The Adam Option

If we wish to right the wrong that the Supreme Court has done, then, we must do more than change the law. We must change the culture. That’s no easy task, and again it is not obvious how we should begin.

That’s one of Phil Lawler’s observations after the Court’s recent decision on same-sex marriage. One way to change the culture, I know right off the top of my head, is not the Benedict Option. The Benedict Option literally means no sex and no kids. And the one way that heterosexuals could change the culture in a heart beat is out-reproduce homosexuals. Think about it (but not to long). What’s so hard about that? One kind of sex results in kids, the other doesn’t. Birth rates alone will change demographics and all sorts of cultural bi-products follow. Think of all the weeping and gnashing of teeth over Europe being overrun by Muslims who out-reproduce Christians Europeans and think again how those changing demographics are supposed to transform Europe.

It could happen here — families overwhelming singles.

Caleb Bernacchio and Philip de Mahy think that the Benedict Option still has possibilities but not the way that Rod Dreher frames it:

The question facing Dreher and other proponents of the Benedict Option is how it is possible to recover not only the Benedictine vision of prayer but also the Benedictine vision of work as prayer, under the conditions of advanced modernity. Work shapes one’s character; it will either be a school of virtue or, all too often, of vice. Modernity largely understands work as instrumental. To become anti-modern in a constructive manner, we must challenge the way that modernity diminishes the importance of work as a means of character development.

St. Benedict’s solution was revolutionary for its time because it recognized that neither the life of work nor the life of prayer can be pursued independently of the other.

I still don’t see room for sex. I am still left wondering what happened to these Benedictines once they die. For the Benedict Option to succeed, don’t you need to have kids and pass on your faith and “values” to them? And where do you see sex or kids in a monastery?

Dreher himself is pondering his critics and has recently come up with this as a better formulation of the Benedict Option:

The early Benedictine monks followed the Rule of St. Benedict, which directed how they were to organize their monastic communities to serve God. Benedict taught that they were to focus on prayer and work, and the common life. The five principles I have discerned from reading the Rule are:

Order
Stability
Discipline
Community
Hospitality

It should go without saying that a method for living out these principles is going to look very different for lay people living in the world than for vowed religious living in single-sex communities behind monastery walls. I think whatever forms the Benedict Option takes, we have to understand that it’s going to be diverse, depending on local needs, and particular religious traditions. How Catholics live it out won’t look exactly like how Southern Baptists live it out. How urban Christians live it out won’t look exactly like how rural Christians live it out. The ultimate goal, though, is developing communities that can be islands of stability, sanity, and goodness in a fast-moving and chaotic culture that works against all of those things.

Fine, but weren’t families islands of stability, sanity, and goodness in a fast-moving and chaotic culture? And weren’t congregations also there to produce some of those same cultural goods? What happened to family and church? One answer is that families and churches didn’t do that great a job of passing on strict codes governing sex, marriage, and ambition? Did the pursuit of a Republican president in the White House and overturning Roe v. Wade also bring some strong winds and heavy rains to those islands of stability? I think so.

But those islands are still there. Climate change hasn’t obliterated them. Be fruitful, multiply, and catechize (but not that doorstop of a catechism produced by John Paul II — Luther’s Small, Heidelberg, or the Shorter Catechism should do).

Tommie Kidd gets the last word on what was the Adam (okay, ladies) the Adam-and-Eve Option:

How different, then, are the traditional Christian practices of family life? (None of the following are exclusively for Christians, nor do all professing Christians practice them.) Marriage between a man and a woman, marital vows before sex, viewing children as a blessing from God, and a responsibility to raise those children in the fear of the Lord. Limits on “screen time” which allow for more reading, more outside play, and more sleep. Family dinners and prayer, church attendance, reading in the Bible and other edifying, educational books.

These and countless other small counter-cultural aspects of Christian family life today may not strike us as “retreat,” but they are conscious decisions not to assimilate to the patterns of mainstream culture. We may even find it hard to maintain these standards in the context of church, where many of the parents of our kids’ friends are not choosing the counter-cultural path. Nevertheless, for “paleo” evangelicals the Benedict Option is unquestionably the route we’ll need to take in the coming days. It is the way of fidelity for Christians, as the world around us sloughs off what remains of our quasi-Christian culture.

