The Benedict Option, by Rod Dreher, is generating a good deal of discussion among serious Catholics, including Regnum Christi members. It is highly thought provoking and worth reading.
Reviews range from those finding much to agree with and others who think he has badly missed the mark. I’m not going to analyze the specific factual accuracies (or inaccuracies), but mention what seems to me to be the general thrust of the book and how it relates to Regnum Christi.
In extremely simplistic terms, most reviewers have the impression that author Rod Dreher is saying we are in a post-Christian world, it will be rough and Christians had better head for the hills and huddle together in a cave.
Well…that wasn’t what it said in the book I read. The thesis goes like this:
- The Christ-centered society in the West – Europe and the Americas – has been deteriorating for a couple hundred hears. The deterioration has accelerated the past couple decades.
- Basic Christian values like marriage and sanctity of life have been abandoned, even by mainline churches. We have a culture in which the right of the individual to satisfy his desires is seen as the greatest good – not that he fulfills God’s plan.
- Therefore, we have arrived at a de facto post-Christian society.
- Life for Christians is going to be difficult and we have to accept that and deal with it.
- This doesn’t mean mounting an armed insurrection or fleeing into the hills. It means living more like the early Christians under Roman rule, avoiding persecution prudently when possible, but not abandoning our faith when put to the test.
- Some of us will likely be in a position like Polycarp, where we have to decide to worship Cesar or suffer the consequences. Of course, in our case it will be a little more nuanced. We might be asked to chair the company LBGT picnic, and refusal is career ending. We are called to be as brave as Polycarp.
- And like the early Christians, we’ll need to form communities of like believers to support one another – and create institutions that nurture the faith. Times will change and we’ll need to ready to return to a culture centered on Christ.
So…what (if anything) does this have to do with Regnum Christi? How might a RC member react? Do we fit into the “option” in some manner? A few thoughts:
- Regnum Christi will never disengage from the culture, nor back away from the mission to establish Christ’s Kingdom on earth.
- We meet people where they are spiritually and bring them love, mercy – and the truth. In other words, we are tools of conversion, not tolerant chaplains to a secular world.
- It could be argued that Regnum Christi, in its teams, sections and localities, forms a version of “Benedict Communities” by helping members persevere in the faith in the light of the many challenges in our secular world.
- We will need to ensure that our institutions – schools, retreat centers, seminaries, universities – not only evangelize but preserve the faith. Put another way, we want to reach the culture, but not at the expense of the truth.
- Bottom line: I think we should avoid the debate over “engage or preserve” and take a high ground that says we will dwell in this secular world as a testimony to the truth of our faith and prudently challenge those who would lead us away from Christ.