Tuesday, June 14, 2011

So what, exactly, is the Benedict Option?

The comments below yesterday's post have taken an interesting turn, as commenters discuss the Benedict Option. Readers who remember Rod Dreher's blogs on Beliefnet are familiar with the term; others may not be. Here's Rod, from an article written in 2009 at The American Conservative:

Perhaps it’s a measure of the depths of my cultural pessimism, but when I take a sounding of the conservative predicament these days, I find myself not asking, “What would Reagan do?” but rather “What would Benedict do?” Benedict of Nursia, I mean, the 5th-century founder of Western monasticism, the man most responsible for preserving European Christian culture through the Dark Ages.

The Catholic philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre famously ended his landmark 1982 book After Virtue with a gloomy meditation about the collapse of a common moral sense in the West. He suggested that we were too far gone into nihilism and relativism to save and that those devoted to the traditional virtues should consider hiving off, as Benedict and his followers did in Rome’s final days, to build communities that can withstand the incoming tide of chaos and despond. MacIntyre wrote that our unawareness of how lost we are “constitutes part of our predicament,” one that can only be adequately addressed by “another—and doubtless very different—St. Benedict.”

What could that mean for conservatives today? That we should consider what I’ve come to call the “Benedict Option”—that is, pioneering forms of dropping out of a barbaric mainstream culture that has grown hostile to our fundamental values. The case for traditional conservatives to make a strategic retreat to defensible perimeters, so to speak, has become even more appealing since 1999, when Paul Weyrich issued his famous fin de siècle call for conservatives to pull back radically from “a [cultural] collapse so great that it simply overwhelms politics.” [...]

Conservatives have worked so hard over the past few decades to fight for civilized standards against a short checklist of modern barbarisms—abortion, gay marriage, political correctness, and so forth. What we failed to consider was that we had become barbarians ourselves.

The barbarians of the Roman era wandered and marauded aimlessly. We accepted rootlessness as the modern condition. We defended our unrestrained consumer appetites by spiting those who would counsel limits as freedom’s enemies. Despisers of communism, we worshiped capitalism, naïve to its revolutionary power to dissolve bonds we ought to have cherished and things we ought to have conserved. Though we like to think of ourselves as apostles of excellence preaching against the depredations of Hollywood trash and academia’s political correctness, we have reduced ourselves to sneering at the concept of elitism and celebrating ignorance and vulgarity as signs of authenticity.

We cast aside the sense of temperamental modesty, of restraint and of fidelity to honorable traditions that have been conservatism’s philosophical patrimony, and exchanged it for a pot of ideological message. When MacIntyre wrote that the barbarians “have already been governing us for quite some time,” he didn’t mean the Democrats alone.

I've argued before against the "intentional community" solution myself, and if the Benedict Option were to be seen as a complete withdrawal from the world, a sort of Catholic (and other Christians, etc.) Amish movement, I couldn't be for it. (Not now, anyway; whether such a thing will arise sometime near the end of history, before the Second Coming, is something I'm afraid I'd rather not learn in my lifetime--though admitting that reveals my weakness as a Christian.) For one thing, I'd be helpless in an agrarian society. Not everybody's cut out to run a self-sufficient farm, raise livestock, etc., and I'm most assuredly not. :)

But I'll admit that my ideas about the Benedict Option have been evolving. I once saw it primarily as a desire to escape from the evils of the world to some Purely Pure place, and further saw how badly such notions usually turn out; now, though, I'm starting to think of it as a plan to find strength in numbers and thus to be able to resist the darker elements of our slowly decaying culture in order to stand firm against the immoral rot being peddled as goodness by our increasingly wicked nation.

What would that really look like?

To be honest, I think it's already started. Like-minded people are forming communities--there's just a preponderance of virtual communities so far, and not as many physical ones. There are some places, though, that are growing in size--and other communities slowly losing families with children, as people simply give up on the idea of trying to raise morally informed children in certain places which have been at the forefront of the destruction of morality and virtue in this country.

