Isolation Is Not an Option

Deacon Jim Miles, CFM in Ann Arbor, MI, writes:miles.jpg

There have been several books published recently lamenting the erosion of social values in the United States, and suggesting strategies for dealing with the challenges facing Christians in what is now called a post-Christian era. This designation is applied primarily to the developed western countries (US, Europe, and the UK), however, given that much of the support given to evangelization in the developing countries is coming from these more prosperous historical bastions of Christianity, and the aggressive efforts of various Muslim sects, Africa and Asia may soon feel the tide turning as well.

One of these books is The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher. Rod, according to what I have learned, started out Methodist, converted to Roman Catholicism, and then moved to one of the Eastern Rite Churches. He is a “Conservative” and based upon what I have read of his book an idealist who feels that our society is on a path he likens to the fall of the Roman Empire. He proposes a solution in his book loosely based on the Rule of St. Benedict.

When we get past all of the rhetoric that paints his bleak picture of our society and political system, a picture I don’t necessarily disagree with, his advice to Christians is to become somewhat isolationistic. Pull back behind virtual monastic walls, forming like-minded small communities that provide mutual support and mutual accountability, insuring that classic Christian values are not eroded within those walls.

What Rod Dreher describes is really just the age-old Christian paradox which says we must stay apart from the world but reach out to it, bringing the Good News to those who need it. There are many ways to live out this paradoxical instruction and Rod Dreher has landed upon the monastic option and tried to apply it to modern living. I believe the process he recommends reflects his own spiritual journey, from protestant to pre-reformation, to pre-Constantine schism. He may eventually arrive at the early Christian communal model.

The Christian Family Movement (CFM) has developed its own response to the eroding secular value system. 

From its earliest times, CFM has worked to create small, intentional communities. The focus of these communities has been to draw spiritual strength from other families within the group and build up the individual family unit, the original Domestic Church. The movement has adopted the goal of fortifying Christian values and ideals. It has not needed to use the more aesthetic monastic set of rules and discipline, it uses the precepts of the Church and fundamental Biblical values to guide it.

It is important to realize that, as almost all Christian leaders agree, the Church and traditional family are under attack by secular humanists that have become a majority. The post-Christian era is upon us and we cannot just roll over and say there is nothing to be done. CFM is committed to providing the supportive environment and the tools needed to protect the Domestic Church – the church of the home and family. The only way we can remain strong is to constantly recruit reinforcements, other families to join the movement. We may not be able to roll back the ground we have lost, but we can certainly stand our ground and hold it in the name of Christ our Savior.

An Aside:

As I completed writing and editing this short essay my internet went down. I was trapped. Although I thought this short piece might help some of my brothers and sisters, I had no means of sharing it. I was not sure how long I would be isolated, unable to communicate. It is like, I thought, a family with no support, with no means of sharing the loving environment they created. It is only by means of sharing that thoughts and beliefs gain strength and provide strength. Isolation, sorry to the hermits out there, is not the best way to follow God’s desire for his adopted and holy people who should go about transforming those they meet.


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  • I would love to hear from some present day Benedictines what they think of Rod’s interpretation.