From the Pastor
In a culture that believes in the inevitability of human progress the word “withdraw” is perceived to be a negative word. Yet this is exactly what Rod Dreher advocates in his new book, The Benedictine Option. Dreher believes that the American church is being hollowed out from the inside by the departure of young people and by a self-oriented pseudo–Christianity. From the outside, the church is besieged by an onslaught of challenges to religious liberty in a rapidly secularizing culture.
Surprisingly, Dreher argues that the way forward is actually the way back—all the way back to the simple basics. He calls this “strategic withdrawal.” What Dreher suggests is that if the church is to survive and to do the work that Jesus commissioned then, we must strengthen ourselves from within. This kind of withdrawal has nothing to do with hiding our head in the sand, avoiding conflict, or denying reality. Instead, he sounds the clarion call to strengthen two simple dimensions of Christian community—orthodox beliefs and basic piety. Such a return to basics, Dreher argues, will strengthen the church, give us a better understanding of our true purpose and equip us to bring the hope and transforming power of Jesus Christ into the world.
The book takes its title from the sixth-century monk, Benedict of Nursia. Benedict was horrified by the moral chaos following Rome’s fall. He retreated to the forest and forged a new way of life for Christian believers living in a hostile world. The Benedictine Christian communities born under his influence were based on principles of order, hospitality, stability, and prayer. His spiritual centers of hope became strongholds of light throughout the Dark Ages that helped to preserve orthodox Christianity, and to advance the hope of Jesus Christ in a broken world.
Dreher suggests that today we live in era similar to the time after the barbarians sacked Rome, where a new kind of post–Christian barbarism reigns. If many believers are blind to it, many churches are too weak to resist it and the political process offers little help in such a spiritual crisis. “Strategic Withdrawal” calls churches to embrace this contemporary exile from mainstream culture and to construct a resilient counterculture by returning to the authority of Scripture and to the wisdom of ancient church. Not everyone will agree with Dreher’s analysis of church and culture but his call to rediscover who we really are as Christians so that we can be salt and light in the world is refreshing.
The resurrection of Jesus is the clearest and most central truth of the Christian faith. Someone once said, “Believing Christ died is history—Believing He died for you is salvation.” Like any other historical figure, Jesus could have just died a martyr’s death—a good teacher, a godly man unjustly punished by the political system. But the central truth of the Christian faith from the beginning is that the resurrection shows that Jesus’ death was a victory over sin, not a defeat. The world may laugh at this message, but then again the world laughs at God all the time. The truth is that faith in Jesus Christ saves—it changes hearts and transforms lives, marriages, and homes even today.
Join me as we go countercultural on April 16th! Come on Easter Sunday, and bring your friends, so that we can celebrate the greatest single event in all of human history—the resurrection of Jesus. Let’s “strategically withdraw” so that we can become more engaged than ever before!
Grace and peace,