And I think these efforts will increase, as religious believers start to realize just how hostile this nation is to us and to our values. To use one obvious example: only a handful of religious believers actually think that chastity is a virtue and that virginity ought to be the default mode of life for the unmarried (and that anything else is a sin). Most Americans no longer believe this, seeing sex as mere recreation and a rite of passage for teens, and the only "virtue" involved being the use of prophylactic contraceptives to give the illusion of physical safety to the acts in question (mental or emotional safety is dismissed as unimportant, and moral safety as illusory and unreal). It is, to put this as clearly as possible, more culturally acceptable (and I speak of both males and females here) for an unmarried person to be a slut than to be a virgin.

It is also a cultural imperative to be a greedy consumer who hypocritically accepts various "green" initiatives to offset his guilt about purchasing boatloads of junk manufactured overseas by wage slaves; to act on every impulse; to disdain family in favor of more transient relationships; to demand a share of the federal pie as supplied by other people's tax revenues; to view child-rearing as a drudge job best outsourced to others; to keep one's head down and mouth shut at work in the name of diversity; to avoid sincere religious practices which make others "uncomfortable;" and to shun meaningful hobbies and activities in favor of increasingly vapid entertainment which sells even more consumer goods both for the purpose of viewing or accessing the entertainment and for the purpose of imitating those pretty puppets on the various screens with their shopping and clothing and homes and fashions and cosmetic surgeries.

Is this really what we want for ourselves and our families?

As I understand it, the whole idea of the Benedict Option was that people who positively reject these ideas, who put religious faith and teaching at the center of their lives, and who consciously (even if slowly) work to move away from the culture of consumption and entertainment (including the left-right political entertainment, which is often no more substantial than any other form) would find each other and somehow gain some proximity to each other--whether the physical proximity of living within a particular area, or the spiritual proximity of attending a particular parish or church, or even, if no other proximity were possible, the more tenuous connection that can be formed by virtual communities of people working for positive changes in their lives. And these changes would have as their goal not only the rejection of the ugly, immoral pseudo-culture of twenty-first century America, but the creation and preservation of real culture, informed by faith, lived by families, with those universal and redemptive aspects that real culture has for those immersed in it.

As Rod would say: discuss. Would you embrace this idea of the Benedict Option? What changes would you make, and why?


Melanie B said...

I would say that in many ways my family has already embraced the Benedict Option as you describe it here, especially when it comes to our childrearing. In deciding to homeschool we've opted out of one major challenge to our values. Our kids don't watch television. WE tend to spend the most time with people who share our values, either extended family or friends from church. Our online community is a huge resource for deliberately crafting a family culture and from what I see reading other Catholic mother's blogs it seems were not alone in this approach.

I have to say I hadn't really considered the Benedict Option viable until you mentioned virtual communities. I think they provide a major source of encouragement becasue living counterculturaly is hard enough when you know other people who are doing it. Without a support system of some kind it's almost impossible.

JMB said...

We too chose to raise our family near my family of origin for the simple reason that we wanted them to know their grandparents well, to see their aunts & uncles and cousins on a daily or weekly basis. I think the world has always been hostile to the truth; it was back when Jesus walked the earth; and before him the prophets. For us, being near family, going to Mass, being able to freely associate with our neighbors, practice our faith, educate our children they way we want; these are good things and I am grateful for them. I can't fight these battles, I have my family. That's my Benedict Option.

JMB said...

oops, edited to say "I can't fight the world's battles". I pray for my family above all else.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I'm a fan of the idea of having like-minded friends and virtual friends. I think that classical homeschooling can prepare our kids for the world they'll face.

I think it's important that we all have places to recharge and relax between battles--for instance, a lot of secular universities have really excellent Catholic student centers that help young Catholics find a way to be "in but not of the world."

I think it's also possible to find friends who share your values who AREN'T Catholic-- I have some Lutheran, Hindu and Jewish friends who have very similar ideas about raising kids and moral values, even if we can't agree on the real presence. And I think it helps my kids to know that some values aren't just "Catholic" values, they're HUMAN values.

What I'd argue with is calling this (like-minded friends in family friendly towns) the "Benedict option."

I know a fair number of people who drift "Catholic Amish" or who join movements in an attempt to surround themselves with likeminded Catholics... and the emphasis is important.

