A Short Review of Rod Dreher’s Book, “The Benedict Option” – Part 1

Two weeks ago I was watching Andrew Klavan’s podcast on the Daily Wire 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.

You Mean the Sky is Not Falling?

Andrew Klavan has been making me laugh and think since I found him at PJ Media about a decade ago.  His “Klavan on the Culture” videos were hilarious and brilliant skewering of leftist thought and action that brightened up many a depressing day of the Bush and Obama presidencies.  He continues his video presence on the Daily Wire but he put up an article at PJ Media that was linked on Real Clear Politics     ( https://pjmedia.com/andrewklavan/2017/05/05/thanks-gop/  ) that I think addressed the endless negativity that not only defines the MSM but also infects right wing publications on a daily basis.  Klavan is far from a Trump cheerleader.  He’s a smart guy who sees the contradictions we are living with.  The alleged intellectual leaders of the republican party were complicit with the progressives in handing over the government (all three branches) to radicals who have basically dismantled our world and reassembled it into a grotesque parody that assaults our moral and physical senses with its depravity.  The spectacle of men masquerading as women in every corner of the public space is only the latest symptom of the systemic infection that has been allowed to overrun the normal outline of our world.  It’s a case of life outdoing art and so much so that a Fellini movie would now be considered a taming down of the real world.

So, the thesis of his article is that Trump and the Congress should be cut a little slack.  They have lately been making headway in reining in the excesses of the former administration and have even made some progress toward improving the situation.  One point that I thought was important, was that Trump took advantage of a rule (the Congressional Review Act) that allows any government regulation less than 60 days old to be deleted with almost no effort at all.  He set about the job of negating all the poison pill regulations that Obama enacted after finding out Trump had won the election.  Klavan noted that the New York Times (“a former newspaper” as he always adds) decried this Trump action, in a tear drenched article, as a part of the demolition of the Obama legacy.  This panic on the left hardly jibes with the non-stop lamentations that the right wing has been ululating for the last week or so.  So, what is going on then?  Who is right?

Isn’t it lucky for all of you that I’m here in all of my Olympian objectivity and divine wisdom to pronounce on who is right and who is wrong and the generic whichness of what?

Of course it is.

Well they’re both right (of course).  The right wing faithful are rightly aggrieved at the current state of affairs and the slowness of improvement.  With the Presidency, the Congress and the Supreme Court all nominally under right wing majority you would expect the guillotine working overtime piling up the severed heads of progressive malefactors at the base of Capitol Hill.  You would imagine Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton and Barney Frank would be in the docket trying to plead for clemency while a special prosecutor was loading up a list of high crimes and misdemeanors long enough to reach the orbit of Mars.  Rats like Stephen Colbert, Lena Dunham and Al Gore would be reduced to pushing shopping carts around on the streets of Los Angeles hoping to score a cheese rind or grapefruit peel from the dumpster behind the local Trader Joe’s.

And the republicans in government are right to remember how the American people punished them for shutting down the government when Clinton rejected their budget balancing work in the 1990s.  That left a mark that they never forgot.  Careers were ended and democrats took seats in red states.  It’s pretty much a truism that people get the government that they deserve.

So I’m going to throw the tie to Trump on this one.  He’s making a dent.  And one other thing Klavan notes in his article, Trump’s continual trolling of the left is a gift that keeps on giving.  It enrages them and provokes them to ever higher heights of moonbattery (e.g. Colbert’s recent ravings).  These people have reached a frothing state that’s bound to take a toll on their public image.  Whereas Trump’s rating seems to be slightly rising.

So in conclusion, the sky is not falling and I’m not even close to being tired of winning.

Andrew Klavan’s The Great Good Thing: A Short Book Review

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.