For decades, the West has seen itself as an empire of rights and liberal norms. There were borders and nations, but these were fast dissolving. Since rights were universal, the empire would soon encompass the planet. Everyone would belong, including Muslims, who were expected to lose their distinctness... Trump wants to revive the nation-state as the primary political vehicle for encountering Islam... To the French philosopher Pierre Manent, such thinking is the beginning of wisdom. “We have a big problem with Islam,” he tells me. “And it’s impossible to solve it through globalist, individualist, rights-of-man mantras.”.. Emmanuel Macron .. “There is no such thing as a single French culture,” he said in February. “There is culture in France, and it is diverse.”.. He regards Islam as a powerful and “starkly objective” faith. Wherever it spreads, it brings a set of “authoritative mores,”.. This is in contrast to Christianity, with its emphasis on subjective, inner assent to the Redeemer, distinctions between the visible and invisible church, Caesar and God, and so on... since the Ottoman collapse in 1924, it “has been an empire without an emperor.”.. Liberals in Europe, and to a lesser extent the U.S., wish to dispense with both the modern nation-state, the political communion that once gave concrete shape to the open society, and Judeo-Christianity, the sacred communion that used to provide the moral and spiritual frame... For the West’s professional classes, Mr. Manent contends, the only acceptable sources of political communion are the autonomous individual, on the one hand, and humanity as a whole, on the other. He understands the jet-setters’ impulse: “We can go anywhere on the planet, work anywhere on the planet—these new liberties are inebriating.” Better, then, “to be a citizen of the world.”.. the “small, damaged” nations of Central Europe react most viscerally against transnational liberalism. Hungary fears “it couldn’t have endured and would have disappeared,” he continues, if it faced the same multicultural pressures as, say, France... The West has relegated faith to a purely private sphere.. In practice, this would involve the government’s insisting that mosques and cultural associations cut their ties with Algeria, Tunisia and other foreign countries and instead actively promote an indigenous French Islam.
Here’s what bothers me about calling Christianity a comfortable myth: following Jesus isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. If anything it has made my life more difficult and far less comfortable than what it could be.
Comfortable myth? I wish that were true. Here’s what a comfortable myth would look like to me:
“Do whatever you want. Take care of number one, and don’t feel guilty about it. Live your life now– and make sure you don’t shortchange yourself.”
Up to now, Christianity has largely mirrored culture instead of transforming it. Reward/punishment, good guys versus bad guys, has been the plot line of most novels, plays, operas, movies, and wars. This is the only way that a dualistic mind, unrenewed by prayer and grace, can perceive reality. It is almost impossible to switch this mind during a short sermon or service on a Sundaymorning. As long as we remain inside of a dualistic, win/lose script, Christianity will continue to appeal to low-level and vindictive moralisms and will not rise to the mystical banquet that Jesus offered us. The spiritual path and life itself will be mere duty instead of delight, “jars of purification” instead of 150 gallons of intoxicating wine at the end of the party (John 2:6-10). We will focus on maintaining order by sanctified violence instead of moving toward a higher order of love and healing—which is the very purpose of the Gospel.
Although the situation in Boston is unusually bad, it is not unique. All around us, the same sad trends are in evidence. Parish closings and wholesale diocesan retrenchment programs have become familiar. How should we respond?
Here are two possible responses:
A) “This is a disaster! Stop everything. Drop what you’re doing. “Business as usual” makes no sense; this is a pastoral emergency. We don’t just need another “renewal” program, offered by the same people who have led us into this debacle. We need to figure out what has gone wrong. More than that. We know that the Gospel has the power to bring people to Christ; therefore it follows that we have failed to proclaim the Gospel. The fault lies with us. We should begin with repentance for our failures.”
.. the Evangelical right hates the Benedict Option book because it calls out the failure of the Religious Right. The Evangelical left hates it because they are ready to compromise (quietly) with the culture on moral theology. And most of the people who actually read the book but disagree with it don’t really think the situation on religious liberty and the rest is as bad as Rod Dreher does.
.. I am not talking about left-of-center Christians whose leftism is found in their economic views. I am talking about those who compromise on moral teaching, especially on sex and sexuality, and on the nature of religious authority.
.. The observer adds that many Evangelicals view conversion not as a lifelong process of steady repentance and dying to self, but rather as a singular moment in time. The kind of thing I discuss in The Benedict Option — the necessity of incorporating the Gospel into a holistic and disciplined way of life — doesn’t make intuitive sense to people who believe the summit of Christian activity in the world is preaching the Word and leading people to accept Jesus as their Savior.
.. The point is, evangelism is largely pointless without discipleship: the sustained and continuous formation of the individual Christian into the disciplines of the Christian life.
.. Evangelical professors keep telling me that the typical student at their Christian college is one who is filled with strong emotions about Jesus, but with little or no formation in the habits of Christian thought and living. Their faith is built on sand, which is why it is not likely to survive the rising floodwaters of liquid modernity.
.. This is a point that cannot be emphasized strongly enough. After one accepts Christ, then what? That is not the end of the journey, but rather the beginning. Very few of us will be called to be Benedictine monks, of course, but all of us are called to lives of discipleship.
.. The great historian Robert Conquest said that this is his Second Law of Politics: “Any organization not explicitly and constitutionally right-wing will sooner or later become left-wing.” Adapted to Christianity, this might say, “Any Christian individual, church, or organization that does not understand itself as orthodox and live accordingly will sooner or later become heterodox.”
.. And it’s important to emphasize that, though the faculty deserve some blame, this trend is largely driven by students, who care only about advancing their self interests while engaging in various virtue signaling rituals to demonstrate the depth of their devotion to the anti-culture.
.. Law school is a seminary of modern progressivism. First principles are rarely worthy of discussion. Only relevance matters. The mysterious science of the law is described as neither mysterious nor science but simply prejudice wrapped in the cloak of an undeserved constitution. And it’s important to emphasize that, though the faculty deserve some blame, this trend is largely driven by students, who care only about advancing their self interests while engaging in various virtue signaling rituals to demonstrate the depth of their devotion to the anti-culture.
.. You really think the coming generation of lawyers and judges will care about defending religious liberty when they see it as nothing more than a cloak for bigotry? Are you willing to stake your future on that?
.. Note that a very strong majority of Catholics do not even support the religious liberty position of their own church on mandatory birth control. A majority of Evangelicals do, and generally hold the line for religious liberty, but they’re the only ones.