Two weeks ago I was watching Andrew Klavan’s podcast on the Daily Wire ( http://www.dailywire.com/podcasts/16856/ep-320-death-stupid-andrew-klavan ) and he had an interview with Rod Dreher who has a book called “The Benedict Option.” I had heard the title before but thought it had something to do with Pope Benedict abdicating. But the Benedict of the title is Saint Benedict who founded the Benedictine Monastic Order. The sub-title of the book is “A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation.” The thesis, as he explained it, is that America is no longer a Christian nation and in fact is now a place inimical to Christians trying to live their faith and raise their children in it. He drew the analogy of Benedict coming from an Italian town to the city of Rome about twenty five years after the last emperor was deposed by a Germanic King. Benedict found it a hollowed out and corrupt place. He decided that the only way to live a Christian life was to separate from the dominant culture and set up a separate society. According to Dreher this was the basis of the survival of Christianity and the remnants of roman culture in the Middle Ages.
Needless to say, I ordered the book. I’ve only started it but the introduction basically states that the majority of Americans are not Christians and do not support the traditional concepts as illuminated in the Bible. He believes that there is no chance that the culture will return to where it was even twenty five years ago but will instead continue down the progressive slope to Gomorrah. And in fact traditionalist beliefs will be criminalized.
Sounds pretty depressing. But instead, he says it’s an opportunity. He thinks this will be the start of a revival. And we should, like Benedict, gather the faithful and build a New Jerusalem.
When I finish the book, I’ll give you my opinion on his idea. For now, let’s just say I’m intrigued and I think this idea has relevance for even those who are not Christians but feel that all traditional values are disappearing from the Western world. After all it’s not that hard finding analogies between the present era and the Late Roman Empire. Perhaps this time instead of Attila the Hun being the Scourge of God it will be Lady Gaga.
Andrew Klavan is a multi-faceted individual. He is an acclaimed suspense novelist whose stories have been adapted into movies starring Clint Eastwood and Michael Douglas. Since the 2001 terror attack he’s produced a series of web based videos that allow him to advocate for conservative views on a range of topics. It was in this capacity I first noticed him. In my opinion Klavan is one of the brightest and funniest people on the conservative side of the fence. I’ve read several of his novels and found them equally engaging. He is undoubtedly a gifted and entertaining writer. But the full title of his present work, “The Great Good Thing (A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ),” made me stop and consider whether the traits that resonated with me in his other work would translate well in an autobiographical story of religious awakening.
Well, I’m glad to say they do. I won’t specify my own religious beliefs but I do come from a background where upbringing has steeped me in the Christian world. And my feelings are very sympathetic to religious people. We’ll leave me at that. Of added attraction is that Mr. Klavan and I are of about the same age and both grew up in the New York City area. The world he speaks of is extremely familiar to me. All these factors made the material comfortable for me.
So, now you know I liked it. Will you? Let’s review what this book is and isn’t. It’s not an in-depth story of every facet of his life. We do not find out all the technical details of how he honed his writing style. We will not hear anecdotes of his acquaintanceships with famous actors and writers. We don’t hear details of his other conversion, from a liberal to a conservative. What we will hear is the personal history from early childhood right up to fairly recent years that impacted and informed his spiritual journey. His family life and his education, much as they are with most men, are the arenas where his search for meaning and truth began. His circumstances are unique but the questions are universal and timeless. Unless this is the subject matter you are looking for, you shouldn’t read this book or this review.
Okay, if you’re still there, let’s move on to what I’d like to say about “The Great Good Thing.” I found it to be an interesting read. Klavan is writing about some extremely difficult, sometimes depressing events in his life. But the writing is never slow. The story propels itself along. The emotions represented run the gamut from comical to desperate but the writing style is never over-wrought which is especially unusual when describing religious experiences. I would describe the effect as lyrical. And this I attribute to the combination of the experience the author is describing along with his very great talents as a writer. If I were to compare this book it would be to C.S. Lewis’ “Surprised by Joy.” Both books describe the journey of an intelligent witty author from atheism to faith. Both books include a measure of humor and pain. Both books are well written. Both men reveal themselves down to their very souls. I found the book inspirational and satisfying. The title is apt.