Why do some people misunderstand the BenOp?
[Originally from an interview on Rod Dreher's blog. You can read the full interview here]
RD: What are some of the things that prevent American Christians from grasping the need for a Benedict Option way of life? In other words, what blinds us?
CT: Now that would be telling, wouldn’t it? I honestly think there are a number of things that contribute to that, but I think the key thing that prevents American Christians from grasping the need for a BenOp way of life is the fact that Americans — or at least those living in the USA, which is a very different religious-cultural reality than Latin America — have been formed under such a hyper-individualistic sense of what it means to be a human being, let alone a Christian.
The cultural reality of the USA is one that idealizes the rugged individual actor, to the detriment of the ecclesial (that is community) aspect of Christian life. This stems from among other things, the pre-eminence of what we can call the “bourgeois spirit” or “bourgeois mind” in the USA. Without getting too much into it (you can read a great essay on this by Christopher Dawson), the USA uniquely in many ways among the nations is founded from the beginning very much with this kind of social-religious sensibility of the bourgeois mindset, that really blinds us both to the need for Christian community as the essential and primary context for human living (rather than the market or the liberal nation-state, for example). It also to blinds us to the urgency of our situation — namely, that American society has already gone so far down a certain path that Christians here have not even noticed until recently the increasing incompatibility of living the gospel within the ordinary structures of modern life.
RD: In the book, Father Cassian Folsom, then the prior of the Norcia community, said that any Christian that doesn’t do the Benedict Option is not going to have what it takes to survive what’s coming. What does that remark mean to you?
CT: Honestly, I think he’s right. I think it means that the only thing resilient, or robust, enough to withstand massively tectonic civilizational/social change are smaller, human-scale, tight-knit communities. History itself speaks to this. And I sincerely believe, and current events are only confirming this, that we are living through a period now of massive change transitioning in many ways from one era to another. It’s not the first time in history, and it won’t be the last, but once we recognize that it’s “another one of those” moments in history, then we can know what we need to do to not only survive, but come out the other side actually heading toward a true renaissance.
Read the full interview here.