Three Tough Questions to Ask Yourself Before Signing on to the Benedict Option

By John Zmirak Published on March 17, 2017

Rod Dreher’s new book The Benedict Option is inspiring a serious conversation among Christians about how we are to relate to a culture that is more and more hostile to Christianity. I have spent most of my life inside a Benedict Option — or at least as close as 99 percent of the population is likely to get to it. That’s why I am skeptical about its usefulness for the vast majority of Christians.

First my credentials:

At age 14, when I realized that the teachers at my Catholic school were peddling leftist heresy, I started hitching a ride to an “alternative” Catholic program — a series of M.A. classes offered in Catholic Studies by Fr. John Hardon. I sought out more faithful churches than the one I had grown up in. And after college began to attend the most doctrinally conservative and reverent parishes available. Almost every one of my friends was a fellow activist in Catholic circles, many of them to the theological “right” of Pope John Paul II. More than half were seminarians, aspiring to the priesthood.

I taught for five years at an intensely Catholic college of 75 students and 7 professors, whose graduates tried to live near each other and keep up the intensely religious and intellectual atmosphere which they’d had as undergraduates.

I moved in circles where people would only date through Catholic meet-up sites, would attend religious talks and extra services several times a month. When they felt neurotic they would only consult Catholic therapists — those whom fellow subculture Catholics had vetted as doctrinally “solid” and “sound.” (Never mind that their credentials were shaky, and practices flaky.) Most of my jobs came through subculture connections. In turn I obliged by helping find jobs and throwing freelance work wherever possible only to fellow subculture members, based mostly on their financial need, and not their talents.

The separatist impulse (with the exception of those called to real monasticism) doesn’t solve our problems. It opens itself up to new ones.

So I’ve “been there,” and I have done that. This is not a memoir, so I won’t recount my experiences — for some of that see “The Shame of the Catholic Subculture.” (For a Protestant equivalent, see Liberty McArtor’s poignant critique of the evangelical subculture where she grew up.)  But based on almost 40 years of pursuing this approach, and watching hundreds of others try it too, I have some sobering questions which I hope that every Christian will pose to himself and answer candidly before traveling down the same yellow brick road that I did.  Of course, I’m not suggesting that Rod Dreher advocates all the dysfunctions I describe below. I am saying that the separatist impulse (with the exception of those called to real monasticism) doesn’t solve our problems. It opens itself up to new ones.

(1) Why does this really appeal to you?

Ask yourself this seriously, in the context of searching prayer. We’re not just talking about making friends who share your faith, or taking part in church-related activities. There would be no need to write a book or start a movement to encourage people to do that. Nor is this just a matter of limiting exposure to social media, finding solid churches and decent schools for your kids, or starting up homeshool groups. That’s already happening.

No, insofar as it anything new at all, the Benedict Option is a refocus of energy and allegiance further inward, into your self-selected community of people who think and pray as you do.

Are you afraid that you will let your guard down, and start abandoning your beliefs and moral virtues, if you don’t flee the temptation of friends outside the clan of like-minded believers?

So why are you doing that? Is it because you feel shaken by the constant hostile questioning that comes from our secular culture? Do you just want to rest a while, and not to have answer objections or defend your faith all the time? Or are you afraid that you will let your guard down, and start abandoning your beliefs and moral virtues, gradually but inexorably, if you don’t flee the temptation of friends and other involvements outside the clan of like-minded believers? Will you use this as a reason to “check out” of fulfilling ordinary civic duties, like voting and advocating for morally crucial causes? Rod Dreher suggested as much in Newsweek in 2015, though under fire he later backtracked

Some backers of the Benedict Option appear to have given up on America as a project. Two of the thinkers whom author Rod Dreher frequently cites with approval are Patrick Deneen and Michael Hanby, each of whom argues — mistakenly, as Michael Novak has shown here at The Stream — that the truest reading of the U.S. Constitution is the one given by liberal Supreme Court justices like Anthony Kennedy in Casey v. Planned Parenthood. The U.S., they say, was founded on anti-Christian Enlightenment principles. As a result every attack on religious freedom and the family was inevitable, and in fact Constitutional. Our system is irredeemable on this view, so we must hunker down and wait for its collapse.

