Benedict Option politics: Local and religious

I am blogging my way through Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option, just now. Today, some brief thoughts on Chapter 4: A New Kind of Christian Politics.

Honestly, this chapter points to a different background from what I’m used to, although possibly a similar future. That is, I am a Canadian who lives in England (after 7 years in Scotland). So the religion and politics and religious freedom issues, and the American idea of ‘values voters’ as well as the conservative Christian alignment in the USA with the Republican Party are not things that resound with me in the same way.

Theological conservatives I know of from Canada vote for the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, and the New Democratic Party (which is farther left than the centre-left Liberals), and sometimes Green. I have an ‘evangelical’ English friend who is a card-carrying member of the Labour Party. I know Free Church Scots (‘Wee Frees’) who vote for the Scottish National Party. I know one Canadian Christian who has voted for the Greens, Liberals, and Conservatives. All things being equal, she’d probably vote NDP one year. It depends. Our issues at the polling station are often different.

I think Christians need to consider things like how best to care for the poor, the marginalised, the outcast, and which political party will be more likely to produce a situation that will make care for said people a reality.

However, some of the issues Dreher points out are likely to start making headway into Canada and the UK because of the corrosive influence of the Internet. Thus, we need to ensure that religion is allowed to have a public face and voice in national affairs; this is actually a concern in Canada, where the Governor General seems to think that theistic belief and rational science are enemies. Other secularists are out there, not always from Quebec, sometimes journalists. However, given that the new federal head of the NDP is a turban-wearing Sikh, we are not the USA yet.

Nonetheless, we need to protect freedom of religion, and here is where Christians can try to leverage pluralism to our advantage. It’s true that pluralism hasn’t always panned out like everyone said it would at the turn of the millennium, but it’s still worth fighting alongside Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, et al., for each other’s right to be weird. Because that’s what Christianity is in Europe and the white Anglophone world — weird.

Dreher’s other recommendation, besides fighting for religious freedom as a main issue, is to be more local. This is an interesting idea. Indeed, it is at the local level where a lot of the down-to-earth practical realities of Christian conviction might come out. For example, Christian city councilors fighting for a housing program like the one in Medicine Hat whereby no one is homeless and everyone seems to win. Or to be a public Christian who simply works for the public good — better roads, better water, etc., etc.

He also calls for unofficial politics. That is, simply fighting for a better world. This is, of course, what the politically conservative always call for. Our duty is not to wait for the government to care for the poor. We are to care for the poor whether the feds will or not.

Who knows if this sort of politics will actually do anything besides keep Christians Christian? I feel like a number of us have already been trying it for years.

Finally, I see how this fits the subtitle of the book re ‘strategy’, but am uncertain how it matches up with St Benedict of Nursia.

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