On My Bookshelf: The Benedict Option III

Rod Dreher’s middle chapters on liturgy and community make the most sense to me. Once he gets out of politics, his thinking and the writing that represents it gets clearer. Liam’s comment brings it together for me:

When Rod steps off the topical treadmill, his writing gains immensely.

I can even see the point Mr Dreher makes about “tightening church discipline,” though I think this is ideally handled in the context of a fair-minded local community and not a distant clerical elite. Or worse, an ideological one. I recognize Rod’s personal bitterness with “misbehavers” over the years. That’s certainly colored my church experience, too.

In my view, Chapter Seven on “Education as Christian Formation” is largely a failure. I might comment on the Enlightenment emphasis on human reason and will. I’m a big skeptic to the notion that you can learn a person into good morality and ethics–let alone faith and belief. Here’s one nugget:

In traditional Christianity, the ultimate goal of the soul is to love and serve God with all one’s heart, soul, and mind, to achieve unity with Him in eternity.

Do you see what’s missing? The Great Commission entrusts a mission to us before we achieve eternal unity, namely the proclamation of Christ to the world. Sure: you can say this is done in the service of God. I might argue that heaven is the natural consequence of the cooperation with grace in this life–why mention that either? The commonality of the ancient Church was this kerygmatic impulse. Evangelization wasn’t left to the experts. It began with those unnamed seventy-two even before Jesus completed his earthly mission.

The author touts Great Books and a Classical Education, but again: this is head stuff. It can be mastered without touching a student’s heart. The uncritical embrace of “traditional” Western Civilization is part of the problem. There are values to be found among the “dead white men” of the Christian West, to be sure. But not every value is a virtue. Classical education did not prevent many grievous sins in generations past. Young people are right to question aspects of “tradition” that work in ways contrary to the Gospel, or to basic moral conduct.

I’ll finish up the book in a few days and report one those final chapters and offer a conclusion.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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