It's one thing to want to have friends who understand where you're coming from and can support you in your journey. It's another to want to surround yourself with like-minded people so you never have to face disagreement or contraceptors or whatever. And I have seen groups that DO try to draw apart in the latter way start to devolve into all sorts of crazy.

In the end, I think our starting point has to be parish life. And our parishes are situated in the community-- we don't check baptismal certificates when we feed the hungry at the food pantry, we don't ask for the Nicene creed before we drive the sick neighbor to the hospital.

A lot of people have odd ideas about what Catholics are like, and a lot of people are lonely and thirsty for a bit of kindness and love----

SO--we can have our friends and Catholic community, BUT we also have to be willing to reach out to the Samaritans in our midst.

Which, honestly, the Monastaries did--- but when I run across the idea of "lay monasticism" in practice, it's often more like "Lay cartusianism"

Really, we need to know and talk to other people who live their faith, but we also need to be ready to go out and be loving and kind to the lost people around us. Many of our neighbors are incredibly lonely, and even have an inkling that the 'modern way' isn't a happy way.....

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Paul Weyrich is an old curmudgeon for whom I have no respect at all. The doomsday scenarios, and analogies to the fall of the Roman Empire are way off base. Further, Benedict did not save some pure Christianity from the imagined halcyon spiritual purity of the Roman Empire - he planted the seeds of a very different Christianity that grew as part and parcel of the new barbarian world. The Roman Empire, whether pagan or Christian, was a cess pool of corruption. True Christian faith would have done well to run from THAT in the first place.

"The Benedict Option" as Rod presents it is both cowardly and futile. I have always been among the critics of people living in such insular communities that they can ask in all sincerity "How did ____ win the election? I don't know ANYONE who voted for him?" We need to know each other, in truth if not in spirit, because we are all part of what God set in motion by creating us.

I don't hang out here because I expect to convince Erin of my way of thinking, nor because I long to become a Catholic. Nor do I enjoy taunting people who I know see things very differently than I do. It is vital that we talk to each other. And, now and then, we each find we have SOME common ground on SOME points.

Elections, and for that matter cultural trends, are decided by fickle people who sway this way and that, much to the consternation of those of us who are strongly committed to what we believe is The Way Forward. That's life. Deal with it. Try to do some good among the noise and waste.

Red Cardigan said...

Here's the thing: I think that very soon we're going to get to the point where the choices we make about our interaction with the world are going to have a serious impact on our children's souls, their ability to remain strong Christians in a hostile world, and their eternal destinies.

For instance, several years ago I was flabbergasted by a discussion by Catholic homeschoolers about how a boy being raised by two lesbians had signed up for a little Catholic activity program the local parish was doing, and how he prayed loudly at individual prayer time each day to thank God for giving him two moms and no dad. What flabbergasted me was that these moms didn't think their own fairly young children (seven or eight, maybe, or perhaps a little younger if I recall correctly) should immediately be removed from a program that had been "hijacked" in that way by lesbian activists and their highly indoctrinated child. What, are young children magically supposed to be able to understand how deeply wrong that scenario is? Worse, are they supposed to be held hostage to it?

Catholic parents in America (yes, even some homeschooling ones) are doing a terrible job of handing the faith on to our children. Fewer and fewer Americans each year remain practicing Catholics; the number of lapsed Catholics or CAPE Catholics (Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Easter) grows exponentially. Presently only three percent--3%!!--of American Catholics accept Church teaching that artificial contraception is gravely morally evil.

In my opinion, we have a choice: we can act like our points of contact with the culture will indeed affect our ability to hand on our faith intact to our children, or we can act like the culture is harmless or mostly harmless and that it's just normal for Catholic teens to imbibe the cultural offerings, leave the Church for a while, engage in premarital sex, etc.--and it'll be fine, because one of these days they'll wise up and return to the religion of their childhood. Anyone who believes that probably is in the market for a bridge or two.

