The Benedict Option Isn’t One

Jul 20, 2015 by

By John Zmirak –

Q: What is the Benedict Option?

A: I’m not sure. Neither is its popularizer, Rod Dreher. (Dreher didn’t invent the idea, but borrowed it from the quasi-Marxist/Catholic philosopher Alasdair Macintyre.) Dreher waffles whenever anybody tries to pin him down, then sniffs that they can bloody well do the research by reading the tens of thousands of words’ worth of emotive blog posts he has spilled on the subject. The closest Dreher has come to a definition is an “inchoate phenomenon in which Christians adopt a more consciously countercultural stance towards our post-Christian mainstream culture.” Whatever that means, Dreher is definitely FOR it.

As far as I can puzzle out, the Benedict Option is an attempt by Rod Dreher, a former neocon Catholic and former liberal Episcopalian, now an environmentalist convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, to suggest ways that faithful Christians can hunker down and survive in the current hostile environment by withdrawing from society and networking with each other to form some kind of loosely defined communities.

And Dreher wants Christians to drop our involvement in pro-life and pro-family politics and get busy doing . . . whatever it is. Except that when you confront him about how suicidally crazy that idea is, he pivots on his heel and insists he never meant that at all. All he meant was that we can’t save our souls and bring our children to God by voting Republican. When you ask him who ever said that we could, he never gives an answer. Because no one since AD 33 has ever made such a claim.

The Benedict Option—which Dreher is touting as the only possible option in this desperate historical moment for American Christians—is a subject he wants to get a book contract to write about, a contract he told me he was seeking way back in 2008, when George Bush was still president and same-sex marriage was a crackpot notion that even Barack Obama claimed to oppose. (In that same year, the man who now funds Rod Dreher’s job as a full-time blogger, Wick Allison, endorsed Barack Obama for president.) Dreher complained to me at the time that no publishers were interested.

This moment seems more . . . opportune. Time magazine thought so, and was happy to publish Dreher’s article entitled “Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn to Live as Exiles in Our Own Country” in the same week it ran an op-ed calling for taxes on all our churches. Now we’re waiting to see when the IRS will revoke the tax exemptions of faithful churches and whether our churches will fight or fold.

Q: OK, so maybe we shouldn’t trust the messenger, but what’s wrong with taking St. Benedict as our inspiration?

Source: The Benedict Option Isn’t One | Intercollegiate Review

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