The U.S., they say, was founded on anti-Christian Enlightenment principles. Our system is irredeemable, and we must hunker down and wait for its collapse.

Then from the ruins we can rebuild — what exactly? Some officially Christian state? If so, in what form? Which church would dominate it? How tolerant would that church be of competitors? Many of the Catholics I knew inside the subculture were nostalgic for the Inquisition in some form or other.

One of the groups that offers a separatist community, the Society of St. Pius X in St. Mary’s, Kansas, officially endorses the state persecution of “heretics,” whenever prudence allows it.

Scholar Thomas Pink offered a rationale for this position, which was published in First Things. Pink claimed that the Church at Vatican II denied the State the right to imprison any baptized Christians (i.e., Protestants) for heresy or disobedience — but that the Church reserves the right to imprison them itself. Imagine the Monty Python “church police” sketch come hideously to life.

Speaking from direct personal experience, you do not want to be part of a subculture, organization, or social circle led by people who fantasize about using violence to persecute those who disagree with them. For every grimly consistent thinker who was convinced of this position by the arguments, you will find five bullies who just like the idea of persecution, and are happy to find a doctrine that seems to justify it. Such people tend to gravitate to leadership positions, which they gleefully abuse.

(2) Do you think you’re escaping the sinfulness of the world?

If so, you’re fooling yourself. The Enemy can enter your charmed circle, too. The obvious dangers are pharisaism, self-righteousness and groupthink. You could begin to mistake the boundaries of your subculture with the invisible Church, the City of God. (I know that I did.)

The people here are no better than anywhere else: the same percentage of sociopaths, liars, cheats, and loafers as in the general population. In fact, there might be more.

But you face far subtler dangers. You are likely to let your guard down around other people who share your worldview. You may even come to believe (on a sub-conscious level — this is too silly for you to believe consciously) that original sin does not apply inside these circles. You’ll assume that you can trust people, and feel that you ought to like them — maybe even force yourself to — simply because they checked off the right doctrinal boxes. Allow this to happen, and you’re setting yourself up for deep and bitter disillusionment.

If you’re not careful to keep your faith separate from such fantasies, it might suffer profoundly when reality finally hits you: The people here are likely no better than anywhere else. There may be a similar percentage of sociopaths, liars, cheats, and loafers as in the general population. In fact, there might be more such predators — wolves drawn by the prospect of trusting, well-meaning sheep.

Make sure your children know that. Some of the worst sexual predators in the clergy have preyed on the kids of separatist parents, who were so relieved to find a “faithful” priest amidst all the liberals that they completely let their guard down. Children have been molested by pastors who gave every evidence of intense, even mystical faith.

A worldwide Catholic quasi-separatist movement, the Legionaries of Christ, was actually founded by a priest later convicted by the Church of molesting children. One of the worst recent offenders was Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity, who promised to found a separatist “Catholic city” in rural Pennsylvania. He was later defrocked for routinely sleeping in bed with teenage boys, after a $400,000 legal settlement paid to one victim he abused. I met many of those who followed Fr. Urrutigoity in his movement; dozens are still in denial, still blame the victims and defend his innocence — some defend even his practice of sleeping in bed with boys. (Several did so to my face.) Some of these tragic dupes have moved on to start or join other Benedict Option projects.  

(3) Will you be tempted to cite a “higher cause” to shirk your duties?

Back when I was throwing freelance work to “needy” people in my subculture, I told myself I was serving a higher good than simple efficiency. When the work came in shoddy or even dishonestly done, I didn’t look too closely, or fixed the errors myself. It was more important to serve “the cause” than to get the best work done for my employer. I’m still embarrassed by that, by the warm fuzzy feeling I got from cronyism, from indulging in corruption.

Other temptations arise in such cozy circles. I learned of a high-ranking priest in a traditional Catholic order who was hearing from fathers of large families eager to live near one of his parishes, in isolated areas. They told him they’d have to quit their jobs, and had no prospects of new ones. And he told them to do it, that being part of a “true Catholic community” was more important than money. God would surely provide.

