Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Corn, Snow, and "The Benedict Option"

We almost planted corn on Saturday but ran out of time. We woke up to snow and more cold weather on Sunday. Still cold today, but I think I will be planting my sweet corn within a week.
Reading a review (review by Collin Hansen) of Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option:
Here’s how to get started with the antipolitical politics of the Benedict Option. Secede culturally from the maintream. Turn off the television. Put the smartphones away. Read books. Play games. Make music. Feast with your neighbors. It is not enough to avoid what is bad; you must also embrace what is good. Start a church, or a group within your church. Open a classical Christian school, or join and strengthen one that exists. Plant a garden, and participate in a local farmer’s market. Teach kids how to play music, and start a band. Join the volunteer fire department.

Hmmm. Sounds familiar!
Personally, I am more interested in reading Out of the Ashes by Anthony
I think the so-called Benedict Option is nothing more than living the Faith - being in the world but not of it. This is what Christians have been called to do for 2000 years. But we need resets because we are seduced by the world and need to pull back periodically - Oh, that's called LENT!
Oremus pro invicem!


Charlie said...

Here is my take on Dreher's thesis:


I will read his book and review it, but I doubt it presents anything different from his many essays on the topic which he has published over the last year. The Esolen book looks like a better read.

Dreher is not preaching being in the world but not of it. If he was, I wouldn't be in disagreement with him. His book is also DOA in the aftermath of Trump. Dreher was betting on Hillary winning the election.

Jim Curley said...

I read your take on Dreher's thesis before and when I did, I thought you misunderstood what he means. I haven't read his book, but like you have read much of what he has been writing about it in the last year.

Seems to me he thinks that Christians must recommit to the Faith, seek others with the same commitment, and band to together in community (not running off necessarily, but in place-in the parish where they are, in the larger community where they are) to support each other as Christian culture continues to collapse.

I think the Trump win does not make BO, DOA. It is not like Trump is a big Christian. In fact he is more about $$, which is one of the root causes of the cultural collapse.

My 2 cents-and that's exactly what it is probably worth!

Charlie said...

Dreher answers all his critics that they have misunderstood him. As a writer, I hold myself responsible when all my readers misunderstand me. Dreher should do the same. I suspect, however, that they all understand him perfectly. Dreher is a quit-and-split guy.

With Trump, we do not have a saint as president. But we don't need one either. It suffices that he is simply not hostile to the Christian religion in the same manner of the emperor Constantine or even Vladimir Putin who is probably a nasty guy and a murderer. But he is a churchgoer. It is enough to grant religious freedom. The Church will do the rest.

I still stand by that Burke dictum that evil triumphs when good men do nothing. The Quit-and-Split Option is a prescription for doing nothing. I'm all for homesteading, homeschooling, and other initiatives that Dreher lauds. But I'm also for voting, participating in cultural and political life, and doing the sorts of things that Belloc and Chesterton did.

There is a part of me I call my "Amish Impulse" that makes me want to embrace a semi-Luddite lifestyle detached from the internet and the wider world of culture and politics. But I recognize this as recycled Epicureanism. It is the seeking of comfort instead of the cross.

Either you have the cross or you have comfort. You can't have both. My understanding of the Benedict Option is that Dreher argues that you can have both. His exit from Catholicism is one example of this shameful idea. Bearing the stigma of a Church full of child raping priests is a cross. Yet, we bear it.

I have yet to meet any Christian or Catholic who fully embraces Dreher's idea. It's akin to thinking the Nazis could have been beaten by a preemptive retreat to the ghettos. You won't see this mentality in Israel today.

What we need is a return to the concept of the righteous warrior. We live in a culture that has become feminized where fatherhood is mocked, and manliness is equated with prejudice and hate. Our culture is corroded by secularism and cynicism. Yet, our mission is to reclaim faith and virtue in ourselves, in our brothers, and in our country. There is nothing manly about quit-and-split.

I was on the wrong side for many years, and I would have loved nothing more than to see this Benedict Option become reality. It meant victory for my atheism as Christians retreated to lick their wounds and die the slow death of irrelevance.

