Why Retreats Are Bad Print
Wednesday, 18 April 2007 09:04

Written by Keith Strohm

No, I'm not talking about taking a weekend away from your everyday life to focus on God. I'm talking about the tendency for people of faith to draw away from the world, to retreat from its sometimes hostile environment.

I've been thinking a great deal about this, particularly in relation to fiction writing. In fact, I just finished a reflection entitled Why I Hate Christian Science Fiction and posted it on my blog. As a group, Christians tend to do what I call "enclaving," creating a cultural space around themselves where they feel safe. We see it in Christian Music, in Christian Films, and, yes, in Christian Science Fiction. We copy a cultural phenomenon and then "Christian-ize" it so we can feel good about enjoying it.

The bad thing about enclaving is that it tends to enforce an artificial separation between "the world" and us--a separation which, according to Christ who calls us to be salt, and leaven, and light--shouldn't exist. Catholics aren't immune to this instinct to draw back. In fact, we have institutional enclaves, called parishes, which more often than not focus their resources on protecting and meeting the needs of parish members rather than moving out into the local community to evangelize its people and structures.

Our shepherds (the ordained) need to do more than protect the flock from attack by wolves. They must equip us so that we can go forth among the wolves "as cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves." In short, we need to be formed, equipped for our role in spreading the gospel of salvation and building the Kingdom of God here on earth.

We shouldn't abandon our enclaves to do so. But we do need to leave them behind occasionally.