"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Friday, July 22, 2016

Time for the David Option?

Some Christian writers, reeling under the shifts in the culture and legal system that have only accelerated under the Obama administration, have been advocating a strategic withdrawal by Christians from the overall culture and public square. This proposal has come to be known as "the Benedict Option," a phrase coined by Rod Dreher, one of the preeminent Christian bloggers currently writing. Dreher's conception of the Benedict Option can be found here, and some critique of that concept by yours truly can be found here. Today, Rod Dreher issued a rousing call for the embrace of the Benedict Option, declaring it to be the only path forward.

Over at Crux, Fr. Jeffery F. Kirby has proposed an alternative to the Benedict Option that takes its inspiration from the story about the young David from the Hebrew Bible. Fr. Kirby's point is that rather than withdrawing from the culture & from engagement in the public square, Christians need to engage more powerfully with the strongest tools they have: the moral witness to justice grounded in the dignity of the human person made in the image of God. Rather than secluding themselves as a remnant, Christians should reach out in witness. As Fr. Kirby writes:
The young King David did not succumb to fear and did not seclude himself in the Israelite camp. He engaged the Philistine. David was dressed simply, without armor or regular weaponry. He was empowered by a sense of righteousness and justice, and artfully struck the head of Goliath with simple stones from the earth claiming victory over the giant. 
This example is applied to the modern context by calling the Christian Church to engage not with the weapons of the world but the tools of argument & moral persuasion:
Drawing from this example of the Israelite leader, the David Option is a challenge and opportunity for the Church in the contemporary world. In imitation of the shepherd-king, it calls the Church to simplicity, having neither ornate, royal attire or defensive armor. 
It summons the Church to stay focused on holiness and to engage the world with a genuine spirit of justice and goodness, not ideology, power lust, or political agenda.  
Symbolically, the David Option compels the Church to use “stones” in the “head” of the goliaths of our age; namely, to use reason and respectful arguments as a means for the intellectual conversion of culture. 
As they say, read the whole thing. Fr. Kirby isn't proposing the David Option as the only viable path forward for Christians to take in the face of an increasingly hostile culture & legal order, but an additional strategy to consider. As the Christian Church faces a situation where it is increasingly marginalized from elite public opinion, it is a good idea to look at a strategy where the Church embraces that marginalization & builds off its relative powerlessness in a worldly sense to remain engaged in the political and social issues of the day. As Fr. Kirby puts it in another piece over at Crux:
The David Option is a willful, spiritual removal of power and prestige, so that the Church is unencumbered, gains some moral credibility by its authentic simplicity, and seeks to argue and fight for justice and goodness in the world today.
One thing about changing conditions is that a variety of approaches are needed to deal with a variety of circumstances. Different problems require different tools to reach a solution. The David Option, along with other approaches, is a worthwhile addition to the tool box for Christians to consider.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have always been taught that Christians fail because they stop behaving like Christians. The Christian answer has always been to pro-claim the Truth of Christ (which we as a church seem to no longer agree on), help others and seek converts.

One area Christians are failing is in the schools. Christians have completely abandoned the institutions of higher learning. It is these locations that are driving a significant portion of cultural change. A simple short term solution is to make public the crazy that is being force fed students and to enforce these institutions to follow the law of the land (eg allow free exercise of religion, of speech, of assembly).