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46 thoughts on “The Adam Option

  1. Add sex to the #BenedictOption and I’m all in.

    Also, an amen for more catechism.

    Made me think of this quotation from Anthony Bourdain:

    “We know, for instance, that there is a direct, inverse relationship between frequency of family meals and social problems. Bluntly stated, members of families who eat together regularly are statistically less likely to stick up liquor stores, blow up meth labs, give birth to crack babies, commit suicide, or make donkey porn. If Little Timmy had just had more meatloaf, he might not have grown up to fill chest freezers with Cub Scout parts.”

    Add the catechism to the mix and you’re golden, I think.

    Dibs on the blog name of “Called to Catechesis,” by the way.

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  2. one way that heterosexuals could change the culture in a heart beat is out-reproduce homosexuals. Think about it (but not to long).

    Combine this with Xian hedonism and you have a marketable product.

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  3. The roman equivalent is the Baltimore Catechism.

    I thought that last passage was what dreher has been talking about all along.

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  4. The Montanists and the Shakers and the folks at the Ephrata Cloister stopped having sex, and now there’s nobody left. How can we wait on the Lord to effectually call our children if we have no children?

    As Peter preached to those who had already been circumcised, Acts 2: 39 For the promise is for you, and for your children, and for all who are far off, AS MANY AS the Lord our God WILL CALL.” 40 And with many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!”

    Romans 9: 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants…. That is, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are considered to be the offspring.

    http://aqueercalling.com/2014/11/14/from-hermitage-to-celibate-village-the-ephrata-cloister/

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  5. Can Bachelors Keep the Covenant?

    “Kingdom mission and Christian hospitality and community are not instrumental. They are not undertaken in order to strengthen and make families happy. The strength and happiness of families is an important thing. But it is a byproduct of service to the kingdom larger than the family, p 163.

    Families at the Crossroads, Rodney Clapp, 1993

    Mcmark—well, which covenant? The covenant God had with Adam? The Abrahamic covenant? The Mosaic covenant? Is marriage necessary for all those in the new covenant? If marriage is not a “sacrament”, is being single a “counsel for the few” but not the “creation order”?

    I Corinthians 7: 32 I want you to be without concerns. An unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the things of the world—how he may please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or a virgin is concerned about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. 35 Now I am saying this for your own benefit, not to put a restraint on you, but because of what is proper and so that you may be devoted to the Lord without distraction.

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  6. Change “the culture?” Things are far worse than that. Madness reigns.

    On NPR, an Oakland mother discussed the transition of her 3-year old son from “Jack” to “Jackie”:

    “It was May 15, 2014, and I remember the date because Jackie was out of school that day,” she says. “We drove to drop her older sister off at kindergarten. And normally Jackie is quite happy and content to hang out with me and play.”

    Jackie was 3 then, and she was called Jack. Glancing into the backseat of her car, Mary noticed something different.

    “Jackie just looked really, really sad; sadder than a 3-and-a-half-year-old should look,” Carter says. “This weight that looked like it weighed more than she did, something she had to say and I didn’t know what that was.”

    “So I asked. I said, ‘Jackie, are you sad that you’re not going to school today?’ And Jackie was really quiet and put her head down and said ‘No, I’m sad because I’m a boy.’

    Carter then asked, “You’re really not happy being a boy?”

    “I thought a little bit longer and I said, ‘Well, are you happy being you?’ And that made Jackie smile,” she says. “And I felt like for that moment, that was all that really mattered. That was ‘The Day.’

    At that point Carter went to a drug store and found elastic bands to pull Jackie’s hair into small ponytails.

    “And I’ve never seen such a happy child,” Carter recalls. “To go from maybe an hour before this, this child who looks so sad, to that, I felt like I’d done something right by her.”

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  7. I don’t know what Rodney Clapp had in mind, but how about “covenant of companionship?”

    Mal.2:14. “But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.”

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  8. DG-

    Babies and catechism. Did you actually find a topic everyone agrees on? Careful, you’ll ruin the blogs reputation.

