I am writing you for no particular reason other than to say that I have enjoyed reading your blog. I have chiefly enjoyed reading the blog post entitled "Bleak Christianity." In truth, I have read it at least five or six times over the past few weeks because you mention things that strongly resonate with my thinking, and I have yet to find these thoughts formulated elsewhere.
“The age of evangelism is over. The Church is fading because she frankly offers nothing to people that any other positive, purportedly compassionate movement--such as political liberalism--does not.”This statement has haunted me for weeks, precisely because it is so true. I searched your archives and found this theme being developed over and over again, especially the need to form community and the outright hostility this has elicited from fellow believers. Though not attempting to be prophetic in any way, I cannot help but feel that as the nation and society become more overtly anti-Christian, we as Christians will need to come together into communities that, as you say, “knock off some of the sharp corners of life for their adherents.” We simply cannot exist as atomized individuals who relegate faith to a purely vertical relationship between God and man. Sure that vertical relationship is important, but it does not mean that God cares nothing about the health of the society, especially the one in which we raise our children!
“The Mormons, Amish, Hasidim and other groups do this sort of thing and they are the ones reproducing themselves in the pews. People seem horrified when I mention this though.”This is something that cannot be refuted, thus eliciting strong emotions from those who run against a hard, uncomfortable truth. I heard it said, perhaps by you, that people do not join the Mormon church because their theology is so clear. They join the church because it meets their needs, gives them a context, and supports, rather than undermines, the family. Oh that we would take this to heart!
But I digress. I shall continue to ponder over this notion of Christian community in this present age. I only wish you had the time to write even more. But in short, thank you for putting these thoughts out there. If you have ever wondered if your blog makes any difference whatsoever, let this letter be an encouragement that it does indeed.
Many blessings on you and your family.
Blessings to you, brother.
Rod Dreher suggests we need some creative thinking as well.
... I thought this is the Benedict Option for languages. These speakers of dying languages and their children are not running for the hills to hide out, but they are creating communal institutions within which precious but severely threatened knowledge can be passed on, even as the younger generations live and work in the world. The elders know their children will be assimilated to a certain degree within the broader world, but they are trying as hard as they can to give them the knowledge and the love to hold on to their traditions and inheritance.
This is a good way to think about what I call the Benedict Option for Christians and other religious traditionalists. Think of Christianity as a distinct language, a way of construing the world. Like language, the Christian faith was not delivered perfect from heaven and preserved pristine and unchanged for centuries. But it does have a vocabulary and a grammar, so to speak, that set it apart from other languages. In its 2,000 years, Christianity has developed a number of what you might consider “dialects,” but because we in the West have lived in a recognizably Christian culture, it has been possible for us to understand each other, and to more or less hold on to the core concepts at the heart of the language.
We now find ourselves, though, in a post-Christian world, one in which the pressure to assimilate is causing tens of millions of people to lose the language — often without knowing that they’re losing it.
One commenter at Rod's pipes up hopefully,
It should be noted (I don’t know if the New Yorker article does or not) that one of forces, and perhaps the most important, resisting the trend of linguistic assimilation is evangelical Christians striving to translate the Scriptures into every known language.
This of course is the low-hanging fruit, as Christian missionaries all trip over each other trying to be the first sect to plant a church among some benighted cultural followers in remote Third World villages. After all, it's easier to convince the shrinking number of hunter-gatherers who've never seen a white man that you're the True Faith rather than your sophisticated Hindu, Muslim or Jewish neighbors back home.