who He is and what He has done.  The actual community is primary: the understanding of what it is comes second.  The Church does not depend for its existence upon our understanding of it or faith in it.  It first of all exists as a visible fact called into being by the Lord Himself, and our understanding of that fact is subsequent and secondary.”

(Lesslie Newbigin, The Household of God: Lectures on the Nature of the Church, pp. 24-25, via Wesley Hill on Tumblr)

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Epilogue:

The reason I have so much trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that Christian families really do choose Sunday sports over church is that it is so blisteringly obvious that this is spiritually suicidal, in the sense that kids catechized by the popular culture in this way will not practice the faith as adults. The faith will likely die in their generation. Their parents and their community will have taught them by example that God is less important than sports. Or, to put it another way, that sports is the true God.

You can carry around in your head the idea of God, and that you affirm your religion, but that’s vaporous if you don’t put it into practice in this ordinary way. I bring up in speeches a lot the challenge I received from a Christian undergraduate at a talk earlier this year: “Why do you say practices are so important? Why isn’t it enough to love Jesus with all our hearts, as we were taught growing up?” This Sunday sports thing is one reason why. Not a single Christian parent who chooses sports over church believes that he or she is denying the faith. After all, they still believe, in the sense of affirming certain propositions, right? But unless the faith is manifested and embedded in practices — communal practices — it is not going to last.

(Rod Dreher, Chariots of Fire vs. Minivans of Apathy)