28 February 2017

Renew Conference 2017: Final Installment

This past Saturday I posted here about the Renew Conference 2017 remarks of keynote speaker Vincent Bacote. A few concluding thoughts. After pointing out the shortcomings endemic to White, conservative Evangelicalism, Bacote spoke briefly but critically about two current approaches to Evangelical political and social action.

Seven years ago, University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter published "To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World" in which he urged Christians to engage in "faithful presence." In Hunter's vision, serious Christians will not physically withdraw from current American society but will occupy their remaining cultural space in an Anabaptist-like way. Their ongoing and increasingly countercultural presence will hold up to the contemporary hyper-commodified and hyper-sexualized world an alternative mode of existence, one that in the long run will prove increasingly attractive as the idols of more stuff and more sex ultimately prove less and less satisfying.

More recently, Rod Dreher has been pressing toward the so-called "Benedict Option" named in honor of the sixth century monk St. Benedict who established monastic communities in the Western portion of the crumbling Roman Empire. It was at these monasteries that the literary deposit of the dying Classical and Roman Christian ages were stored while waiting for their recovery in the Renaissance of the eleventh century. Dreher's approach (read a FAQ here) is quite similar to Hunter's but bears the fruit of much thinking about such matters over the past decade. (Go here to see an up-to-date argument about one aspect of the debate about the BenOp.)

In any event, both faithful presence and the BenOp are grounded in the development of intentional and "thick" communities by Christians. Where do these communities then go? Other than nurturing the next generation, what will they do? According to Bacote, not much. In his words, serious catechesis of Christian communities* is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for to bear the Christian witness to a dying world. Some sort of more active engagement is appropriate and necessary, he believes

Just what sort of active engagement does Bacote have in mind? Regrettably, he didn't have time to address the positive aspect of his social and cultural proposals but I suspect we'd find them in his book, "The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life" (2015). 

I've not read Bacote's book but I have ordered it. It's about fourth on my reading list so you'll have to wait awhile for my thoughts. Until then, why not read it for yourself?

* Serious catechesis? By Evangelicals? Seriously?

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