Benedict Option, Meet the Center for Medical Progress
Do Christians have the right to look inward, away from the victims of Planned Parenthood?
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to invent a right to same-sex ‘marriage,’ we all felt beaten and helpless. Five unelected judges who serve for life had reached into the Constitution, scrawled their private opinions between the lines, and imposed them on us as law. As after Roe v. Wade, we got a taste of what most human beings throughout history have endured from womb to tomb: Raw, unaccountable power imposed on them by the factions controlling the state, with no good legal recourse.
We felt that way for a moment, a moment which author/blogger Rod Dreher seized to inform us in Time magazine that we Christians now are “exiles,” who must abandon “failed culture war strategies” such as “voting Republican.” Dreher has been trashing Republicans since 2006, over issues ranging from the free market to the environment, from “consumerism” to foreign policy. Now he argues that Christians need to embrace his cultural movement, which he has been building since at least 2008, called the Benedict Option.
The notion is a difficult one to pin down, so much so that Austin Ruse describes Dreher as having “noodled inchoately on this topic for years.” The closest to a coherent definition Dreher has ever managed is this: “a limited, strategic withdrawal of Christians from the mainstream of American popular culture, for the sake of shoring up our understanding of what the church is, and what we must do to be the church.”
Such a passage can mean almost everything. But one thing we can pin down is how those attracted to Dreher’s idea have taken his meaning. In the weeks after the Supreme Court issued its diktat, various smart, well-meaning Christians began to read into Dreher’s notion all their fondest hopes for a quiet life, untroubled by politics, pursued in the bosom of family, church, and friendly subculture contacts.
So then let’s ask ourselves: What could be possibly be wrong with that? Perhaps nothing, if your fate is to live in a society where you are in fact helpless, where elites hold absolute power and you have no political voice that could foster justice, defend the innocent or advance the respect for life. A medieval serf, an Assyrian Christian or a pious peasant in Stalin’s Russia had no place in politics — because the regime allowed him none. Is that really where Christians are in today’s America? Are things so hopelessly bad that we’re “off the hook,” absolved from our solemn duty as citizens to work for just laws that defend innocent life and religious freedom?
Providentially, I think, we learned the answer last week, when the pro-life heroes of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) revealed the organ trafficking business of taxpayer-funded “non-profit” Planned Parenthood. Now half the members of the U.S. Senate are demanding an investigation, and leading presidential candidates are calling for Congress to cut off the half-billion dollars of annual taxpayer funding that go to that racist-founded abortion business and organ profiteer. The pro-lifers of the CMP could have spent the last three years beating “a limited, strategic withdrawal … from the mainstream of American popular culture.” Instead, they went after that power of darkness called Planned Parenthood with the tools and gifts they could muster.
And do you know what virtually all those senators and congressmen roused to action against Planned Parenthood have in common? They are Republicans. Their party is far from perfect, and some of these Republican politicians undoubtedly just have their finger to the wind, but theirs is the only political party in Washington in which innocent life and religious freedom have any serious support.
If we were to follow Rod Dreher’s advice in Time magazine, how should we respond to this Planned Parenthood scandal? Should we call our representatives, write letters to the editor, and vote accordingly? Should we oppose Obama’s Department of Justice when it investigates not the organ profiteers, but the pro-life reporters who exposed the profiteers? Or is all of that a “failed culture war” strategy, like “voting Republican”?
Was David Daleiden violating the Benedict Option when he spent 30 months infiltrating Planned Parenthood to expose their profiteering? Should he have concentrated instead on building up a “countercultural” community of Christians who don’t traffic in baby parts?
Should we stop voting at all, and concentrate instead on singing hymns and jarring pickles? I, like Dreher, am an advocate of home schoolers’ rights. But what about fighting for those rights in the political arena, as the Home School Legal Defense Association does. Does that violate the Benedict Option?
How about supporting the First Amendment Defense Act, which would prevent the federal government from punitively taxing orthodox Christian churches and business owners, and crippling them with fines? The bill now has 140 co-sponsors, all but one of whom are Republicans. Would it be too much of a distraction from raising our families in the faith to send a few emails or Tweets in support of that?
Just how much time does “voting Republican” and otherwise exercising responsible citizenship take from the rest of living the Christian life — and isn’t there plenty of time we could pare off from other activities instead, such as watching movies or gossiping?
Sing a Little Louder
I discussed the Benedict Option with Eric Metaxas on his national radio show a few weeks ago. Metaxas observed that it is irresponsible to retreat from politics when politics threatens the lives of innocents, and pointed to the way too many clergy and other Christians sat out the rise of Hitler, and focused on “churchy” concerns while the Nazis tightened the screws.
A recent, powerful short film called “Sing a Little Louder” illustrates that fact with an historical incident, as recalled by an old man from his boyhood. A train taking innocents to the death camps got stranded on the tracks near a Lutheran church during Sunday services. The screams of the doomed civilians came through the church’s wooden walls. The good Christians gathered together were horrified, but powerless. So at their pastor’s instruction, they … sang a little louder to drown out the screams. And the service continued. Now by 1943, Christians were in fact pretty powerless to slow, much less stop, the Holocaust. That hadn’t been true in 1933. These Christian citizens sought out powerlessness; they chose it because it seemed the safer, calmer course.
Do we have the right to do the same? Or do we owe something to the tiny, butchered victims of Planned Parenthood? To the Christians whose rights will be trampled on if we do not push back fiercely? To the poor, who will go on being helpless victims of the Left’s social engineering, failed economics and de facto eugenics?
I don’t blame Christians for feeling discouraged and frustrated. Remember how Spaniards reacted to a terrorist bombing in 2004; instead of recommitting to fighting Islamist evil, they quailed, caved and elected a socialist government to withdraw all Spain’s troops from Iraq. That same government went on to advance legal abortion and same-sex “marriage,” rendering that election a catastrophe for Christians. American Christians face a similar fateful choice in 2016. The Supreme Court has blown up the Constitution. Is it time to cut and run?
Executive producer of “Sing a Little Louder,” Jason Jones, always reminds me that as citizens of a democracy, each of us wields a “sovereign vote.” We are each, in a small way, a king. And if through neglect or exhaustion we fail to fight injustice, God will hold us accountable, much as he would a lazy or cowardly king.