That is what the leaders of the Children’s Crusade told their youthful recruits. They all ended up as slaves to Muslim masters, or at the bottom of the sea.

Was theirs a leap of faith, or a serious sin against prudence? Was it any more well-advised than sending your savings to some “Prosperity Gospel” preacher, in the hope that God would reward you?

Parents don’t have the luxury of quixotic leaps in the dark. There’s a reason that St. Benedict never recruited married couples, that monastic movements were always restricted to men and women responsible only for themselves. For those whose vocation from God is raising families, a much saner Christian option is to support and make use of solid institutions, without making them fetishes, or pretending that some imagined goal of “community” absolves you from the rules and limits of our still-fallen world. For such a sensible plan I suggest instead pro-life hero Austin Ruse’s well-considered “Escriva Option.”

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  • Autrey Windle

    John you seem like the right man to ask what may seem like a dumb question, but all this commentary about this book has caused me to have some new questions. According to Catholics, are they the only true ‘Christians’? Do the Catholics hold non-Catholics in contempt as a matter of church doctrine? I am confused by a lot of all these articles, but I suspect it’s because I’m not Catholic. As for the part of your article about associating with those who agree with one’s views, I find it much more likely that Jesus wants us to yes, fellowship with believers, but most importantly to hang with the sinners and spread the examples of the grace, forgiveness and love of The Father for ALL his children. I do not agree with the journalist who is giving up on America. I will fight like an angry Christian warrior for my country til they pry the cross from the teeth of my severed head. I hope that’s not too graphic for the readers, but the wheels of the trojan Koran to topple America are already in motion and this is a time to stand and be counted.

    • Zmirak

      We believe that everyone validly baptized is a Christian, which includes all Protestants. The Church teaches that what it considers incorrect beliefs about the Church and sacraments are technically subject matter for sin, but respects the fact that people raised with such beliefs, or honestly convinced of them, who follow their consciences, do not necessarily sin. So we expect to see plenty of Protestants in heaven, and plenty of Catholics in hell.

      • Autrey Windle

        Thank you so much for your prompt reply since I am WAAAY closer to heaven than most and I did want to be sure I had my reservation confirmed! You are still one I wish I could adopt. Keep fanning the flames of critical thinking!

      • Wayne Cook

        I had read the first article about the Benedictine Option early this morning, so reading your…I suppose….response, was an eye widening moment, John lol!

        Well written and I think you are right on.

      • mr. producer

        John, you know better than anyone this is not entirely what the Catholic Church teaches. Yes, those who are invincible ignorant of the Catholic faith may still be saved, but that’s extremely difficult for most people, especially Protestants. The Bread of Life discourse in John 6 cannot be more clearer about what me must do to have eternal life, yet Protestants flatly reject this. They are not invincibly ignorant. We’re not doing Autrey Windle any favors here by making him think he has his reservations in Heaven confirmed. He needs to become Catholic.

    • Wayne Cook

      I agree with you, Autrey…there is an absolute semiload of evidence from David Barton’s library of original documents that this nation was indeed founded on Christian principles and even the signors who weren’t outspoken Christians were monotheistic other words, also believed in God.

      So I would join you in martyrdom.

      What John describes in his opening paragraphs, I’ve experienced on the Protestant side. While working with the Catholic Charismatic Movement of Dallas, met a number of people who had endured abuse and were trying to make changes from the inside.

      I know there are people who comment on this site who are adamantly against the Catholic Church…we’re going to get that in any public site….

      I know there are abuses in any denom, any sect…we just have to legally deal with those and try to recover…..

      Again, your comment and questions are cogent and thoughtful. So good to see!

      • Richard Malcolm

        …even the signors who weren’t outspoken Christians were monotheistic other words, also believed in God.

        We should be clear: Being a deist is not the same thing as being a Christian.

        Robespierre and Voltaire were deists too, after all. And Ben Franklin was an acquaintance and admirer of Voltaire).

