Here’s the paradox of the Benedict Option: if the church is going to be the blessing for the world that God means for it to be, then it is going to have to spend more time away from the world deepening its commitment to God, to scripture, to tradition, and to each other. We cannot give to the world what we do not have. We should engage with the world, but not at the expense of our fidelity and our sense of ourselves as a people set apart. We must somehow walk a path between the Christian fundamentalists who reject everything about the world and the accomodationists who love the world so much that they rationalize idol-worship for the sake of preserving their privileges. “Engaging the culture” must never become an excuse to burn a pinch of incense to Caesar. Winsomeness must never be a veil concealing our cowardice from ourselves.
There must have been something about the daily lives of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Babylon that trained them spiritually so that when they were put to the ultimate test, they passed. It must be that way with us, too. We are failing at this today, and failing badly. The numbers I cited earlier tell a tale of Christian infidelity. If we don’t change our way of living, we will not survive as the church. We will be assimilated. There is no middle way…
If we are going to stay true to our faith, we are going to have to listen to voices from outside the here and now – authoritative voices from the Christian past, especially the premodern era. How else are we going to be able to tell the difference between those who speak comforting lies that we want to hear and those who, like Jeremiah, preach the prophetic word of God? We must beware of religious leaders who are content to be chaplains to the contemporary cultural order. That way is death.
– Rod Dreher, Signs of the Times, Plough Quarterly, Issue 13