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The Benedict Option:

A Series of Essays Exploring the Future of Christianity In a Post Christian America

Why We Are At this Point: One Perspective

For years prognosticators have warned that America would follow Western Europe down a path of social destruction in which traditional values, conventional customs and constitutional rights would be rejected in favor of a moral relativism that sends the message to all that it is acceptable to do as thou wilt regardless of the consequences to your neighbor, the children—our collective progeny—and yourself.

With the advent of the so called Sexual Revolution [1] beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the 1980s conventional wisdoms regarding the family, personal responsibilities and life in general were replaced with a philosophy that inculcated ultimate individual freedoms in interpersonal intimate relationships. Marriages that produced life long monogamous lifestyles that in turn produced large families with children who for the most part grew up to be well adjusted and productive members of society; these societal models and conventions were slowly replaced by damaging philosophies of no fault divorce, unlimited/unrestricted contraception, pre and extra martial sex, abortion, homosexuality and a host of other societal ills that bare a striking resemblance to the Roman Empire in its last days.

Of late, may editorialists have offered opinions of how we might proceed forward from this point; one of which, Rod Dreher in an article titled Critics of the Benedict Option for the American Conservative observed the following:

In his 1982 discourse, After Virtue Alasdair MacIntyre wrote:

It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman Empire declined into the Dark Ages. None the less certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. [2]

The point being that those that have studied history of that time period remember that the growing trend away from family traditions that produced off spring to lead and protect the empire, coupled with plagues that depopulated the citizenry left an empire—which had stood for more than 500 years—in such indefensible shape that it was easily defeated and plundered by invading barbarian hordes.

Many of us in the ministry who have lamented this unsettling trend have in turn laid the blame at our own feet, observing that as a whole the church has failed to teach doctrine. We—ministers as a whole—have done a wonderful job of leading people to Christ but a horrible job of educating disciples for Christ.

When you identify as any one particular thing, be it Christian, American, Republican or even Democrat, you are saying that you are a part of a group with core principles/doctrines that identify it as different from other such groups. The Christian faith has core beliefs, tenets, doctrines that not only define it but are a prerequisite for Christian life.

In John 3:1-21 Jesus said that. “You Must Be Born Again” which means that you must reshape your life turning away from sin doing the will of the Father (God) This is reinforced by his words in John 8:11 to the woman brought before him accused of adultery, “Go and sin no more.” He further warns us that failing to do so will be detrimental to our existence in Matthew 7:21-23

”Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

 

These sayings of Jesus—and many more—as given to us through the New Testament Gospels as well as the teachings in the Acts of the Apostles, are core to the principles that one must be aware of and adopt as a Christian. Of course the Old Testament as well as the opinions and commentary produced by the early church Fathers also give us a guideline to understand the words of Christ and a foundation to live by. To be Christian you simply cannot dismiss all the works of Christ, the Apostles, those pillars of the church that spent lifetimes analyzing and interpreting the will of God, and then make up your own rules. You simply cannot say I am a follower of Christ focusing on the good and easy things he said and ignoring the hard.

Many of us agree that we of the ministry have failed to lead, failed to teach, failed to be good shepherds of his flock. Instead of teaching how to be Christians we have focused on numbers, bringing people into the church using topnotch bands, outstanding choirs and over the top technology, creating an atmosphere that rivaled the elaborate stage shows of the largest Las Vegas casinos or the most popular musical group on a whirlwind world tour selling out concert venues capable of seating tens of thousands. However Burt Farias wrote for Charisma News:

But is that what it’s really about? The numbers? The Catholics have numbers; the Muslims have numbers; the Mormons have numbers. I would rather have 300 hungry for-God people than 3,000 who want to be entertained.[3]

Mr. Farias as well as many others blame this phenomenon of numbers building as Christian entertainment services for the dwindling numbers of people remaining in churches that fail to teach good sound doctrine, but in the same respect attribute the growth of churches—that teach traditional doctrine and the need to turn from sin—to people “hungry for God.”

When the church fails to teach sound doctrine, and those perceived as pillars of the faith live lifestyles contrary to Christian values, and those same pillars attack others while ignoring their own sin, a certain degree of hypocrisy is felt by those under attack by professing Christians, even though the one tenet that we have horrendously failed to elaborate on is that we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. It is hard to evangelize, attract to the church and retain a sinner when all that person sees is a room full of hypocrites condemning him of his sins while ignoring their own. For these un-discipled people it is far more easy and desirable to pursue a life style fulfilling their base desires and animal instincts instead of walking the Christian path. In this scenario they have not turned a deaf ear to sound teaching but we have failed by not teaching our own as well as the un-churched.

While many ministers have preached sound doctrine and churches have done their utmost to properly disciple converts and continually reeducate existing “saints” other congregations have fallen short of the desirable end product; resulting in a society turning away from God to a religion of self indulgence not far removed from the Pagan phallic cults of Rome shortly before the fall of the empire.

The bottom line is if you are going to call yourself a Christian, then walk the walk and talk the talk. We as Christians should all rededicate ourselves to following the will of the Father in heaven, not allowing our sexual and materialistic desires to cause us to rationalize the doctrines of the church making them fit our sinful lifestyles. This process of reeducation and repentance is key to saving us as a people and the church itself; how to go about this is a current hot topic of discussion. One such theory or possibility has been popularly referred to as the Benedict Option.

 

 

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_revolution

[2] http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/critics-of-the-benedict-option/

[3] http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/the-flaming-herald/50264-1-big-reason-spiritual-people-are-leaving-churches

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