“There are people alive today who may live to see the effective death of Christianity within our civilization.”
-Rod Dreher (The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation)
One commentator (highlighted below) states that The Benedict Option might be”The most important book for Christians in this decade.”
If the death of Christianity occurs in our civilization (and Dreher means in Europe and America) how is Christianity to respond? Dreher’s Answer: The Benedict Option.
Rod Dreher, has just published his this much discussed strategy (up until March 20 in blog and article form primarily) in book form: The Benedict Option. Subtitled “A Strategy for Christian in a Post-Christian Nation,” Dreher opens by reminiscing about his 2006 best seller Crunchy Cons which he advocated for “a countercultural, traditionalist conservative sensibility.” He brought up the moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre who had proclaimed that Western Civilization has “lost it moorings.”
His introduction recounts the steady decline of Christianity with references to failure of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana followed by a similar failure in Arkansas in 2015. Two months later the U. S. Supreme Court declared a constitutional right to same-sex marriage with an immediate push by activists and political allies for transgender rights: “Post-Obergefell, Christians who hold to the biblical teachings about sex and marriage have the same statue in culture, and increasingly in law, as racists.”
So begins Dreher in what is surely to be a much discussed and debated option amongst post-Christian traditionalists and doctrinally orthodox believers.
I have written The Benedict Option to wake up the church and to encourage it to act to strengthen itself, while there is still time. If we want to survive, we have to return to the roots of our faith, both in thought and in practice. We are going to have to learn habits of the heart forgotten by believers in the West. We are going to have to change our lives, and our approach to life, in radical ways. In short, we are going to have to be the church, without compromise, no matter what the cost.
Dreher provides and Benedict Option FAQ page over at the American Conservative
This sounds like a book that needs to be read. Much reaction has already being buzzing on the internet, articles, and podcasts concerning Dreher’s book. Below are just a few samples of this dialogue The Benedict Option:
“Sparking Renewal: A Review of ‘The Benedict Option’ ” by Gerald Russello | Intercollegiate Review Spring 2017
Along the way, Dreher has carved out his own space against that toxic culture and has called that space and that which he saw others creating “the Benedict Option.” The name is an homage both to Pope Benedict Emeritus XVI and the famous closing sentence of Alasdair MacIntyre’s influential book After Virtue: “This time . . . the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict.”
This is our cultural moment, despite who occupies the White House or Congress, and with his unerring cultural radar, Dreher has written the book for this new moment: a central point in The Benedict Option is “put not your trust in princes.” Culture is more important than politics, and the currents of modernity did not change on Election Day. And one thing conservatives, and especially Christian conservatives, should understand is that they have lost the culture war, and, indeed, it was their obsession with politics—and their assumption that the culture and major institutions such as big business would always support them—that partially caused that loss.
“Exploring the Benedict Option” by John Stonestreet | Breakpoint
Stonestreet concludes his podcast that explores the Benedict Option by saying:
the controversial aspect of the Benedict Option is Dreher’s call for “a strategic withdrawal.” To many, understandably, this sounds way too much like post-Scopes fundamentalism that abandoned the public square to non-Christians.
Dreher insists that it doesn’t mean the same thing, and I hope not. Because escape is never an option for Christians. We should never retreat into our institutions because we’re seeking safety. We should, however, strengthen them out of loyalty to each other and to the true, the good and beautiful, preserving the best of Christian culture so that we can—at some point—gift it back to the world in acts of grace.
Now whether you agree or disagree with the Benedict option, I am thankful that Dreher’s book is igniting a long-overdue conversation about what it means to live in a post-Christian context.
“The Constantine Strategy in the Benedict Option!” by John Mark Reynolds | Eidos March 12, 2017
John Mark Reynolds, president of The Saint Constantine School and senior fellow in the humanities at The King’s College, declares that The Benedict Option may be the most important book for Christians in this decade:
Until the muddle or the collapse of this version of America is settled, the sensible person builds an alternative culture. Rod Dreher thinks we may be at one of those points in the West of the world and argues what needs to be done. Traditional Christianity is hard to live in a decadent America and harder still to live where Daesh is torturing Christians.
and in the list of top Christian thinkers in the post below Reynolds declares “The Benedict Option is not a way, but the only way forward for Christians who wish to be more than nominal in their faith.”
“Top Christian Thinkers Reflect on the ‘Benedict Option’ ” by John Stonestreet | Breakpoint
Breakpoint hosts the thoughts of top Christian thinkers on Dreher’s book:
Rod Dreher’s “The Benedict Option” is one of the most anticipated and talked-about Christian books in recent memory. How do Christians carry on and live out the faith in this “new Dark Age,” as Dreher puts it? We’ve asked leading Christian writers and thinkers to share their thoughts on “The Benedict Option.”
Bruce Ashford, Joshua Chatraw, Greg Forster, Michael Francisco, Tom Gilson, Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, Peter Leithart, Gerald McDermott, Karen Swallow Prior, John Mark N. Reynolds, Roberto Rivera, John Stonestreet, Glenn Sunshine, Andrew Walker, and Trevin Wax.
“The Benedict Option and the Way of Exchange” by Alan Jacobs | First Things March 20, 2017
It would be a mistake, as Alan Jacobs at First Things and distinguished professor of the humanities at Baylor University states, to assume that Dreher’s Benedict Option is pessimistic, despairing, or hopeless:
Therefore, to argue, as many have, that the argument Rod Dreher makes in The Benedict Option is despairing, and hopeless, and a failure to trust in the Lord Jesus, is a category error. It takes a set of sociological and historical judgments and treats them as though they were metaphysical assertions. Anyone in Roman Cappadocia who had said that the culture Basil and his colleagues had built was not bound to last until the Lord returns would not have been deficient in Christian hope. Rather, he or she would have been offering a useful reminder of the vagaries of history, to which even the most faithful Christians are subject. Dreher’s argument in The Benedict Option may be wrong, but if so, it is wrong historically and prudentially, not metaphysically.
“The Benedict Option or the Constantine Project?” (Two part series) by David Kern | Circe Institute
Part 1, Part 2
Kern, the director of our multimedia initiatives for the Circe Institute (an acronym for the Center for Independent Research on Classical Education), hosts a skype call between Rod Dreher and John Mark Reynolds. While the title sets the two positions as opposed to each other, in reality the discussion results in a much agreed upon strategy between Dreher and Reynolds. It is a 2 parts series
Other Articles and Responses to the Benedict Option:
“Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option: Why I Have Mixed Feelings” by Michael Brown | Christian Post March 18, 2017
“If Politics Can’t Save Us, What Will?” by Collin Hanson | The Gospel Coalition March 13k 2017
“Why We Need the Benedict Option and How It Doesn’t Have to Return to Fundamentalism” by Heather Walker Peterson | Patheos March 9, 2017
“9 Most Intelligent Takes on Rod Dreher’s ‘The Benedict Option’ ” | Intercollegiate Review Spring 2017