Someone like Siarlys (sorry to use you as an example here) might not consider a child's rejection of his faith and the loss of his soul any big deal (because, after all, God is merciful, and how do we know what He wants anyway, because it's not like He sent His son to tell us or anything, etc.). But to those of us who see that as a tragedy, our engagement with the immoral pseudo-culture of America today ought to be looked upon with a great deal of trepidation.

Patrick said...

@ Siarlys Jenkins:

"The Benedict Option" as Rod presents it is both cowardly and futile."

That I find myself heading toward the Siarlys Jenkins school of thought means I should probably start skipping some "Happy Hours". My first instinct was "cowardly!"

I'm inclined to say, though, that Catholics *with* children probably have a more acute sense of things than us. It's easy for me to be content in a hostile culture- content in the sense of "I don't care if I'm a pariah" - but I'm under thirty without kids and set in my orthodox Catholic opinion.

From the above comments, it seems that if you rally 'round your family and parish, you'll be ok. You gotta trust the Holy Spirit to protect you...

Deirdre Mundy said...

Also, I'm not sure if "carefully considering how contacts with the culture affect you and your family and trying to avoid harmful points of contact" is the same thing as "creating a monastary."

This isn't really a NEW challenge for Catholic families-- the tension has been there for every generation, because culture, while a gift from God, is mediated by humans.

And while the church gives us general guidelines, the pope isn't going to tell you which dance is not OK, or which TV show will destroy your kids.

For me, I've found it helpful to have age appropriate conversations with my kids. When we run up against a nice-seeming person who is engaged in nonsense antithetical to our faith, I explain to the kids that not everyone knows Jesus, and so they don't realize how to love and serve God, and that we need to pray for them. It works, but I'm not sure it amounts to anything on the same planet as Dreher's vision.

I do think it's important that our kids understand that "nice and well-meaning" and "right and pleasing to God" are not always the same thing.

Michael said...

I think the choices we make when interacting with the world already have a serious impact. We all probably know many families that choose the Benedict Option, but in different ways. They seem to be doing the same thing but would disagree strongly on how to do it.

It seems to me that the goal is to step outside the economy of the world, through traditional methods such as detachment from goods, and enter into a new economy ordered towards the good where worldly enticements have limited and controlled influence. I see people doing this isolated on a farm, in the heart of the city or in their suburban subdivision.

Here's some food for thought from a book entitled The Hermitage Within "Let inconvenience in all things be familiar to you; 'no-need' should order you arrangements and requirements. Better for you if obedience acts as a brake, not as a goad."

Anonymous said...

If you're offering to create an online orthodox community where we can meet other likeminded people in our area (cathbook.com?) let me know what I can do to help. I'm in 100%.

My family doesn't have the resources to send our kids to private or parochial schools (or even to homeschool) and we are almost the only family with kids I ever see, even when we attend other parishes. I know we should probably find a way to become more involved in local parish life, but even when we do, the only other people we meet are almost always at least 50. They're wonderful people, but it's lonely, and that's not really a community. I have been dying to meet other Catholic families with kids our age in our area.

When I was a teenager, I used to frequent BBSs (in the days before the internet was really the internet) and we formed little BBS communities and had meetups at coffee shops and beach barbecues and generally formed a "real" community around our "virtual" group. It was great, and I would give my teeth for something like that where I could meet fellow orthodox Christian families.

Of course, I happen to be right smack in the middle of the low-family capital of California, but heck we can't be the only ones here. The place is named after a saint, after all.

Red Cardigan said...

Sleeping Beastly: now *there's* an interesting idea...

Anonymous said...

I don't know the first thing about web design, and I suspect we would risk a lawsuit from Mark Zuckerberg, but godaddy says cathbook.com is available, and I do own a copy of Web Design For Dummies...

I may lack know-how, but I do have enthusiasm in spades. Do you think some well-known Catholic bloggers like you and Mark Shea and Thomas Peters could put out a call for Catholic web designers willing to volunteer their skills for a project like this?

Red Cardigan said...

Sleeping Beastly, I'm flattered that you'd consider me well-known. :) You could try emailing Mark and Thomas--I know that Mark is good about getting to his emails, though it may take time.

Don't know if it would be worth the risk of lawsuit to use a name like "Cathbook," though. Maybe not?