    It seems ‘the Benedict Option’ depends on a fertile culture.

    Remind me, why did fertility decrease in the US? I mean, if you had to pick just one enabling factor.

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  9. vd, t, then step up. Blog about it. You have two outlets. What are you doing for the cause? You don’t go to church. You don’t speak out. All you do is comment and complain.

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  10. Not the Benedict but Francis Option:

    The world encountered St. Benedict’s monastic wisdom through schools, commerce, books and preaching; the world encountered St. Francis when he put his jarringly authentic Christianity side-by-side with the world’s illusory Christian duplicity: He became a living icon of Christ. People who wouldn’t otherwise meet Christ met Francis and Clare and companions, and learned what Jesus would have them (and us) learn: Trust Rome, reject the commercialism of the day; respect the priesthood; reach out to Islam; care for all creatures; serve the poor.
    “The poverty and austerity of St. Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism,” writes Pope Francis in Laudato Sí, “but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled” (11).

    People seeing Francis saw an uncompromising, joyful freedom. They learned from him that the life of faith wasn’t easy, but that it wasn’t drudgery either. They learned that Christianity was strong and vital and real — and they couldn’t have learned that any other way than by seeing a friar smiling as he fasted and helping the poor not as a philanthropist, but as a brother.

    When the world looks at Catholics today, they often don’t have that experience. They see culture warriors or whiners.

    Francis was not a culture warrior. He didn’t see creation as “a problem to be solved,” as Pope Francis put it — and he didn’t see culture that way either. Others were building places to preserve culture against attacks (a work the Church always needs); he decided to be powerless before others. He was only concerned with being one with Christ in his beliefs, actions and decisions.

    He also wasn’t a whiner. He refused to complain about priests, even when his rights were being trampled on. He didn’t complain that the Church was being too Catholic or not Catholic enough, or that the Pope’s priorities were wrong, or that bishops and priests had become corrupt or lazy.

    Funny how when the world sees Francis today, they see him in an Eternal City, with museums, a bank, a post office, and lots of offices for bureaucrats. Poor church indeed.

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  11. With all of the other problems that exist in the world such as economic exploitation, environmental destruction, and war and militarism, some nonbelievers must be scratching their heads to the skull wondering what kind of people would only be concerned about same-sex marriage.

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  12. My bet is that fertility decreases anywhere you have universal, socialized retirement. Social Security allows people to rely on the government instead of family and other social structures to support them.

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  13. Joel, that’s an interesting point. In such situations, it’s no longer important to have lots of kids yourself; it’s important for everyone else to have lots of kids. But since everyone thinks the same thing, no one has kids and you eventually end up like Italy or Greece and the only way to keep your society from imploding is to invite lots of fertile immigrants to come to your country and/or count on bailouts from other countries.

    We are working on child number four over here. You’re welcome, baby boomers.

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  14. Jesse, you don’t have to force your kids to prop up the system. SS is supposed to be voluntary. We didn’t get our son a number. It’s worked well so far. We were even able to get him a passport without a SS#. I really doubt he’ll need to drive by the time he is 16, with all the innovation in cars and car services. Now I just need to sue the government for tax credit equality for ALL children, whether they have a SS# or not.

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  15. It seems to me that there is a level of agreement that fertility beyond sub-replacement levels would be beneficial in allowing a community or society of Christians to… flower and fructify. So there may be value in understanding how we got to where we are.

    “Economics,” DG -? Can you explain? And why the dropoff in the 20th century, particularly from, say, 1960?

    France, being more progressive, slowed significantly in the 19th c., I think.

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  16. Curt Day:With all of the other problems that exist in the world such as economic exploitation, environmental destruction, and war and militarism, some nonbelievers must be scratching their heads to the skull wondering what kind of people would only be concerned about same-sex marriage.

    Curt, I think that’s what the Lord calls ‘the reasoning of the wise’ which He calls ‘useless’; but we (believers) have the mind of Christ.

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  17. I’ve heard other factors are better life expectancy (when you know your kids are going to live into adulthood, you don’t have as many kids playing the odds of death of some of them) and education for women also lowers the birth rate. I’m not sure that it is the education itself, but the possibility of doing something other than childbearing and housekeeping. However, education is what I’ve read is the key factor.

