“The Dominican Option” by C.C. Pecknold

The Dominican Option

“On one level, the Benedict Option is deeply attractive. Its greatest strength is that it sees that Christians need to attend to their communal formation as a whole. It is not enough to simply go to church on Sundays, for the religion of lifestyle liberalism is working on us the rest of the week. Rather, we need an all-embracing form of life coordinated and ordered to the love of God and neighbor. We can look to the very real Christian witness of cloistered, vowed religious life and say, “see, it can be done.” That should give all of us enormous hope.

On another level, however, “the Benedict Option” has a serious flaw. It can be summed up in one word withdrawal. Neither MacIntyre nor Dreher have intended anything like withdrawal from the common good, or even from a commitment to political institutions. But I must confess that the image of withdrawal is powerfully associated with the Benedictine monastery, and so appeals to the Benedict Option miss something.” – C.C. Pecknold

Note: He does not say that “the Benedict Option” is a withdrawal, but rather that Benedictine monasticism has a bad public image for being a withdrawal from the fight. Benedictine monasticism puts an emphasis on community, not necessarily direct evangelism.

“Options for Cultural Engagement” by Dale Coulter

“Options” for Cultural Engagement

Here is yet another article talking about whether or not monasticism is withdrawal or engagement.

Is there a movement happening? A reconsideration in Christendom of monasticism? On the one hand, a lot of “disconnected” thinkers are thinking about this. On the other, those tightly bound to one particular tradition – unwilling to go beyond their short traditions – are typically not thinking about monasticism at all.

Here are some worthwhile quotes from the article:

“No doubt, the efficiencies of the preaching orders lent themselves to the challenges of forging a new world with its industrialization and rapid mobilization, but one wonders if this happened at the expense of the view of contemplation central to Benedictine spirituality. Quietism has never fit well with the pragmatic American ethos and from one angle the Benedictines smack too much of quietist withdrawal.”

“Sometimes out of the resources of the local and the regional, Benedictine spirituality will blossom outward to impact the broader cultural ethos as it did with the creation of All Souls’ Day or in the wisdom of spokespersons from Bernard of Clairvaux to Thomas Merton. This is certainly active cultural engagement, but such engagement largely privileges the rural and local over the urban and the national. It speaks the simple language of the farmer or the shopkeeper and revels in the work of the folk artist. It is why historically Benedictines engaged in primary education.”

“The beauty of Christianity has been that cultural engagement emerges from the variety of charisms that the Spirit bestows. Those charisms come about as believers launch out from the bosom of the Church to forge new forms of Christian life. There will always be a Benedictine option and a Dominican option.”

“Faith in Fiction” by Randy Boyagoda

Faith in Fiction

Amen, brother! Amen! Amen! Amen!

Why, why, why have Christians left the English department? I don’t mean the teachers and I don’t mean the students; I mean the writers in the books. Where are they? I don’t mean the writers that have died. They are being studied and discussed, but they are no longer held accountable for their writing, nor are they standing up for their beliefs. Highly figurative: they are laying down for their beliefs. They are martyrs. We need no martyrs. We have plenty of them. We need living saints – future martyrs. We need them in the English department. There is so much talk about the culture wars, but here is a clear battlefield; atheists like David Shields are directly attacking the traditional (and who cares about tradition when tradition is for the dead? Who cares about tradition when it’s used as a cane for the spiritually disheartened, the fearful, the shy applauders? The cynics of the nontraditional and the contemporary?). There are deconstructionists out there – a lot of them. They are zealous for their beliefs, they are courageously nihilistic. They see the force that man can have and they believe in it exclusively. We are seeing the results of a Romans 1 situation; this is what happens when culture-makers worship the created rather than the created. Their pettiness is not the first fruit of their idolatry (although pettiness is always there, at the root, in the trunk, in the fruit, in their mouths). Power is the first fruit. When man worships himself, whatever he makes has the potential to be as powerful as his ambitions take him. If his ambition is to persuade people to embrace courageous atheism, to take the leap of faith, to reject the transcendental, antiquated, dead, acidic (and here’s the irony) recent past, then he will persuade people with his explosive pride. People are persuaded by confidence. And the side without god is far more confident to say that they do not have him. Why have Christians left this fight? Few even have the strength to participate in an in-fight, too fearful, too saccharinely ecumenical. We are left redefining terms we once trusted, shifting our positions when no one but our enemies told us to. We’ve gone into the back of the shop and reorganized the shelves according to some system we made up during lunch break. We are afraid of the word “Christianity” – let’s call it Christendom, because that is more rooted in place and being obsessed with place is definitely not a contemporary secular trend; no only we are thinking about these things – and the word “Christian” – too over-used, I mean, people call themselves that, but do they really mean it? How about “disciple of Christ?” No, too Jewish; “follower of Christ.” – and the words “systematic theology” – it makes room for explicit contradictions, how about something a little less clear, like “applications of the Gospel?” or why not throw out all the terms, shut up, sell everything we have, move to Detroit, and never be heard from again? – and there is nothing left to defend. We have out-deconstructed the deconstructionists. We have nothing left to say, because we are sure that our sterilized terminology is highly resistant to any corrosive cultural understanding of who we are. Big words. Why not let them think bad thoughts about us?