I'm a complete novice with technology myself, so I have no idea what sort of design would work for this kind of project, either. Hmmm. Maybe some of my readers would have ideas. I can put up a post and ask for suggestions if that would be helpful...

Carrie said...

I am 150% behind Sleeping Beauty's idea.

Red, what you said: I think that very soon we're going to get to the point where the choices we make about our interaction with the world are going to have a serious impact on our children's souls, their ability to remain strong Christians in a hostile world, and their eternal destinies.

This is so true. I've seen it in my own family and watched helplessly (although both DH and myself have tried to help!) as they have fallen away from the Faith -- due in a very large part to the world's culture and the influences therein. I won't go into details but it's definitely true.

I know Christians have gone through things like this all throughout history, but come on - society has never been like THIS. Click a button and you can instantly chat with someone across the globe. TV, movies, music - it's never been like this before in the history of the world. Things like certain sexual and homosexual behavior being taught openly to our kids IN SCHOOL as being completely "normal" and totally ok? I know things have been bad (remember when only a handful of bishops weren't Arian?!) but I'd venture to say it really HASN'T ever been as bad as this. The landscape of society has changed; the world has changed more in the past 100 years than it has since modern human history BEGAN! Don't fool yourself into thinking the struggle is the same as it's always been.

I wholeheartedly agree with the Benedict Option, but it is so difficult to find people, even in the parishes in the area. We recently moved here, and I have yet to find any Catholic couples with any children close to our baby's age. Crazy, isn't it? But I assure you, we have looked HARD. They've got to be around here somewhere! We're not the only twenty-something devout Catholics with a baby!!!

That's why Sleeping Beauty's idea is so appealing. You can't live your life in a virtual community (that's part of the problem with kids these days ... they have no idea of what's appropriate, polite "real-life" behavior anymore and they never look you in the eye when they're talking to you!) but you can use it to create a REAL community!

I love that idea! Count me in!

Turmarion said...

I appreciate that Red points out the pitfalls of intentional community--historically they tend to go nuts in short order. As to the Internet, I think the dangers there are that it can become an echo chamber. Moreover, whether it can fill in for community in real life is still an open question.

Kudos for decrying "left-right political entertainment"--much better! ;)

[T]o keep one's head down and mouth shut at work in the name of diversity....

Rod always used to say this, and maybe it's true in a newsroom in Manhattan or a studio in L.A., but living in a red state, I just don't see it. In over two decades of work, all of it in secular milieus except for one year at a Catholic school, I've never noted that employees felt the least bit shy or intimidated about speaking up and expressing conservative political, religious, or moral views. I've often been witness to long discourses, in fact. At a federally-funded job program I used to work at, one of the teachers actually had an onsite prayer group after class, which of course was in violation of federal law, but no one cared. A coworker at the public two-year college I now teach at went off not long ago on a tangent that was not only conservative Christian but also blithely anti-Catholic, to my face, even after I told her I was Catholic.

It's not just me--my wife, who is more liberal than I (I consider myself moderate) doesn't say much political or religious at work because the prevailing atmosphere is so conservative that she doesn't want to get into hassles; ditto a friend of mine who works as an insurance adjuster. Co-workers have Fox radio news running all the time, and he avoids any political conversations for the same reason my wife does (and he's not a flaming liberal). Once more, it may be different in Manhattan, but I sure don't see that conservatives have to shut up at work around here.

[T]o demand a share of the federal pie as supplied by other people's tax revenues....

I think this weakens your argument--as I'm sure you're aware, the U.S. bishops have generally been favorable to aspects of the welfare state. As I've pointed out before, Dorothy Day was as morally and religiously conservative and traditional as you'd like, but politically anarcho-socialist to the end. I wouldn't take it that far, but I'm no fan of capitalism. I don't think that any economic system--capitalism, socialism, feudalism, etc. is necessarily more or less compatible with Christianity as such, and I think it's dangerous when one starts conflating religious and political or economic views. I think that is an example of the type of entanglement of faith with society that you rightly decry.

