Is a Counter-Catechesis Even Possible?

…because I was and am convinced that the primary reason American Christians are so bent and broken is that we have neglected catechesis while living in a social order that catechizes us incessantly.

Alan Jacobs, “Learning from Rod Dreher”

This is something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while. And I think it’s an idea many others have had as well (see James K.A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom – specifically the idea of the “mall” as the new cathedral, the new catechizer).

There are many, many, many spheres of influence over individual human lives. Culture(s), political ideologies, education, economic systems, books, music, movies, social media (heaven help us), families, communties, etc. etc. ad infinitum. And these all interweave and join up in ways we can barely begin to understand. Look at the problem too long, and one becomes overwhelmed. Unable to think clearly about which is more influential right now, which should be addressed right now, and how the church should respond right now.

This is the problem of catechesis (and for those of you who don’t know, catechesis traditional is the term used for religious instruction prior to baptism/full membership of the Christian body). Especially in America — I am unfamiliar with other societies — the Protestant church has largely done poorly with catechesis in the local church body over the last hundred (Two hundred? Five hundred?). And the problem with this is that we are always given a counter-catechism. Really, multiple counter-catechisms. I can give myself over to political life or revolution; I can become a patriot; I can revel in the modern capitalist-consumerist order. I can do all three of these things, and not realize that by doing so, I am giving my allegiance to things other than the creedal faith of Christianity.

That’s why strong Christian catechesis is needed. I just don’t know how to do that without going full Benedict Option (which I cannot bring myself to completely endorse, but which always has a pull for me that I don’t fully understand). And then, of course, you run the risk of abuse, cultishness, or just losing touch with the broader culture.

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