Rod Dreher reflected recently on American Indian “cultural nests,” or ways to transmit the cultural knowledge of threatened languages and the attendant meaning of those languages to new generations. Dreher frames this by citing the nest as both an incubator and a refuge from predation, which in this case is the force of wider American/English language culture:
The idea is simple but profound: the natural cultural forces around us are destroying these languages, and with them cultures, even cosmologies. The only way to save them is to pass them on to the next generations, and the only way to do that is to study them intensely a sanctuary/incubator setting, and then to put what you learn there into use in daily life.
Reading this, I thought this is the Benedict Option for languages. These speakers of dying languages and their children are not running for the hills to hide out, but they are creating communal institutions within which precious but severely threatened knowledge can be passed on, even as the younger generations live and work in the world. The elders know their children will be assimilated to a certain degree within the broader world, but they are trying as hard as they can to give them the knowledge and the love to hold on to their traditions and inheritance.
Dreher draws a parallel between the value of cultural nests for cultural knowledge like language and the Benedict Option, a concept within Christianity that he’s written about before. Borrowing from this link to describe it: “How to live life as a whole. Not a life of worldly success so much as one of human success.”
Churches, families, and religious schools that don’t become “nests” will not be recognizably Christian within this century. I’m convinced of that. Hence the Benedict Option.
American culture, and dominant cultures generally, often find themselves influenced and sometimes even transformed in surprising and unexpected ways through the life of a coherent minority. I think cultural nests are a significant thing for Christians to consider, and they’re already in existence in an obvious way through secular things like college towns. There are plenty of models.