Finally, again with the "losing souls" rhetoric. Look, Hans Urs von Balthasar was one of John Paul II's favorite theologians, and the late Fr. John Neuhaus was far from a liberal, moral therapeutic deist, and both were qualified universalists. I appreciate what you're saying, but it's not going to be heard by those not like-minded. Also, it seems to me to put forth a message I just can't endorse--that is, that as society degenerates and people fall away from the faith, more and more people are gonna burn.

Look, in Luke 18:8, Jesus says, "But when the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on Earth?" He doesn't seem to think the answer is "yes". So he's OK with mass perdition of most of humanity?

I'm not saying we shouldn't take care for our souls and those of our children and loved ones; but I don't think the "it's all literally going to Hell in a handbasket" view is good, either. To me, the best attitude is the old Orthodox maxim that one should act is if "all are saved, I alone am damned". If we could all do this, in a non-morbid way, I think it would do wonders for the world.

John E. said...

>(remember when only a handful of bishops weren't Arian?!)

I don't think any of us here are that old!

Carrie said...

Haha, John - touché! ;)

Hector said...

The odd thing is that while I disagree with Erin on many issues, I actually have some sympathy for her thoughts about the Benedict Option. Because I'm also deeply disgusted and dissatisfied with twentieth century American society, and there have been a lot of times in the past that I've wondered whether or not the best thing for me to do would be just to, you know, leave. To maybe emigrate to somewhere in South America, or to some rural part of the United States, with enough like minded people, and let American late-capitalism continue on its road to ruin.

The things which bother me about the modern West probably aren't the same things that bother Erin. Erin gets exercised by contraception, premarital sex, and homosexuality. I feel something of the same disgust for our society's views about capitalism, labour, and the environment, as well as our separation from the land, and as well as for our government's two centuries of imperialistic foreign policy. (I'm in favour of the war in Afghanistan and the war on terror, but that's mostly because as much as I dislike Western capitalism and imperialism, I dislike Islamic jihadism even more). I suppose we do have some common ground in our hatred of abortion. But more than that, we both agree that there's something very wrong with the modern West, something sick at its core, even if we disagree on what the problem is and how to solve it.

I don't think I'd want to live in Erin's intentional community, but I think we would all be better off if places like that existed.

For the record, Turmarion, if you're reading this, you should really come comment on Alexandria blog sometime (it's a multi-author blog that features many of Dreher's old commenters, including me).

Deirdre Mundy said...

I still think it's a bit over the top to equate "finding friends with similiar goals and values to yours" with the Dreher-style "Benedict Option."

It may be harder to find friends than it used to be, but that probably depends where you live. For instance, I can imagine that it would be harder to find a like-minded Catholic family in Cleveland than it used to be. But, on the other hand, it's much easier to find one in the South than it used to be. (We lived in the Dallas suburb of Duncanville for a hellish year when I was young. None of the kids in the neighborhood were allowed to play with me unless they played "bible school" and tried to convert me... because Catholics were pagans, of course! From the sound of it, the DFW area, for example, has gotten a lot MORE Catholic friendly in the last quarter century.)

And if you read the Confessions of St. Augustine you'll see that Monica had a lot of the same struggles raising a kid in her era that we have in our era. And really, is "reality" TV really more morally depraved than the old arena shows?

I think every generation has the tendency to see it's milieu as the most depraved, the most unfriendly, the most horrible-- because we didn't live through the earlier ages and so don't understand their sins and temptations-- and the temptation of one age is not the temptation of the next, but all are dangerous......

We need to pray, we need to work, and we will suffer for our faith and worry about our children-- but it's a real mistake to think there was some mythical past time where this WASN'T true for Catholics. And the past only looks easier because we're not living it.

Also, I think one BENEFIT of modern entertainment is that it is fairly easy to limit kids exposure. I can turn off my TV--if there are lacivious dancers on the street on my way to the library, it's harder to keep the kids' eyes clean. (Though I live in the midwest, not CA or NY.... I can totally see how people on the coasts would feel a lot more... oppressed by the culture. )

Alice said...