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  18. I’m not sure people are thinking of pension plans in the context of ‘the marital act.’

    Paying the bills 12 months down the line, maybe.

    I think history will reveal the decline in the birth rate as the single most important event of the 20th-21st centuries. Rather like the agricultural revolution of the 11th/12th centuries and the plague in the 14th.

    Whatever additional factors are at play, technology (either new or proliferated) makes possible things that weren’t before.

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  19. Hart,
    Great post! (minus the RCC pokes I course) I haven’t heard anybody talking about the Benedict Option in terms of all these traditional Christian family units going celibate and teaching all their kids to do the same.

    Anyway, what you are talking abou here is the basic practice of my family and the many homeschool families we interact with; Catholic and non-Catholic alike. I know of other non-homeschool families that practice what you are talking about, but it definately seems more prevailant in the homeschooling communities.

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  20. What if Adam and Eve outsource parental duties?

    You might think that parents would be the ones charged with inculcating values—including values around sex and sexuality—in their offspring, but in the present day climate of youth culture and mass media the job of getting adolescents onto the purity bandwagon is increasingly outsourced to faith-based purity organizations.

    Two of the most prominent of these are True Love Waits (see also here)–which encourages youth to make publicly spoken commitments to remain sexually abstinent until marriage; and Silver Ring Thing–which is a traveling multimedia show incorporating elements of fantasy and parody to make its case for sexual abstinence, the impossibility of this apart from a personal relationship with Jesus, and the desirability of a symbolically-freighted piece of jewelry—the “silver ring”—that is available for purchase only by attendees of Silver Ring Thing events.

    If you think this is all weirdly fascinating enough to be of interest to scholars of American religion and culture, you would be right.

    Most scholars trace the rise of the evangelical purity movement to the cultural shifts of the 1960s, with the purity movement originating in response to the loosened sexual mores of that time.

    By the 1990s, the time of the emergence of both True Love Waits and Silver Ring Thing, this cultural pushback had been joined by an evangelical desire to embrace certain other aspects of contemporary culture, namely individual choice and self-fulfillment. (Thus both organizations identify a central benefit of premarital sexual abstinence as mind-blowingly fabulous marital sex.)

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  21. Linked to economics, another reason for the decline in fertility in the US is urbanization. An agrarian society tends to start early and have large families to help out with farm work.

    In case anyone is interested, ‘America Alone’ by Mark Steyn is a thought provoking (maybe somewhat exaggerated) book about demographics in North America, Europe and Asia.

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  22. D. G. Hart
    Posted July 9, 2015 at 6:29 am | Permalink
    vd, t, then step up. Blog about it. You have two outlets. What are you doing for the cause? You don’t go to church. You don’t speak out. All you do is comment and complain.

    They won. Rather, you won, in that they accepted your surrender. It wasn’t the Falwells and Palins who lost the culture war, it was the quislings who sold out their own side.

    The next battlefield, actually the last ditch, is religious freedom: They’re coming after us, they’re coming after the kids. the only question now is whether you learned anything, or if you’ll continue to keep your skirts clean and be a useful idiot for the sexual revolution.

    I am doing something, Butch. “I’d rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind,” said George Patton. I’m keeping an eye on the one behind, mon chéri/i>. I wish it weren’t this way.

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  23. D. G. Hart
    Posted July 9, 2015 at 4:40 pm | Permalink
    vdt, when is the Cookies’ reunion tour?

    Or does your doing something mean you’re keeping the mullet in check?

    Pretty desperate personal attack, monsieur. That was over 25 years ago. Great band, though.

    squelchers.net/Cookies/Cookies.htm

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  24. D.G. Hart:
    And the one way that heterosexuals could change the culture in a heart beat is out-reproduce homosexuals>>>>>>

    How are you going to convince women to have babies, D.G. Hart? What are you, as a leader in the OPC, going to do to encourage your women to dedicate themselves to the child rearing role?

