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An essay donated by Susan Humphreys:

Traditional Virtues and Values.

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An article on the Religion Dispatches web site caught my attention. It is titled: "Rejecting the Stranger: Why Rod Dreher's Vision of Communal Christian Life is Not so Benedictine After All," and was posted by Kaya Oakes, on 2017-MAR-15. 1

The article referred to Rod Dreher's article in Christianity Today magazine for 2017-MAR, titled "The Benedict Option's Vision for a Christian Village" 2 The article also referred to to Dreher's book: "The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation" published by Sentinel on 2017-MAR-14. 4

There was so much that bothered me about what Dreher was saying that I hardly know what to object to first.

  • 1. In his article Dreher says:
    "I also came to see the churches, including my own, as largely ineffective in combating the forces of cultural decline."

What! We are living in a time of wonderful cultural growth and diversity. A new Smithsonian museum dedicated to African American heritage opened last year. My local PBS station is loaded with wonderful cultural programs. There are magazines and web pages dedicated to such a great diversity of cultural experiences, I could never list them all. Cultural decline? We are in the midst of a cultural blossoming.

That might be part of his problem. This wonderful diversity is too much for him.

I think he is considering as examples of 'cultural decline' the legalization of gay marriage, the continued legalization of abortion and access to birth control, possibly the acceptance of transgender folk, the rise of the 'notas' (those that claim no religious affiliation on research polls; a.k.a. "nones"), possibly the decline of Patriarchy and the role of Religious leaders in their communities, maybe the increase in and availability of scientific and historical information that negates 'traditional' views of both, the rise of women in positions of authority and in their independence....? He doesn't really spell out what he means by 'cultural decline'.

I see all of these as vital to cultural growth and invigoration, not decline. They are all necessary towards creating that more honest and just society where all people have the opportunity to reach their full potential as human beings.

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  • 2. He referred next to another author, Alasdair MacIntyre, and offered this quote from him:

    "... the time is coming when men and women of virtue will understand that continued full participation in mainstream society was not possible for those who want to live a life of traditional virtue." 4

"Men and women of virtue"? "Traditional virtue"? I wondered just what these virtues are that he seems to think are so important, so valuable, that they must be preserved.

There are many so called "traditional virtues and values" that are nothing more than prejudice, fear, hate, greed, self-righteousness masquerading as "virtue" and striving for legitimacy by claiming to be "virtuous" and "traditional". They, in my opinion, must be discarded, thrown aside, and exposed for what they are IF our society is going to not just survive but thrive in this 21st Century.

The most traditional value -- in the sense that it has been around since the dawn of human history, and it is front and center in our politics right now -- is the fear of the "other," the one who is different, the one who doesn't share 'our values', the one who isn't 'one of us'. Is this a "virtue/value" worth preserving?

  • 3. I do agree with part of what MacIntyre and Dreher are saying. These people -- the ones who are afraid they will have to give up their traditional virtues and values -- will indeed need to "find new ways to live in community" I would add: "with those that are different from them." They are indeed going to have "to learn new habits of the heart." I would add that they have forgotten, how to love the neighbor as the brother. They are indeed going to "have to change (their) lives, and (their) approach to life, in (what will be for them) radical ways."

  • 4. Dreher goes on to say:

    "I called the strategic withdrawal (i.e. Christians living apart in their own Christian communities) prophesied by MacIntyre as 'the Benedict Option'. We would have to choose to make a decisive leap into a truly counter cultural way of living Christianity, or we would doom our children and our children's children to assimilation."

I don't have a problem with adults voluntarily choosing to withdraw from the world to live in some sort of monastic style community. People have been doing this for centuries. I am concerned about families doing this.

Don't they realize that by segregating their children and their children's children they will in essence be 'hamstringing', harming those young people? They will make it difficult if not impossible for those young people to become a full and vital part of this wonderfully diverse, vibrant and competitive universe.

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Related essays on this web site that you might find of interest:

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Kaya Oakes, "Rejecting the Stranger: Why Rod Dreher’s Vision of Communal Christian Life Is Not So Benedictine After All," Religion Dispatches, 2017-MAR-15, at: http://religiondispatches.org/
  2. Ron Dreher, "The Benedict Option's Vision for a Christian Village," Christianity Today," 2017-FEB-17, at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/
  3. book cover Rod Dreher, "The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation," (2017) Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. Available in hardcover, Kindle and Audible formats.

  4. book cover Alasdair MacIntyre, "After Virtue: A study in Moral Theory, Third Edition" University of Notre Dame Press, (1984). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. Available in hardcover, and paperback. It is a New York Times bestseller

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Originally posted on: 2017-APR-15
Author:
Susan Humphreys, Contributing Editor
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