Fear and the Benedict Option

Any sort of retreat will also attract people who are tempted to hate the part of the world they are withdrawing from. Any group gathering in a BenOp spirit should expect to attract people at varying levels of weariness, anger, fear, and despair. Even a legitimate righteous anger can curdle into contempt or despair. To truly mend nets requires us to be aware of these temptations in ourselves and in our friends, and to seek to sin no more.

Feeling excluded or alone can lead Christians to adopt as fellow travelers provocateurs who may scandalize the secular world, but not because they preach the faith that is “foolishness to the gentiles.” Such grifting agitators are not seeking space to speak the truth, but to revel in division. They may lead people moved by real political concerns to view their opponents as permanent enemies, not our divided brothers whom we are called to pray for and convert into allies. They may lead people who already feel isolated to seek consolation by grounding their identity in race, not Christ. Conveniently, they forget that the most vicious and violent suppression of Christians falls on non-white Christians in China, Southeast Asia, and outside the West. A Benedict Option strengthening persecuted Christians shouldn’t be primarily white or Western.

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