In his new book, The Benedict Option, author Rod Dreher suggests that Christian churches are heading into a New Dark age in which the power and prestige of the church will be diminished and members will suffer a loss of religious liberty by being forced by governments to commit acts against their consciences such as providing services for same sex marriages. His solution is to form small communities following the spirit of St. Benedict and the values lived out in monasteries. He thinks that religion has been reduced to being happy with self and being nice to others, and is dying out.
Dreher feels Christianity is adrift in sea of liquid modernity and wants to go back to the values which produced Western civilization. He concentrates on issues of personal morality and neglects to mention social issues characteristic of Western Civilization such as slavery, colonial oppression, abuse of human rights and women’s rights. His main issue for condemnation, and his biggest concern, seems to be the rise in concern for gay rights.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with espousing Benedictine values and it would be good for religion if more people lived life according to the basic principles of monastic life, but to assume that the monastic rule says all there is to say about living in the modern world simplifies the problem of living in a diverse world in which Christianity no longer has the power and prestige it once had.
In the book the author refers frequently to the creation story of Adam and Eve which is the theological basis for much of Christian doctrine. In the two thousand years since that story was added to the Christian scriptures as a basis for belief, science has added new insight into the nature of creation and evolution. A New Creation Story reveals new insight into the cosmology, the purpose, of the universe and our understanding of human perfection in the light of Christian tradition.
This New Story provides hope because it addresses diversity, mystery, complexity and the idea that the universe as well as humans is evolving through a process of being continually lured into a future of greater complexity and mystery. To meet the challenge of evolution Christians need to embrace diversity and mystery rather than organize against it in protective enclaves.
So, in his zeal to rescue Christianity from being overcome by the ravages of yet another great flood, Dreher would better serve committed Christians by introducing them to the New Story eloquently told by Thomas Berry and others. It is a story that is so vast and challenging that it will put some of the issues about which he is concerned on a back burner and allow contemplation of the heights to which evolution is calling us.