Today I finished “The Benedict Option.” Regardless of whether you are a Christian or just someone who adheres to the traditional cultural norms of western civilization this book gives you a great deal to think about. And for someone trying to live as a Christian in this post-Christian world and even more importantly someone raising Christian children this book is extremely relevant.
Dreher presents his thesis as bad news/good news, in that order. The bad news is we’ve lost the culture wars and the younger generations have rejected the Christian precepts on sexuality and hedonism. He declares that to pretend that we can win back the culture is delusional and counter-productive.
The good news is now Christians can prove that they are Christians. His thesis is that because we thought we could depend on the Christian nature of America we didn’t have to do the hard work of living the Christian lifestyle and making sure our children were brought up in the faith. We assumed our kids would pick up faith through osmosis, even if we ourselves didn’t really reflect this lifestyle. America stopped being Christian because Americans weren’t living as Christians. Basically, the communists who were running our schools and Hollywood made an end run around religion by replacing God with fairness and used the highly materialistic consumer culture that is present day America to convince our children that this culture is really all there is to America. And they bought it.
His logic is that in order to survive in this anti-Christian society we’ll have to return to the mindset and behaviors that the Christians adopted when they lived in a non-Christian society.
After this Dreher compares the present-day situation to late 5th century Italy when Saint Benedict was starting his monastic system to allow Christians to survive the Dark Ages after the fall of Rome. There is a good deal of description of the components of the Benedictine Rules and how these would apply to lay Christians. This is followed by chapters that describe the ways that Christians can circumvent the dangers of present day educational and work-life anti-Christian realities. These sections are full of examples of individuals and groups building organizations and support systems that are referenced in the Notes section at the end of the book. I was surprised at how much already exists to allow parents to locate traditional Christian schooling or resources for home schooling. But most important is the need for parents to heavily involve themselves in teaching their children what Christianity means. One thing that I found interesting was his insistence that in order to inoculate children against the sexual hedonism of the modern world parents were going to have to learn how to talk about sex with their children.
And finally, the book stresses the fact that it wasn’t really an enemy from without that destroyed the Christian West. It was the logical conclusion of the Enlightenment philosophy that puts man at the center of the universe. Basically, there was no longer a place for God.
For those interested in practical solutions to the problem of living a traditional Christian life in these godless times I highly recommend this book. Even if you disagree with some of the suggestions you will find yourself thinking of the world and your place in it in a totally different way.