This is a rather late addition to the Fight Club series I did a month or so ago, but upon reading The Rule of Saint Benedict this week one short passage stood out, as if I had seen a mirror of this in action recently. Rule 58 states,
“When anyone presents himself to be admitted as a monk, they shall not easily give him entrance; but, as the apostle advises: ‘Make trial of the spirits, to see if they are of God’ (1 John 4.1). If he is importunate and goes on knocking at the door, for four or five days, and patiently bears insults and rebuffs and still persists, he shall be allowed to enter. He shall stay in the guest-room for a few days. Thence he shall go to the cell where the novices study and eat and sleep.”
This Benedictine initiation practice is meant to deter those who are not prepared to undertake such a life change. This is not meant to be easy. After several days of waiting through insults and denials, they still persist in their desire, they may be allowed to enter. I have heard of a Rabbinical tradition that may do similar things. Those who wish to convert to Judaism approach a Rabbi who rebuffs them. If they return three times, they may undertake with seriousness their conversion. In Fight Club, we see young men coming to stand outside on the porch of the Paper Street house waiting to enter. They are verbally and physically harassed about being to young, fat, or blonde. Once they have stood the appropriate time, they are asked if they have brought the needed supplies of black clothing and personal burial money. Once entered they receive a ritualistic head shaving, thus leaving their old beauty of the world behind. They form a new army and take on its uniform.
I wonder how many American Christians would actually put up the waiting and rebuffs to become a Christian? Does the Church allow too easy of conversion? Would any church actually rebuff someone today who came seeking? What can our churches learn from the novitiate or catechumenate processes?