        • Wayne Cook

          I admire several myself. Night, sir.

    • Stat Crux

      Hi, Autrey, I am a Catholic, and I will try to answer your questions. Catholics believe that Christ came to earth to found His Church, and that Church is the Catholic Church. They believe that Christ made Peter the head of the Catholic Church with the authority to speak for Hi, and to pass that authority down through the ages. They believe that Christ instituted all the sacraments (including the Eucharist, see John 6). They believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but that it is not open to personal interpretation; the Catholic Church set down the canon of the Bible and has the authority to interpret the Bible. Catholics certainly do not hold non-Catholics in contempt as a matter of church doctrine! There is no such doctrine. We do certainly wish all non-Catholics as well as all non-Christians to come together as one flock with one Shepherd. And I certainly agree with you on fighting for America….it may not be perfect, but it’s a lot better than any alternative!

  • John, over at Michael Brown’s article on the Benediction Option, I offered the Dominican Option. Here’s what I said:

    “Wherever I’ve seen the Benedict Option come up on the internet, I’ve offered a different approach. Dreher is on to something by looking at the religious orders but I think he picked the wrong one. The Benedictines are too isolated. I believe the most appropriate religious order to model our counter to the modern waste land is the Dominican Order. Some background since many here are not Catholic. There have been many Catholic revivals over the centuries. The most famous may have been at the turn of the turn of the 13th century with the formation of the Franciscans and Dominican friars. Both St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic de Guzman – just about simultaneously, by the way – re-evangelized Europe. The Dominicans in particular were formed to counter the Albigensian heresy. And they were successful. Dominicans are just as contemplative and learned as the Benedictines, but they, like the Franciscans, have the call to engage the culture and evangelize. They are the scholars of the religious orders. St. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican. We need to re-teach western culture its religious and moral roots. So I call for the Dominican Option; learn and teach, pray and preach, live appropriately and reach out.”

    I’m sure you understand the charism of the Dominicans. We need to preach against what i call the modernist heresy. If we don’t want to give up with our country and our culture, then the Dominican approach is way better than isolating oneself into a monastic society.

    • Stat Crux

      I have been weighing the pros and cons of the Benedict Option. I like your option better! “Engage the culture and evangelize!”

  • jeromesstone

    Good read, as a father of a young son it is easy to fear the world he is going into, but I am reminded that I have been called not to separate from the world (as much as I sometimes wish I had been a Carthusian monk instead). I think many people do fall into the trap that there is not to be suffering in this world (sedevacantists seem to thrive on this by denying the fact that the Chair of Peter is indeed occupied) and wish to run from any sign of suffering. Yet, most of us are called to live among such brokenness and are needed to confront the world and be the salt and the light. As for myself thankfully I have a wife that keeps me grounded.

    • Michael

      Read the book. The “withdrawal” trope in this thread is a straw man.

  • Charles Burge

    Thanks for the very well-written treatise. I certainly don’t mean to disparage it, but I really think the case against the Benedict option can be made by one very simple argument. Jesus commanded us to be salt and light in the world. You cannot do that effectively by withdrawing.

    • Michael

      He doesn’t advocate withdrawal. Did you READ THE BOOK? He is advocating a different type of engagement and NOT by any means shirking parental and civic engagement…its a matter or prioritization..we can’t act from or hand on what we have lost AND ARE NOW LOSING. read the book.

  • Thomas

    My answers (in reverse order)

    3) No.

    2) No. What we should “escape” is having the world’s culture be our instructor for belief and practice, for ourselves and our families.

    1) The core problem is that we have many church buildings filled with far too many people that have only a shallow or superficial relationship or connection to Christianity. They may or may not actually be in Christ. It’s hard to tell, and that is indicative of the problem. They may put in their time at church services, but in many other respects they tend to drift with the thinking and practice of American culture at large, not as disciples of Christ. Most could not even describe clearly and accurately what it would really mean to be a devoted follower of Christ. As Dreher and others have observed, it is particularly sad that a great many young people come through church youth programs holding to Moralistic Therapeutic Deism rather than to Christ.

