Tag Archives: american conservative

Dreher and the Benedict Option

Dreher has drawn a lot of attention from the media for his proposal of a Benedict Option. As Dreher summarizes:

Around the year 500, a generation after barbarians deposed the last Roman emperor, a young Umbrian man known to history only as Benedict was sent to Rome by his wealthy parents to complete his education. Disgusted by the city’s decadence, Benedict fled to the forest to pray as a hermit.

The option would entail a type of retreating from public life to pray and meditate. While this philosophy could be easily dismissed, there is more to it. Dreher elaborates this in an interview:

We don’t have the luxury of disengagement. We’ve got to protect our institutions as best we can. What I’m trying to say, to tell Christians, is it’s not enough to be a knight. You have to be a gardener, too. In the work I’ve done in the past couple years, I’ve talked to Christian leaders in different colleges, Catholic and Protestant, and they are seeing an entire generation of young people who don’t know their faith. Even if they’ve been through church groups, it’s always been this sort of Jesus-is-my-boyfriend, youth pastor kind of stuff that’s about a quarter-inch deep.

They don’t have the strong sense of the faith, not only in terms of what they know, but in terms of the way they live, their habits. They don’t have a strong enough sense of the faith to withstand the power of this culture, and you’re starting to see it, especially in the same-sex marriage thing. When people, young people, so willingly throw over biblical morality to fit in with the culture, that tells you there’s a problem, and I’ve seen it myself in the different churches I’ve been involved with. There’s just this moralistic, therapeutic deism, as Christian Smith calls it, this idea that “God is my best friend; God is the cosmic butler.” That is the real faith of American Christians, young Christians, and some of my generation.

So he is not proposing an abandonment from society, but a strengthening of the Christian faith in order to properly deal with society. We have drunk deeply of the God referred to by Christian Smith and in this sense we have lost our sense of goal as Christians. Dreher sees this as the only resort to staying Christian during this next phase of Christian history. He goes so far as to state:

You may be Evangelical, you may be Catholic, you may be Orthodox, but if you are not Benedictine in your approach to the life of faith, you or your children aren’t going to be Christian for long.

Dreher no longer sees this country or culture as ours and so we need to begin to live in that reality. Whether his assessmest is too doomed from the outset is worth debating, but no one can deny there is validity to the idea that we have lost some of our power over the culture and the country. Dreher concludes:

Maybe it never was our real home, but we have got to prepare ourselves and our families and our churches through intentional living, through disciplined living, and through an awareness of the cultural moment to deal with perhaps even persecution.

There are a few things here to consider. Intentional living and disciplined living may be the best alternative to our present chaos.