by Bishop Todd Hunter, Telos Collective Founder and Leader
I have been studying and teaching about post-Christendom for nearly 20 years. Thus, when I first heard about the Benedict Option, I was enthusiastic. I always am when I see people employing spiritual practices in an effort to take their faith and mission seriously! And loosely speaking, I could see the historic parallels that were being employed.
I have not followed all the discussion closely, but I would like to jump in to say a few things as we prepare for the Intersection Conference.
Like any new theory or fresh way of viewing something (in this case refreshed from St. Benedict!), people have their angle on it. New proposals are like a huge diamond: often one only sees the facet facing them. Or the proposals are like a sunset that looks different based on angle, any obstructions, various types of clouds and gases in the atmosphere and even the tint of one’s sunglasses. This does not make a sunset bad, wrong or even partial—and the fact that there are perspectives on the Benedict Option does not make it automatically suspect or perfect either.
In the context of the upcoming Intersection Conference sponsored by The Telos Collective, maybe, until we meet next week and can discuss it and other proposals more in depth, we could wonder together:
- How do you see the Benedict Option in comparison/contrast with James Davidson Hunter’s idea of “faithful presence” (To Change the World)? What harmonies do you hear with James K. A. Smith’s “secular liturgies” in You Are What You Love? We also could do some thinking about Jesus’ interactions with Qumran sect and their views of quietism/pietism. What could we learn from Jesus regarding this topic?
- If the Benedict Option is misunderstood to be merely “withdrawal from the world,” how might it be more rightly construed as fleeing the world for the sake of the world, as in the great monastic traditions? Or thinking of Celtic Christianity, as outposts of mission/evangelism?
- What other options for mission, evangelism and discipleship are you considering at the intersection of gospel and culture?
- Lastly, I have seen the constructive criticism of the Benedict Option that says it is too white and too much of a reaction by people who used to have social power through religion, but now have lost it through the marginalization of Christianity in the ever-secularizing West. I think it does raise a fair question: What could we learn from non-whites and other marginalized groups who have not been on our journey as people who have “had and then lost” power and position?
Looking forward to all our conversations!