Rowan Williams – On The Benedict Option: a new monasticism for the 21st century

Source: The Benedict Option: a new monasticism for the 21st century

Finally a serious analysis of Dreher’s book on the so-called ‘Benedict option’, in fact, in my opinion, a fatalistic, and possibly extremely damaging, call for withdrawal of committed Christians from social involvement, after the continuous series of defeats they have registered in the foolish ‘cultural wars’ they have fought as they tried to revive of ‘gloriously’ defunct Christendom. Which resembles with the similar social withdrawal of the original ‘fundameentalists’ at the end of the 19th century. Am I the only one who is worried by this similarity?

Here are just a few signidicant quotes from Rowan Williams:

‘Given that the greatest moral dramas of 20th-century America were to do with civil rights and foreign war, Dreher’s perspective here is worrying. He assumes, laudably, that the new Christian communities will have some concern for the marginal and needy but anything like a broader social ideal does not figure largely.’

‘What is left most worryingly vague is how such groups might maintain a level of self-criticism, and how they would handle issues around authority and management of conflict. Benedict has a fair bit to say about this, and Dreher shows he is aware of it and of the problem of alienating a younger generation by excessive exclusivism.’

The Benedict Option is unsettling. It confronts the prevailing consensus about how far the majority is willing to make room for principled dissent and public argument – yet at the same time shows a rather dispiriting lack of confidence in public argument.’

‘…[the book] fails to note the irony of advocating what it does in a climate where liberal triumphalism has already been shaken by a very un-Benedictine set of influences, through the resurgence of populist conservatism and protectionism. And neither restating liberal nostrums nor Dreher’s “strategy of hibernation” – to borrow a phrase from Adorno – seems an adequate answer to this.’

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