Civilizations usually muddle through except when they do not. What happens when the center does not hold?
The rightwing becomes reactionary and the leftwing revolutionary. Madness seizes society and younger people think anything is better than what exists. This is rarely true and the anything that happens next is generally much worse than what came before the insanity. Utopianism was dangerous when the saintly man Sir Thomas More wrote about the possibilities and in the hands of worse men has become an excuse for the monstrous evils of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.
Even if a trouble and divided culture muddles through again, what should be our response in the meantime? The rise and fall of cultures is most important long term, but less immediately important than what to do about the future of my children.
Christians cannot be reactionary: we will not win by “any means.” The White Terror taught us the evils that result from such a path. Instead, we must cheerfully refuse to change while building something better than the decadence around us. Simultaneously, we must remain modest in the scope of any individual project knowing that sin is in our hearts and not just in “those people out there.”
What to do?
The most important book for Christians in this decade may be Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option and the discussion it will start. Until the muddle or the collapse of this version of America is settled, the sensible person builds an alternative culture. Rod Dreher thinks we may be at one of those points in the West of the world and argues what needs to be done. Traditional Christianity is hard to live in a decadent America and harder still to live where Daesh is torturing Christians.
First, we should not panic. Panic is unseemly, at my age I look absurd running about, but it is also unwarranted. Secularism and libertine morality are, after all, about the only thing White and Western the mainstream media thinks is the wave of the future. The United States has a President on tape saying he can grab women without penalty. This vileness motivates marches of women wearing genitalia inspired hats who then face withering criticism from the left from men who claim to be women for not including those men who claim to be women in the march. They cannot wear the genitalia inspired hats. The parts of the world still making babies say: “That’s bizarre.”
Always bet on the people making babies.
Second, we need real Christian communities. The heart of the Benedict Option is to create places where people can live a fully Christian life without compromise, but also without becoming weird through lack of global contact. We have to be in the world enough to avoid becoming inbred, but out of the world enough to not get swamped.
Western decadence is parochial, trapped in “elite” Western culture. The Benedict man or woman is global: liberated into the universal, global Church. We can help our brothers and sisters in Syria and they can help us.
This can take place by withdrawing into communities, think Rivendell with Internet, or can be in the heart of the city. We should not whine or surrender, instead creating something happier and better for the time after the upheaval. I call this the Constantine Strategy and it can function as part of the Benedict Option. Like Constantine, we change the rules: if Rome cannot be defended, build a new and better Rome.
When the history of the early twenty-first century is written, the book will be composed by a scholar who took the Benedict Option using The Saint Constantine Strategy. We hope to have educated that historian at The Saint Constantine School.
Go buy Dreher’s book now.