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  25. Mrs. Webfoot
    Posted July 10, 2015 at 1:25 am | Permalink
    D.G. Hart:
    And the one way that heterosexuals could change the culture in a heart beat is out-reproduce homosexuals>>>>>>

    How are you going to convince women to have babies, D.G. Hart? What are you, as a leader in the OPC, going to do to encourage your women to dedicate themselves to the child rearing role?

    D. G. Hart
    Posted July 10, 2015 at 6:12 am | Permalink
    Mermaid, that’s a little personal.>>>>>

    Yes. It is personal. Like I have said, Protestantism – with a very few exceptions – does not have a coherent philosophy and theology of sexuality. What are women being taught by the all male leadership in Reformed churches? Basically, nothing. What are the women teaching one another? Well, some have returned to the priority of bearing and raising children, but you have to look very hard to find even Reformed female theologians suggesting that motherhood is a woman’s natural, default mode.

    The ones who do try to make the case for women returning to our motherhood role are, well, not all that well received or well treated even in many Reformed circles let alone Protestantism in general.

    It’s personal. So, Protestantism dies.

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  26. “What are women being taught by the all male leadership in Reformed churches?”

    What are men being taught by allegedly celibate priests? What are women being taught by probably celibate nuns? Oh, natural family planning. And what is the practice? Oh, just about everything under the sun.

    Webster, I admire your zeal in trying to make proper sexuality a plus for the RC’s however impotent it might be.

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  27. and Web keeps getting more desperate and more pointless trying to get a rise out of us?

    What will that wacky Webfoot do next???? Are you are holding your breath in anticipation???

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..

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  28. Mrs. Webfoot,

    I hope you aren’t letting the mean comments get to you. You are speaking reasonably and they know it, they are just not in a place(yet) to receive it.
    Catholicism takes all kinds of hits for not being what so-and-so thinks she should be. Chesterton talks about this a lot. She is accused of being against sex yet she is the only church that calls the marriage union( where there is lots of sex) a Sacrament. It is pointed out by teetotalers that Her members( especially the Irish) are said to drink too much, yet drunkenness happens to be against her own doctrine. She is faulted for being too rich yet paradoxically some of her members take vows of poverty. Her married families are laughed at for following the Church’s teaching against birth control and therefore having large families, at the same time unwed chastity is seen as old- fashioned and not realistic.
    The examples are plenty.

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  29. Susan
    Posted July 10, 2015 at 4:14 pm | Permalink
    Mrs. Webfoot,

    I hope you aren’t letting the mean comments get to you. You are speaking reasonably and they know it, they are just not in a place(yet) to receive it.
    Catholicism takes all kinds of hits for not being what so-and-so thinks she should be. Chesterton talks about this a lot. She is accused of being against sex yet she is the only church that calls the marriage union( where there is lots of sex) a Sacrament. It is pointed out by teetotalers that Her members( especially the Irish) are said to drink too much, yet drunkenness happens to be against her own doctrine. She is faulted for being too rich yet paradoxically some of her members take vows of poverty. Her married families are laughed at for following the Church’s teaching against birth control and therefore having large families, at the same time unwed chastity is seen as old- fashioned and not realistic.
    The examples are plenty.

    Not bad atall, Susan. In fact, clerical celibacy shows just how seriously Catholicism takes sex. These people are all-in on Jesus’s teaching.

    “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 12″For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”

    [According to church Tradition, Jesus himself was celibate, of course.]

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  30. “Susan, it’s mean to point out the Vatican’s assets, the rich church for the bingo players?’

    The Catholic Church has Michelangelo and Brunelleschi…and also some kitsch, But she’s two-thousand years old, hasn’t changed much, AND she has God as her founder.
    Darryl, are you ever serious? Besides, I’ve been Catholic for a little over two years and haven’t seen a bingo game going on. There are good movies in the parish hall, but nope, no bingo.

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  31. Here is one of those news items that ought to grieve all of us at the same time that it diminishes comm box discussions like the one above to their proper place of importance:

    Male head of theology at Jesuit university marries male partner

    http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=6659

    “Fordham University’s mission statement says in part that the university “draws its inspiration from the dual heritage of Christian Humanism and Ignatian Spirituality, and consequently sees all disciplines as potential paths to God.””

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