I have several reviews to write up about books by Lutheran authors, but my thoughts for today are about The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, authored by a member of an (Eastern) Orthodox church (I don’t recall the particular Patriarchate.)
These are thoughts rather than a formal review. I am of two minds about posting them various places, because this book has been such food for thought for me that I hardly know whether I can review the book on its own merits or if I’d inadvertently overreach in speaking about it.
First, I think persecution ebbs and wanes, whether that’s persecution with a p or P. Regretfully some may therefore read the book and wonder just how pertinent it is. I think it is relevant on many levels and well-worth reading.
Second, as a Lutheran I view sin in particular ways. As such, I attribute the decline of family and culture as starting way earlier than many. Once the critic in me is brought out, I often think people fear symptoms more than recognize the effects of ideas still embraced by so many.
Maybe you’d think this is a stretch, but if you want to hear a random-sounding summary about my position: maybe things started to go haywire when motherhood was idealized so much and the home painted as a sanctuary, away from matters of work and disharmony. Dishonesty about sin, forgiveness, who we are, and what we do were terribly disfigured by doing that, displacing God while hallowing our own imaginings.
Anyway, without honesty and serious recognition that work is part of homelife, too, how can we pass on the Christian life cycle of repentance, forgiveness, and faith? Obviously, it is the Word and Spirit that grant those to us, but family and church is where we can see it, experience it on a daily and intimate basis, and start learning and practicing it. Family isn’t “necessary,” but it sure is helpful!
Back to the Benedict Option. My lingering conviction from the book is that we should be intentional about the culture we surround ourselves, and our loved ones, in. Embrace truth, beauty, virtue, and skill. Fight against the temporary that undermines greater things.
I think people assume culture is passed down unconsciously. In which case, no wonder we’ve lost so much in just a few generations! But where do we start when we’re starting downhill? And not just downhill but downhill a long distance from where Judeo-Christian/ Western Civilization flourished?
I argue we do so with honesty tempered with love and timing. While I really would love for my kids to be singing hymns rather than soundtracks, the first thing I want them to know is God as Trinity, Jesus as God-and-Man Savior, the means of grace, theology of the cross, and vocation. I want them to know sin, salvation, grace, faith, and that its rocky going through experiences as our hearts, souls, and minds grow at different speeds and sometimes succumb to lies. Music, art, and even community closeness comes only in addition.
So, to keep this a Lutheran writer’s post rather than a parenting or cultural commentary piece . . . hmm. Maybe my thought aren’t quite so full-circle as to manage the application other to say, “Write what is good, beautiful, and true. Work hard. Scoff less. Embrace setting, relationships, character development, and never discount deus ex machina, because it really does happen sometimes in life.” 🙂
As writers, and simply as Lutherans, let’s be intentional about our culture. Let’s be intentional to craft a good one, introducing it first in our lives to those around us and second to our readers or other audiences. Because God really does work that way: one person at a time, one family, one congregation, etc.
The Benedict Option is a good book. It does not actually include The Rule of St. Benedict, which makes little sense to me. I recommend it, but at the same time you don’t need to read a book to be equipped to live in a “post-Christian nation.” We are already living it by faith. It did make me rethink some things about Christian fasting and Christian neighborhoods that I continue to take to heart.
For a quick history of family vocation, see the last chapter of Family Vocation: God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood, and, yep, that’s written by Lutheran authors. 😉
By the way, The Benedict Option was actually a selection for my husband’s book club, so my father, he, and I all read it at the same time. You can see some of my dad’s recent thoughts about it here.
PS. I’ve forgotten to be posting about my current Giveaway!!! Gah! Go here to enter a Giveaway of Sarah Baughman’s A Flame in the Darkness! I’ll close that giveaway shortly.