I guess I grew up with the Benedict Option, then. Basically it meant only keeping in contact with True Catholics and avoiding everyone else lest we be contaminated with Evil. It was pre-internet (for our family) and there were no True Catholics with children in our area, so we had pen pals. Maybe we were supposed to be supporting our own, but in reality we were just refusing to be part of our community. It was the antithesis of rooted and stable. Needless to say, my husband and I are opting out of this for our family.

I live in a blue state and in a blue county and I've only seen two groups of people take the Benedict Option: GLBT/Allies and Crunchy Catholic Homeschooling Conservatives. Neither group wants to have to defend their beliefs and both groups want to live under the illusion that they are the majority, so they avoid the rest of us as much as possible. It's OK, I guess, because I don't want my children to get the idea that people are only worth socializing with if they provide an echo chamber or can be used for furthering one's agenda.

Turmarion said...

Carrie: Things like certain sexual and homosexual behavior being taught openly to our kids IN SCHOOL as being completely "normal" and totally ok?

Actually, throughout much of Classical Antiquity pederasty was the basis of education....

John E.: LOL! Long time, wazzap?

Hector: Great post--you make some excellent points. I'll have a look at Alexandria some time soon.

Deirdre and Alice, good posts, good points.

John E. said...

>And really, is "reality" TV really more morally depraved than the old arena shows?

American or Japanese?

Hey Turmarion - doing well, thanks!

I second Hector's suggestion that you check out Alexandria.


JMB said...

Deirdre and Alice,
I echo the above, the times have always been bad. What's a mother to do? My grandfather had to pack up his bags and escape his beloved homeland (Germany); my other grandmothers were sent to America from Ireland and Northern Ireland by themselves as young women with no education, no money and had to live with distant relatives under very difficult circumstances. My father witnessed his father break down with grief when the United States failed to help his beloved countrymen in Hungary; there was no going back to see his family.

And as for my children losing their faith? If exposing them to the great unwashed public causes them to abandon the truth, than the truth had no hold over them. I have to trust that the Holy Spirit will do his part. Wrapping them up in bubble wrap isn't going to save them.

Michael said...

Okay Alice really hit a point, Intentional communities are toooo intentional, not natural enough. But many of us want the benefits of them.

So, I just moved my family from the city to a rural town in the Ozarks for a job. The rural agricultural ideal seems far from ideal to me. In fact its very isolating. I don't see how so much isolation and distance from friends could be a Christian ideal. Not to mention that folks around here hardly know their neighbors. And every devoted Catholic that I know, who has sought a monastic influenced life and strong community, have very opposing ideas how to accomplish it.

Forming a core community of friends that hold together the faith is essential, and living outside the secular economy is important as well. But place is essential! We must live where we're planted as well. This is the hardest for me, I'm much more fond of the city I left. Community is hard work and harder work with people who may negatively influence my children. None the less, Its work I must do.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

There is a lot of food for thought here... I must admit, I have had a few thoughts of my own about intentional communities, but not isolated from the world. My dream (since I share with Hector a distaste for capitalims) is, if I had a few hundred million dollars, I would find ways to invest it in new enterprises, preferably built on research offering new ways products that allow existing enterprises to operate with greater efficiency, less environmental impact, complying effortlessly and simply with applicable government regulation... and build my own production facilities in aging abandoned inner city industrial buildings, hiring from the immediate neighborhood, with apprenticeship programs that would allow an entry level janitor to go to school part time and become a technician, at the least... maybe I'd also build a meg-lev local commuter line. It should all pay its own way without subsidy, but not worry overmuch about profits.

This would have both intended and unintended consequences, including more couples marrying, perhaps feeling they can afford bigger families, certainly rejecting even the thought of abortion, and probably taking their kids to church on a regular basis. (I favor employers scheduling work around an employee's religious obligations). Some of the kids might even grow up to vote Republican.

There is only one thing I find moderately insulting in Erin's characterization of me. I may not be Roman Catholic, but I am Christian (we say the Apostle's Creed with a small c "catholic church"). I can't adequately answer the question Muhammed raised, how can a transcendent unitary deity have a son, but God certainly gave of himself, the word made flesh, and certainly, it couldn't have been ALL of his divine self that died on the cross, so "his son" is as good a human concept to put on it as any. What we don't all seem to be able to agree on is, WHAT exactly did "his son" tell us?