    Whatever “option” name is used to label the response to this problem, what we need is to really and truly fulfill the actual Great Commission, which included not only baptizing people into relationship in Christ, but also instruction in obeying Christ, i.e. walking it out together as His people, building one another up in Christ toward maturity, just as the apostles taught.

    That cannot happen effectively if our lives are guided >90% of our waking ours by the instruction of the culture that does not know Christ and we give a small part of the remaining time to sitting through a weekly lecture (that almost no one remembers in any detail).

    As we build each other up in Christ and learn together how to walk in Christ, the point is not to cease to be in the world, but so that as we walk in the world we would do so more and more as Christ would.

  • Richard Malcolm

    Or are you afraid that you will let your guard down, and start abandoning your beliefs and moral virtues, gradually but inexorably, if you don’t flee the temptation of friends and other involvements outside the clan of like-minded believers?

    I think the real concern – mooted many times by Rod Dreher – is that this is what could happen to our children. Their moral and psychological formation is not that of an adult yet, and they are more vulnerable to forms of peer pressure.

    This does not necessarily mean sealing them up in boxes until they reach age 18. But it does mean that more discernment and caution is needed in exposure to secular culture than was the case in the time of our grandparents (let alone their grandparents in the old country). And yes, this means some very serious caution about enrolling them in most public schools.

  • Kevin Quillen

    I think Christians of all stripes should leave all churches and just BE the CHURCH. When did Jesus ever command the building of buildings? We should just live with the character, integrity, honesty, and love as Jesus did. At this point in time the thousands of denominations simply cause confusion and uncertainty. I say that we simply live in the world but differently than most unbelievers. Be kind, loving, compassionate by doing so, we will be the salt and light. After treating others as Jesus would, perhaps then they would be open to the Gospel. I do not need a denominational label, I am simply a Christian. A follower of Christ. I do not need to go to “church”, I am the Church. The world looks at the many denominations and wonders how could their be such confusion for a “simple” message.

    • Autrey Windle

      Kevin, If you have read a bit of what I write I think you know I certainly agree with you and understand the biblical truth of the believers being the church. I am going to ask you to think of something maybe differently than you have before or maybe you have and rejected it, but I feel compelled to suggest anyway. The actual building where people go to worship has a very important role in the work of discipling to the unbelievers, the backslidden, the uneducated new believers as well as forming outreaches within the communities they inhabit to see to the needs of the downtrodden and hurting. So even though I know you are the church and I am the church I also realize that although I have been hurt by religion as a child I also have been ministered greatly to by kind folks of different religions as an older heathen returning to the shelter of God’s love and am saved by grace thankfully before I was too old to actively embrace the plans God has for me. Sometimes I attend a little church I stumbled (that’s God’s little joke) across and I have to drive over an hour to get there. I can’t go often but I always see good things going on there for God when I do. My point is, that maybe, just maybe , fellowship with other ‘churches’ under a roof once in a while isn’t the work of the devil after all. Go with God, my Brother.

      • Kevin Quillen

        Autrey; I always appreciate your writings and respect you as a brother in Christ. I never meant to insinuate that “churches under a roof” are the work of the devil. I just think that churches have become social clubs and the world sees no difference between “church members” and the rest of the world. My point is for us to just live the Jesus way. Just living “the way” will draw people to us and then they will be open to the Gospel. No need for buildings. No need for organizations.
        May God bless you and yours.

        • Autrey Windle

          Thanks, Kevin! My ‘devil’ comment was me being a bit facetious. Just FYI, I am your sister in Christ. We southern gals often get some ‘family’ names assigned to us. Continue to go with God and thanks for listening.

  • Patmos

    I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.

    For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

    Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice.

    For as many are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.

    The Kingdom of Heaven is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

    …they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.
    And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.

  • faithful

    Good points of reflection; keep eyes wide open.

