MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, January 1st, 2020. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Sometimes in life, your best laid plans go awry. But WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney says Godly effort is never wasted.
JANIE B. CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: Rod Dreher published The Benedict Option in 2017. It culminated years of thinking about how to live as a Christian in an increasingly anti-Christian society. He had concluded that “taking back the culture” was a delusion. Not gonna happen. Therefore, believers needed to circle the wagons, so to speak, and be much more intentional about building community and educating the young.
His model was Saint Benedict, who founded the monastery system to preserve Christian teaching in the chaotic centuries after the fall of Rome: hence, the Benedict option. It wasn’t about withdrawing from politics or culture to form communes, but rather regrouping and rebuilding our own sacred spaces.
To those of us who had been homeschooling since the 1980s, Dreher was late to the party, but welcome. The enthusiastic response at least equaled the criticism. Some readers even formed their own “Ben-Op” communities of Christian families committed to serve each other and train up their children.
Dreher never claimed the Benedict Option was the perfect solution, only a plausible response to the chaos of our own dark ages. Still, it’s a bit disconcerting to read this grim headline from The American Conservative website: “She Ben-Opped. It didn’t work.”
In the post, Dreher quotes a long letter from a Catholic reader. Long before The Benedict Option set conservative hearts a-flutter, this woman intentionally trained up her children in the faith—only to see all four of them walk away.
Again, welcome to my world. Every few months I get together with seven other ladies. We all became friends while homeschooling our kids through the teenage years. Our combined children number 31, and of those, about one-third have not followed in their parents’ faith.
Should we say that our efforts “didn’t work?”
Two correctives: First, we have to remind ourselves continually of the strength of sin, especially sexual. That’s especially true in a culture ever more accepting of every imagination of the corrupt human heart. Even in a strong Christian community, it’s impossible to guard against every temptation that will find a pathway into youthful minds. The secular appeal to tolerance is especially powerful, because it claims the very love ethic that originated in Christianity.
But remember this, too: Even children who walk away will still hunger for something beyond, for a meaning in life. Something besides great sex and a six-figure income.
The world calls it “spirituality.” Christians call it the God-shaped hole. Survey after survey indicates that young people are looking for something the world can’t give them, and the results are not in yet. Twenty-somethings still have a lot of growing to do, and the seeds of faith planted in them could still sprout.
We tend to extrapolate trends into the future, but the future almost always defies expectation. God isn’t done. He promised Abraham descendants that couldn’t be counted, and he’s still counting. Watch and pray, and don’t give up.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Janie B. Cheaney.