The other part of this debate is what is coming to fill the vacuum of a Christian retreat. I know what it is, and it is hideous. It is the specter of white nationalism and paganism reborn. Masculinity will be reborn, but it will be divorced from the chivalry inspired by devotion to our Lord and our Lady. The Benedict Option will beget the Barbarian Option and the unrighteous warrior. I am working on a piece about this for my blog, so I will say more there. Suffice to say, the abdication of religious conservatism will be to cede what remains to the godless racist alt-right.

Charlie said...

Two links pertaining to this discussion:



I'm with Esolen and Rutler.

Jim Curley said...


You keep talking about the quit and split, but I have read NOTHING about the BO by Rod Dreher that advocates this, nothing. I have read numerous accusations, but no quotes IN CONTEXT.

And the Trump thing - he is NOT going to father a Christian revival. At best he will make a few good appointments while promoting an amoral agenda in economics and foreign policy, while continuing to oversee the moral decline of the country in social areas. As long as consumerism is strong the GOP will be happy.

I don't want to make a hero out of Rod Dreher. I don't agree with him at least 1/3 of the time, maybe more. I haven't read his book and probably won't; it is just that the thesis he is promoting on his blog sounds nothing like what his critics accuse him of. I could be wrong.

So I don't have a big log in the fire here.

As far as the "three tough questions", the author is a guy who seems to have some personal problems on the topic of small Catholic colleges. He wipes with a broad brush (in this and in many other columns) all the college graduates from a certain set of Catholic colleges loyal to the Magisterium. He seems to have a vendetta going unfortunately. I have stake here as my kids go to some of those colleges, and five of my sisters have gone to some of these colleges also. Some of the best priests of this diocese have also. I no longer give too much credence to Mr.Zmirak when he get on this horse.

Look, we need to constantly repent of our sins and follow Christ. Sometimes, especially in a hostile culture, we need support - other men who help us, hold us accountable, etc. Our wives do also. We have our parishes, we have Opus Dei circles, etc. to support us. We need to take advantage of these or we will feel like an island and start sinking into the culture. We just need to make sure the support is there or we need to seek it out with other men, families, etc.

Happy feast of St. Joseph!

Charlie said...

Many copies of the BO will be sold because of the quit-and-split perception. Dreher stops short of endorsing it in print in much the same way that Pope Francis stopped short of endorsing communion for adulterers in Amoris Laetitia. But we know where they stand on these things.

If Dreher is not pushing quit-and-split, what is he advocating? The sad answer would be nothing at all except that Christians should try and be more "churchy." There's nothing bold about that.

Either Dreher has a bold thesis of quit-and-split which is new, exciting, and wrong. Or, he has a worn thesis of challenging the culture by being more holy which has been the game plan for two millennia.

The crux of the argument is whether Christians should be engaged or disengaged in politics and culture. As an Escriva disciple, I believe in engagement for those people in the lay vocation. Not everyone is called to this which is why I think priests should be priests, nuns should be nuns, friars should be friars, and monks should be monks.

To be a Christian and a Catholic in the lay sense is to be in the arena. This means conflict. This means a FIGHT. Dreher doesn't like fighting which is odd for someone who claims to be a conservative and writes for a conservative publication. Now, I want to live in peace with everyone as St. Paul teaches. But I am not naive knowing that the world will hate you because it hates Him. To love Christ is to be hated by the world.

Dreher lacks fortitude. I wouldn't call it out except that he now markets this lack of fortitude as the "Benedict Option." The man is an effeminate coward wanting to hide out the coming battles in the comfort of a Christianized Epicurean Garden. The man is a schismatic who abandoned the One True Faith for Church Number Two, and I wonder when he will make his way back to the lukewarm Methodism of his youth. No layperson worth his salt should adopt this quietism.

People know exactly what Dreher is advocating. He is calling for a retreat. His next book will be terms of surrender as he discovers that evil is never satisfied and will hound you to your last dying gasp.