  • Howard Rosenbaum

    The real issue often ignored by some seeking to establish “sanctuary city sects ” w/in the believing community is potentially something other, as Mr Zmirak implies, than mere self preservation. What may be at stake here is more than the prospective loss of Christian identity in the midst of a failed cultural experiment w/”sex, drugs & rock & roll” euphemistically speaking. Perhaps the real issue is more of an existential one. Its a question of identity. Not a group think, but a “God think”. I’m not meaning to discount the value of biblically structured authoritarian systems w/in the body of professing believers. Rather I’m substantiating the basis for such forms of expression. Various interpretations have surfaced over the course of Christian practice to address that need. Church history ( & Mr Zmirak ) have shown that to be the case. No need to elaborate here the issues that have arisen from
    self seeking or at best misguided leadership w/in the body of believers since the ascension.
    Heres the crux of the matter. Identification. The believer who has embraced the revelation of their real identity & consequently seeks to live out that identity in the midst of a culture somewhat antagonistic towards that identity is that part of the body of believers whose preservation is secure. Regardless of how things may look. That identity is Christ. Paul discovered that & in spite of evidence contrary to the carnal mind his position was more secure than those of any of his detractors. His legacy supersedes all the forgotten proponents of alternative group think that winds up compromising that vaulted yet humblest
    of identifications. Hey, were in the world – just not of it …

  • Linda

    Did you hear the one about the Christian who died and was met by St. Peter at the pearly gates. St. Peter ushered the man in to heaven and began showing him around, pointing out the beautiful river, the trees, the mansions and the streets of gold. When they came to a very high wall, St. Peter leaned over and whispered in the man’s ear “shhh, we have to be quiet, the Catholics are living behind that wall and they think they’re the only ones here”.

    • I’ve heard the same joke, only with Baptists. And it was a Baptist who told it to me.

  • Michael

    Did you actually read the whole book? Much of what Rod says rings dead true to me as someone in active Catholic parish ministry at the moment. We need to get back to basics and strengthen our “core” as a MATTER OF PRIORITY NOT EXCLUSIVELY. That’s his point. We can’t hand on and act from WHAT WE NO LONGER HAVE and are in danger of losing the golden thread altogether. I don’t share all of Rod’s politics but I think that his diagnosis and prescription for Christian communities is generally is dead on target. He’s even right in a fundamental way even when he’s wrong in some of the particulars. I think he’s like a canary int he coal mine. We fail to take the critique seriously at our own peril. I read nothing in his book that suggests shirking parental of civic responsibilities. Again…did you actually read the whole book?

  • Jane

    Michael asked the exact same question I had: John, Did you read the book?

  • Jane

    John, I have the same questions that Michael asked: did you actually read Dreher’s book?
    Note these words from Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), from his book “Faith and the Future”, 2009

    “The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes . . . she will lose many of her social privileges. . . As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members….
    It will be hard-going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek . . . The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain . . . But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.
    And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”
    – Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), from his book Faith and the Future

