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. The Church thrived under the pagans and the Bolsheviks by virtue of the contrast between her charitable practices and the godless brutality of the ruling regimes. Now, the secular state provides the poor with all the food, clothing, shelter and medical care they need. The poor now manifest the sins of the Biblical rich; secular capitalism generates sufficient tax revenue such that the poor need not even ponder marriage when deciding to reproduce. All that's left for the Church to do is lecture the well-nourished, sheltered and medicated citizenry on the need to curb their sexuality. Really? Or what--Hell?Of all the things I say on the Internet, the above sentiments are the ones most likely not to make it through the moderation queue.
The religious orders that are doing well these days seem to be the ones that are trying to knock the sharp corners off life for their adherents. For example, in exchange for being an Amish or Hasidic male, you get a job, a definite place in the community's pecking order, and a decent-looking wife who'll have sex with you, bear your children and keep your house. Likewise, Amish and Hasidic females get a guaranteed provider, standing in the community, a reprieve from the status games and career ambitions that occupy the lives of non-Amish and non-Hasidic women, and nuclear and extended family to keep you busy to the end of your days.
Until the Church can offer that sort of arrangement, then from the perspective of the world it's just a lifestyle and ideological choice among innumerable others.
Turns out, once again, that I was just ahead of the curve:
Communion and community.
Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn To Live as Exiles in Our Own Country:
I believe that orthodox Christians today are called to be those new and very different St. Benedicts. How do we take the Benedict Option, and build resilient communities within our condition of internal exile, and under increasingly hostile conditions? I don’t know. But we had better figure this out together, and soon, while there is time. [Oh, I've had a few thoughts over the years, Rod. But I'd probably get sued or reported to Homeland Security.]
Christian Communities: From the comments, brother Orthodox and fellow-Tolkein fan Patrick Sheridan puts it beautifully and succinctly: "A way for the community to say 'come and see.'"
I've written this elsewhere and I will repeat it again: you cannot win a culture war if you do not offer a vision of a counter culture for people to adhere to. Putting a different shine on the veneer of the status quo does not suffice. You are still left with the same rotten culture as you had before, just more palatable for conservatives.
Whatever the future brings for Christianity in the West, neither compromise nor despair will prove the catalyst for a powerful response that leads to another awakening. Christianity will either benefit from events out of the control of any human agency, or it will come terms with the last vestiges of the Constantinian order being wiped away and look to its past for the means of engaging the present.
The Obergefell v. Hodges ruling appears to be something of a catalyst. There really is only room for one reigning ideology at the top, and the secular state has decided it has remained neutral long enough.
UPDATE: What's also puzzling is the rather hysterical "What-do-we-do-now?!" expressions. Rod, for example, says he has no idea where to start but that may be somewhat Straussian on his part. Dreher very deliberately carved out a cultural space for his family in rural Louisiana. Collectively, the Amish, Hasidim, Mormons and others seem to have been successful carving out their own cultural spaces. Fr. John Peck has been talking about this since September 2008, although on third reading, I think his homily could bear some modification:
Vastly diminished parishes, both in size and number. There will be a few exceptions, (and they will be exceptional!) but for the most part, most current Orthodox parishioners will age and die, and have no one to replace them. Why? Because as they have taught the context of their culture, instead teaching the context of their faith. Some parishes will simply be merged with others. Many will close outright. A few will change how they do ministry, with a new vision of parochial ecclesiology. These newer parishes will be lighthouses of genuine Orthodox piety and experience. Some parishes, I believe, will actually be formed specifically, in the old fashion, by purchasing land, building a chapel or Temple in the midst of it, and parishioners building or buying homes around it. The Church will be the center of their lives, and many will come from far and wide to experience their way of life.