Building a Communal Church: An Interview with Rod Dreher
How should Christians live as society grows increasingly hostile to faith?
Plough’s Peter Mommsen and New York Times-bestselling author Rod Dreher talk about Donald Trump, religious liberty, American empire, persecution, and Christian community.
"Critics of the Benedict Option say that it’s a form of retreat – of abandoning society in order to live a purer, holier life. Are they right to see a kind of selfishness in withdrawing?"
"That’s a claim that drives me crazy: 'You just want to go run to the hills and live in your bunker and wait for the end.' That’s absolutely not what I’m saying. What I am saying is, we need to have a strategic, limited retreat from the mainstream for the same reason you would protect a candle with a lantern if you go outside in a gale. Otherwise, the wind would be so strong that it would blow the light out. The currents of culture have become so antithetical to Christianity that if we’re going to form ourselves and our kids in the authentic faith, we’re going to have to have some kind of limited withdrawal...
"But it’s not just running away from what’s destructive – it’s running toward something good... You may have the right instinct to get your kid out of the cesspit of the mainstream by sending them to this school, but it’s not going to help if you just shelter them. You have to show them something good and beautiful and true to build their souls up... That’s what I think the Benedict Option ideally should do. It should show the good fruits of a countercultural life in Christian community, and in that way be evangelical. If you’re not evangelical in some sense you’re not Christian. It is a missionary faith."
This is, honestly, something I struggle with personally - the "missionary faith" aspect of Christianity. I don't want to impose on people, or bother them; I was taught to live and let live, unless it was a matter of defending myself and those I care about. That I have no problem with. But when it comes to saying, "hey, here's something good that I'd like to share with you"... I just never received a particularly large helping of that spirit, either secular (entrepreneurial) or spiritual (missionary / evangelical). But that's actually why I like the Benedictine approach. As Dreher puts it,
"The Benedictine monks set a good example here. They are much more cloistered than any lay community could afford to be. They say, “We have the walls there because we cannot fulfill our mission to serve Christ in the way we’re called to serve him without some walls separating us from the world.” But they also have a Benedictine principle of hospitality. Saint Benedict tells his monks to welcome every stranger and every visitor as Christ himself. That openness allows them to maintain contact with the world and to share the good things they have with the world."
Hospitality... that's something I can get into! My personal spirituality definitely has a Benedictine flavor, in more than one respect: contemplative, mystical, somewhat withdrawn... but more than willing to extend hospitality to those seeking nourishment. Yes, indeed! That I can definitely get into.