  • Lorenz

    The concern and fear that parents have for the faith, morals, and future of their children, grandchildren, and extended families cannot be underestimated. The culture we live in is militantly opposed to the faith and seeks to undermine it on every level. It is sick and immoral but with its dominance of the popular culture and media it is enticing for many people. I myself and I expect many people regularly see cases of good devout Christian families doing their best to raise their kids in the faith later see their kids reject the faith they have been brought up in and embrace the contemporary culture. I know one extended family of 7 brothers and sisters who all have large families of their own and live close to each other and are very active in church activities. Now as their older kids are becoming adults one by one they are embracing atheism and agnosticism. I know one traditional Catholic family who have a daughter who became an atheist and married another atheist in a civil ceremony. They currently have two kids who are being raised anti-Christian. I know devout grandparents who are shocked and heartbroken as one of their grandsons became transgender. Many times Christian kids leave the faith by marrying someone of no faith.
    As I watch my kids get older and see the friends and acquaintances they make in junior high and high school I pray more and more for them. The fear is real for a lot of people. Enter people such as Rod Dreher.
    Whether Dreher is sincere or not I have no way of knowing. I have been occasionally been watching his columns over the last couple of years where he has (as this article mentions) been saying that the west is broken beyond repair and that civic engagement and voting is futile. According to him the only path is his Benedict option which he never really fully explained. This is wrong on so many levels. Middle Eastern Christians have tried to live as communities under Islamic masters and now look how many of them are left. Europe is now in real time experiencing the same phenomenon as waves of Islamic colonists are migrating to the continent and will soon outnumber native Europeans. Clinton and most democrats have much the same plan for America as Merkel for Germany (and by extension all Europe). Whether Islamic conquest or atheistic totalitarianism you can try to live in sheltered communities but they will not leave you alone as they are just as interested in your children as you are. Dreher’s movement is wrong on so many levels.
    And what of Dreher himself? He seems to like the idea of a persecution. For the past year and a half I have seen him run negative articles and posts about Donald Trump and even Ted Cruise while remaining silent or passively praising Hillary Clinton. Lines such as “Hillary Clinton may or may not be a Christian but Donald Trump is definitely not” and “Hillary Clinton can be praised for taking her marriage vows seriously despite Bill’s infidelities” will always stand out to me. All the while going on speaking tours where he tells gullible pastors and faithful that there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats so it does not matter if you vote.
    This is probably one of Dreher’s monetary cycles. Remember Crunchy Cons? He has all but disowned it. His history is to latch on to an idea, write a book, and then milk it for a few years before moving on to the next. Just like his Christian affiliation. First Methodist, then Episcopalian, then Catholic, then Orthodox, then?

  • Thomas

    Jesus prayed that even though his followers would be in this world, they would not be of this world (cf. John 17). He also prayed that they would be sanctified / consecrated / set apart in truth.

    Earlier Jesus had taught, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)

    The point isn’t to try to escape from this world. Rather, the challenge for us is to be in this world without making this world’s culture our teacher. Otherwise we will be conformed to the way of this world rather than to Christ.

    We are now long past the point where we could assume that the predominant culture would be affirming and supportive of being a serious disciple of Christ. In some sense, there must be a deliberate choice of Christians to live out together the kind of community life in Christ that the apostle Paul points us toward in Ephesians 4:11-16, which cannot be done if we neglect Eph. 4:17-20ff.

  • Ed

    I think Dreher can be a bit self-defeating with his rhetoric, and that’s a symptom of the main weakness in his position. He is trying to market “the Benedict Option” as a sort of novel intellectual project, and thereby have his book published and so on, when really what he’s recommending is common sense stuff that we should be acting on anyway.

    That’s not intended as a criticism of Dreher (he’s a good egg) but just a statement of fact.

    Of course, we should have parishes that have good, solid liturgy and catechesis, and in which parishioners look out for one another. Of course we should have sound religious practices at home, so that we and our children have a strong sense of the liturgical year and a familiarity with the Church’s traditional prayers. Of course we should think twice before letting our children play with smartphones or watch Transparent. Of course it’s sensible to make the proximity of a solif parish a priority when moving house.
    One of Dreher’s lines is that “you cannot give what you do not have”, and he’s right to follow that to its logical conclusion and say that we need to make sure we Christians stay salty, with all the means at our disposal. But that’s something we should be doing anyway, and which good parishes are already helping people to do.

  • michael

    This article completely makes a mess of Thomas Pink’s positions. Pink is a serious philosopher who certainly doesn’t advocate violence towards anyone.

  • Maria

    There is no place to be apart from the state or country you live in. I think it best to find a few Catholic friends, take responsibility for your own faithfulness to the Lord in prayer, study and acquiring the virtues. Even if the only Mass available is lack lustre, plain and hanging on by its finger nails, the Lord still comes in the Eucharist. The fact is that is the suffering of our time and we can’t run from it but learn to be holy amidst its lack of provision and teaching. There are so many resources to fill that gap. Its a desert…just what we were promised in this life. A holy priest and a holy homily is one click of my ipad away.

    There is no utopia in this world.

    I would not join any lay community. It would fall apart.

    I think it would attract enthusiasts and then the indolent who would under the guise of faith try to live off others.

Is Your Heart Heavy? God Knew It Would Be
Charles Spurgeon
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