It is some work to live in married bliss raising children next door to two lesbians with three adopted sons, raise children in the sanctity of marriage, while teaching them to play nicely with the kids next door and be respectful to adults. I think I would say "This is what your mother and I believe, this is why we married, and had all of you. Obviously, the ladies next door see things differently. We aren't living their lives, and it is not our place to judge them. We are each and all accountable to God. So don't worry about the way they live. Worry about how we live, and how you are going to live your lives."

Patrick has a point of course. I'm 57 and childless, although I have a little brother, age 11, who I've been matched with for five years. Children have a very hard time not conforming. I don't say that children shouldn't spend time in groups of like-minded people. But they are going to have to deal with the rest of the world some time.

As for Alexandria, it has a liberal atmosphere, but like the Roman Catholic Church, it is ruled by an unelected Pontiff who, when he makes ex cathedra pronouncements, expects them to be accepted without question, and excommunicates anyone who offends his divine majesty.

Geoff G. said...

Red, allow me to put my money where my mouth is.

I deeply believe in your right to express your views and form a community that you like.

And I do have the web development skills you may be looking for.

So I'll volunteer to provide you with purely technical (i.e. absolutely non-editorial) expertise. I think you already have my email address if you're interested.

Melanie B said...

I'm pretty sure the Catholic Facebook has been tried and failed.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I'd be an avid user of some sort of "faithbook" site, and would love to contribute to it in any way I can. I have no technical skills, but I have some ideas about what kinds of functions and layouts average users might appreciate.

I'm also happy to proofread. My BA in English hasn't served me too well in the workplace but it has to be good for something sooner or later. Any other menial volunteer work can be sent my way too.

Kerri said...

I was going to comment that there already is a "Catholic facebook" called 4marks.com, but I discovered that it is no longer in existence. I like to hang out at the Catholic Answers forums sometimes- there's always someone there and it is up-to- the-minute.

Hector said...

Siarlys Jenkins,

Muhammed's problem is that God isn't 'unitary', God is trinitarian.

You're right that where we disagree is in WHAT exactly did Jesus tell us? and I think your suggestions as to how a conservative Catholic can deal with living next to a lesbian couple (and, likewise, how the lesbian couple can deal with raising their kids) is right on.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I've heard that God is Trinitarian. Probably the passage of the Qu'ran I appreciate most is the one where Muhammed says that it impugns the transcendence of God to suggest that he had a son. You, I know, disagree. We've tossed this around often enough. Yet, I cannot find substantial Biblical support for the notion that God is Three. The terms, father, son, and holy ghost, are of course mentioned, but not what each consists of, or its relation to God. The rest, it seems, was the contribution of Greek philosophers who embraced Christianity without knowing the Jewish context of their Savior. In short, a kind of syncretism.

Gerardo Moochie said...

Give me an "echo chamber" any day over the sewer pit our culture has become.

Those who insist that they are strong enough to resist the moral diseases that permeate society are welcome to persist in their desire, but most are probably overestimating their moral capacity.

It is interesting to see that those who see themselves as the "most holy" among us are the ones who mock those who feel "weak" and so strive to preserve their own and their families' moral integrity through separation from the amoral culture. Yes, give me the echo chamber.

I can honestly say that if I had to do child rearing all over again, I would rather live in a single wide trailer and send my kids to Christian school or home school than send them to the sewer of public schools and live in a nice house as I did. My kids turned out to be influenced much more by their culture and their culture-obsessed mother than by the Word of God. Yes, give me the echo chamber of a smaller Christian society over the sewer of the culture.

Gerardo Moochie said...

Siarlys: If you insist on disbelieving the Trinitarian belief of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit embodied in One God, then you would be much closer to the true God if you were a Jehovah's Witness than a Muslim. Both of these groups disbelieve the Trinity, but the Witnesses act much more "Christian."

Of course, the preferred and more accurate choice would be to believe in the Trinity. The word "trinity" was chosen merely to explain the relationship of the three essences/characteristics of the One True God.