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David Brooks - The Benedict Option (iliti, hrišćanin i svet, čistunac i ironičar)

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The Benedict Option

David Brooks MARCH 14, 2017

Faith seems to come in two personalities, the purist and the ironist. Purists believe that everything in the world is part of a harmonious whole. All questions point ultimately to a single answer. If we orient our lives toward this pure ideal, and get everybody else to, we will move gradually toward perfection.

The ironists believe that this harmony may be available in the next world but not, unfortunately, in this one. In this world, the pieces don’t quite fit together and virtues often conflict: liberty versus equality, justice versus mercy, tolerance versus order. For the ironist, ultimate truth exists, but day-to-day life is often about balance and trade-offs. There is no unified, all-encompassing system for correct living. For the ironists, like Reinhold Niebuhr or Isaiah Berlin, those purists who aim to be higher than the angels often end up lower than the beasts.

Throughout history we’ve seen a lot of purist religious faiths, from the Spanish inquisitors to the modern Islamic radicals, who believe in a single true way of living. Today we see a lot of secular purists: the students at Middlebury who want to shout down differing opinions, the legal activists who want to force Orthodox Christian bakers to work at gay weddings, against their conscience.

This movement has led many Christians to conclude that they are about to become pariahs in their own nation. One of these is my friend Rod Dreher, whose new book, “The Benedict Option,” is already the most discussed and most important religious book of the decade.

Rod is pretty conservative. “There can be no peace between Christianity and the sexual revolution, because they are radically opposed,” he writes.

Specifically, “L.G.B.T. activism is the tip of the spear at our throats in the culture war. The struggle over gay rights is what is threatening religious liberty, putting Christian merchants out of business, threatening the tax-exempt status and accreditation of Christian schools and colleges.”

Rod shares the fears that are now common in Orthodox Christian circles, that because of their views on L.G.B.T. issues, Orthodox Christians and Jews will soon be banned from many professions and corporations. “Blacklisting will be real,” he says. We are entering a new Dark Age. “There are people alive today who may live to see the effective death of Christianity within our civilization.”

Rod says it’s futile to keep fighting the culture war, because it’s over. Instead believers should follow the model of the sixth-century monk St. Benedict, who set up separate religious communities as the Roman empire collapsed around them.

The heroes of Rod’s book are almost all monks. Christians should withdraw inward to deepen, purify and preserve their faith, he says. They should secede from mainstream culture, pull their children from public school, put down roots in separate communities.

Maybe if I shared Rod’s views on L.G.B.T. issues, I would see the level of threat and darkness he does. But I don’t see it. Over the course of history, American culture has tolerated slavery, sexual brutalism and the genocide of the Native Americans, and now we’re supposed to see 2017 as the year the Dark Ages descended?

Rod is pre-emptively surrendering when in fact some practical accommodation is entirely possible. Most Americans are not hellbent on destroying religious institutions. If anything they are spiritually hungry and open to religious conversation. It should be possible to find a workable accommodation between L.G.B.T. rights and religious liberty, especially since Orthodox Jews and Christians aren’t trying to impose their views on others, merely preserve a space for their witness to a transcendent reality.

My big problem with Rod is that he answers secular purism with religious purism. By retreating to neat homogeneous monocultures, most separatists will end up doing what all self-segregationists do, fostering narrowness, prejudice and moral arrogance. They will close off the dynamic creativity of a living faith.

There is a beautiful cohesion to the monastic vocation. But most people are dragged willy-nilly into life — with all its contradictions and complexities. Many who experience faith experience it most vividly within the web of their rival loves — different communities, jobs, dilemmas. They have faith in their faith. It gives them a way of being within the realities of a messy and impure world.

The right response to the moment is not the Benedict Option, it is Orthodox Pluralism. It is to surrender to some orthodoxy that will overthrow the superficial obsessions of the self and put one’s life in contact with a transcendent ideal. But it is also to reject the notion that that ideal can be easily translated into a pure, homogenized path. It is, on the contrary, to throw oneself more deeply into friendship with complexity, with different believers and atheists, liberals and conservatives, the dissimilar and unalike.

Rod and I have different views on L.G.B.T. issues. But I think we genuinely respect each other and honor each other’s lives. To me that means the real enemy is not the sexual revolution. It is a form of purism that can’t tolerate difference because it can’t humbly accept the mystery of truth.

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Mislim da su obe strane pogresne, obe su krajnosti.

Hriscani prvih vekova nisu tako divno, radosno i veselo prihvatali lazne bogove u stilu jaoj cvetici mi mozemo da budemo prijatelji, bas je sve super. Nisu se poklanjali bogovima i nisu prinosili zrtve. Itekako je bilo tako nesto nepojmivo. Ali nisu ni osnivali "hriscanske partije", borili se protiv sistema, dizali bune i ustanke i sta sve ne. 

Danasnji hriscani sa jedne strane mrze ovaj sistem (samo mi nije jasno kako misle da je ta mrznja od Boga), pljuju ga, vide kao pretnju njihovim vrednostima i cemu sve ne, osnivaju razne dveri, protestuju kao da su komunisti i sve tome slicno, ili sa druge strane su potpuno hipi svi se mi volimo i nista od toga nije vazno.

Hriscani prvih vekova su se drzali medju sobom cvrsto, da, ali ne u kontekstu organizacije drustva, nego u kontekstu vere, cuvali su svoju veru i itekako bili "strogi". Nisi mogao kao danas da se krstis jer eto hoces da se vencas pa red je :D ili bilo sta slicno. Svete Tajne su bile i tajne, za one neposvecene. Ali omasovljenje i podrzavljenje je ucinilo svoje.

Ja resenje ne vidim ni u jednog krajnosti, sto se drustva i uredjenja tice mislim da nismo ni svesni koliko nam je dobro, koliko je tada zivot bio bukvalno muka, glad, beda i bolest. Mislim da smo poprilicno ualjeni tj razmazeni sto se toga tice. Ali mislim i da nam treba "strozi" pristup veri gde nece biti bitno da pravoslavaca bude 99%, nego da zaista se po plodovima poznajemo. S tim sto se plodovi ne mere brojem posnih dana na vodi, nego ljubavlju ka bliznjem.

 

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