Some of you readers may have some idea, at a glance, what the "Benedict Option" is supposed to be and why some Christians have been discussing it. It has been interesting in the last twenty years to observe an ascendancy of Christian American talk of cultural engagement at the period in which Protestant Christianity is no longer necessarily a given as a key ingredient in American civic religion.
For those who are not of a Christian practice or confession a paradox in the mere idea of the Benedict Option is that kind of perceived cultural withdrawal inherent in the enterprise when, at least amongst evangelicals in the United States, the evangelistic impulse within evangelicalism would seem to preclude a Benedict Option.
But ... there's another, probably more serious problem, with evangelicals in the United States proposing a Benedict Option, such as it is. If you're going to, to put this in the most polemical sense of the term for sake of conversation, create a cultural bunker, what kind of culture have you got that would be preservable?
It is on this note that Alastair Roberts' observation about the poor form of American evangelicalism may be salient.
Perhaps another little detail American evangelicals might need to bear in mind is that any culture that is preserving something distinct will, essentially by practical definition, be a cult. The use of the term "cult" has been so pervasive in pejorative use that it might be difficult for anyone to attempt to use "cult" in a neutral sense, and yet it seems as though cult formation is the very essence of what humans do. That contemporary progressive thought can occasionally forget this is understandable but evangelicals can also forget that it's true of them, too, just as it is true of all of us. It's more dangerous to convince ourselves that cult formation is what we try to avoid than what we aim to do.
Perhaps due to a preference for lower liturgical forms and a suspicion of "dead religion" evangelicalism in the United States may have so gutted itself of cultural formation tools that even if those in evangelicalism attempt a Benedict Option, they have spent generations actively divesting themselves of the things that could have most served them toward the end of creating a cultural garrison of whatever sort they hope could be created.
Not that people haven't tried to create cultures in which values and aesthetics were preserved. That was, arguably. what many observed was being attempted within the social system and corporate enterprise that up until recently was known as Mars Hill.
There's considerably more that could be said about that enterprise but it won't be easily put into words. Recent coverage of what's been described as Mark Driscoll's testosterone Gospel needs to be reframed a bit not in terms of what people think he was alleged to have been selling but by examining what social and economic difficulties he and his associates believed they were trying to solve. It is possible to disagree with where a person goes on a particular issue; or to disagree with the methodology by which they propose to address an issue or goal; and yet at the same time understand the significance of the problem they have tried to solve. Time and energy permitting, Wenatchee The Hatchet hopes to address a bit more of the "testosterone Gospel" to point out what the nature of its Social Gospel was (HT to Dan at City of God for formulating the idea of the Social Gospel of Mars Hill).
Meanwhile, evangelicals talking about a Benedict Option may need to keep talking about what that even means and whether or not American evangelicalism has truly formulated the kinds of cultural tools with which to create such an option.
And as culture stuff goes, we're going to get to writing about books on music later this year. And revisit The Legend of Korra, which Wenatchee The Hatchet has recently renamed "The Legend of Entitlement". But the music stuff will be more fun to write about.
But, as noted earlier in this post, WtH isn't necessarily erupting with content for here just yet.