How can Christians maintain a faithful witness in a culture that demands to know their political and social positions immediately and fully?

Matt,

Rod Dreher and others have been calling for the Benedict Option as a way for the church to be shielded from the onslaught of hostility from culture. Much of the philosophical background for this position rests with Alasdair Macintyre in his work After Virtue:

A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead often not recognizing fully what they were doing—was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—St Benedict.

Is this enclave model a viable way for the church to tell its story and develop in our time? How can Christians maintain a faithful witness in a culture that demands to know their political and social positions immediately and fully? How do you think Jesus would have responded to our times?

Hi David,

Thanks for your insightful question (and welcome to the RZIM connect community!). I haven’t read either of those books so my ability to comment on them will be limited—but for what it’s worth, here’s what I’m thinking.

I’m always nervous when I hear anything that seems to be discouraging an outward-focused evangelism mindset. The great commission never expires until the kingdom of God comes in fullness, and I think on the balance most American churches are so focused on themselves the they forget to influence their communities (and so also miss the spiritual formation that comes from evangelism). The people around us that are compromising on moral stances are not our enemies, they’re our goal.

That being said I think there’s a difference between reaching out to individuals with the gospel message, and feeling like we have to hold on to a “Christian culture.” We should always fight for Christian values and principles wherever we can, but we shouldn’t be surprised when culture turns away from God. I think much of the anxiety people have about losing our “Christian nation” could be avoided by realizing we’re citizens of a heavenly kingdom.

I hope that’s helpful! My colleague @Kasey_Leander often thinks about culture and Christian influence, and when I showed him these questions, he said you may be interested in reading these books:

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