Let them think that a Christian is a superficial noun, one without depth. Doesn’t everyone use it? Let them think that Christianity is big and slow and falling into the ground. Isn’t it? Let them think that systematic theology is boring. Haven’t we made it that? Let them think that we are in a very bad spot. Aren’t we? Let them hate the church. Do they have any other calling? Let us die during the battle (I find the metaphor of us being soldiers – of this being a fight – to be over-used, cliche, and distracting; it’s more like conflicting birthday parties), because the zealots came at us with swords and we used our bodies as walls, not our terms. We sat down, because humility is the first fruit of the Gospel. We got up, because that is a fruit of the Gospel. We stood with our shields, because that is a fruit of the Gospel. We died, because that is a fruit of the Gospel. They joined us, because we did not shift our position.

What we are dealing with is not who has the tighter truth claims. We are dealing, fundamentally, explicitly, thoroughly, heavy words, with the serious gravity of fun. Who has more fun? Young Christians leave the church, not because they are bothered by the hypocrisy (that is a ruse), but because youth groups, worship services, and their god was no fun. We had birthday hats – sure – but where was the triple-chocolate cake? WHERE? My youth group leader kept a basket of vegetable chips on his desk for anyone who could recite their short-term memory verse. No one bothered. He would get real with us, by which I mean he would sit backwards on his chair, ask us about our favorite food (pizza! Pepperoni pizza!), and then segue nicely into a thirty second discussion about lust – and onto questions, yes, Johnny, Catholics are saved, some at least, hey that question about the problem of evil, to be honest Johnny, I don’t know myself, but read your Bible, maybe it has something to say about it, read an Epistle, because the Old Testament is depressing and has nothing to say about those sorts of New Testament matters. That was exhibit A. Here we have Exhibit B: alright, you guys are high school students, you can handle provocation; how many of you have studied the Ancient Near East? The idols? Did you know that transubstantiation is not that crazy and annihilationism, I mean I don’t believe in it, but I’m not going to take a stand, I am only going to present these heresies to you, at a time when everything is interesting for you, sit back, and let you pick which one tickles your brain more (talk to your parents first, of course; high school kids just naturally talk to their parents about what’s on their minds; “Johnny! Where did you get these crazy ideas about Hinduism!” estrangement: now when you wonder who plants the seeds, just ask your son’s role model, brave, brash, reckless, but Johnny insists these crazy and very dead ideas are his own).

Either we bore them to death or we tempt them with intellectual high-stupidity. Think powdered wigs. High class silliness. I always pictured the millstone around a liar’s neck as a ruff.

I’m going to eat an apple now and read this article.


October 1st, 2014

Hi, Mom. Throughout my nonexistent, but smashingly successful, writing career, I have figured out whose opinions I value the most. These are the people I try to have in front of me when I write anything:

God and I

You and Dad

Mrs. Daniel

Michael and Matt


Brianna, Joy, and Moses

David and Fionn

Even if you never read the things I write, I think of all of you when I write. Will you understand what I am saying? Will you like it? Will you hate it? What? I can be pretty liberal with my writing, opinions, ideas, grammar, spilling. If it were not for all of you, it is not that I would stop writing, but I would certainly write more “for myself.” A recent book on writing convicted me that writing for yourself is selfish and silly. I agree. Writing is communication.

First and foremost is my relationship with God and myself. I care the most about what he will think about my writing. He knows my intentions, my weaknesses, my strengths better than anyone else. I am right behind him in this – and I really am lagging behind. We talk a lot, but it is always me asking him to make me more like him. I never talk to God, telling him what is what, or agreeing with everything he says. He has a lot to say that I do not like hearing. I am always asking him questions and he is always asking me questions.

You and Dad, I try to keep from shocking. Sometimes, I shock both of you when really I am just speaking my mind. Sometimes, I shock you because a shocking idea infested me. Both of you approve (I think) of me writing at all, but still, both of you are certainly the most skeptical of my writing, my intentions, and of me. I appreciate this a lot; more than I know. I can get carried away. I can get intoxicated with ideas or observations – not always a bad thing, but from what I remember of the Epistles, drunkenness is a sin. Neither of you are sure where I am going – and, to be honest, neither am I. I am in for the ride and because we all love each other, I think we are in the roller coaster cart together.

Mrs. Daniel convicted me about using contractions ‘n’ ending sentences with prepositions I used to fill my writing with. Now, I think whenever I use a contraction or have a sentence with which I end in a preposition. I am grateful to her for her years, her ability to listen, her occasionally different perspectives, and her wisdom. She is the only person in my life I sometimes wish never asked me questions, but just kept telling me things. Unfortunately, she is too considerate not to ask questions.

Michael and Matt are my audience for metaphysical ideas. I always try to make the package crisp and the content lively, so they can tell me whether or not what I am saying is understandable and beneficial. They call me out when I am weak-sauce.

Jonte takes no “crap” – as they say. She has a long list of strong opinions in her pocket right next to her heart. Most people with long lists of strong opinions keep them in their sleeves and take them out to smack people. She does not. I always want to know what she thinks.

Brianna, Joy, and Moses are the choir, but they do not like being preached to. They will shut me down – and rightly so – if I am being too arrogant, too proud, too humble, too extreme, too deficient. They have very sensitive feelers for anything sappy or cliche, like antennae tickling the sand of my heart.

David and Fionn are my secret audience, the one I do not often talk to, but the one always on my mind. I don’t know if they read what I write, but whether they do or not, they are always in front of me.

This is my audience.