My problem with the Benedict Option

Rod Dreher has spilled a lot of ink on this. I have a lot of sympathy for Rod's vision but ultimately, I think the "Ben Op" is the same approach to rapacious secularism as that taken by the Middle Eastern Christians in response to rapacious Islam. That is, in exchange for payment of taxes and pledges of loyalty to their Arab overlords, the Christians were allowed to raise their children in the Faith and function as mercantile middlemen. This has not worked out well as Christianity slowly goes extinct in its former homelands. In like fashion, Rod Dreher begs to be left alone with his nuclear family and a few close friends in rural Louisiana as the world goes to Hell and our children slowly slip away from us.

There is also the ahistorical understanding of St. Benedict's mission and his context. The early Christians practiced their faith and seized the levers of State power as soon as they could. Modern Christianity by contrast practices secularism as the first and greatest Commandment.

Contrast Christianity's endless cession to its enemies with the robustness of Islam in the West: when they need their cultural space, they simply carve it out, and nobody lectures them about the lack of female imams or refusal to recognize gay marriage. In similar fashion, the Amish are expanding into the American Southwest and Mexico, and the Hasidim maintain their millenium-old bloodlines. Even the Mormons with their bizarre creed have managed to insinuate themselves into much of the United State's national security apparatus.

The future belongs to those who show up, and the "Ben Op" doesn't seem to be a strategy for showing up. Rather, it strikes me as a rear-guard action by aging converts begging to be allowed to die in peace.


Bert said…
Rod Dreher is stupid wimpy ball of faggotry and I can't understand why so many otherwise intelligent nationalists insist on defending him?
Luke Daxon said…
I could go on about this. One thing I will give Dreher is that he recognised earlier than most on the pseudo-Right just how decayed things have become and that there will be no 'return to normal' if only the GOP got permanent majorities. He is right, evidently so, that the conservative-minded have become fixated on political ins and outs and lost sight of the degeneracy of the actual real world, including in their own lives and that of their families. If there is anything worthwhile in Dreher's ideas, it is the necessity of waking up to the diabolical anti-culture of our age and resisting it, which is about far more than just casting a vote.

And yet. And yet...

One cannot help but notice that Dreher has fashioned the perfect argument to suit his own milquetoast persona. With the Benedict Option, he can rail all he wants about the evils of modernity but crucially without ever having to do anything to stop it because, conveniently, it can't be stopped. Withdrawal is the only answer he can find. Well, this begs the obvious question of what to do when the government goes into full-Waco mode, because if Dreher is right about the direction of the West then that is what is bound happen. It is not a question of 'if' the social workers come for your kids; it is 'when'. He has no answer to that.
Anonymous said…
Great comments. The ghetto Catholic option has never appealed to me. As a millennial, I find a lot of these types in the church today. For the most part, they're a lot like their secular cousins. They want the state to pay for them to reproduce and have big families and they want to be congratulated on it. They have no idea how well is created or sustained.
August said…
I began to notice all of this stuff ends up tweaked until it is serving progressive ends. For me, it was the idea of a city; building a city. It has a very serious meaning to me, but for my former compatriots, it just meant evangelism in poor areas. So they go take they most earnest youth and stick them in a poor black neighborhood over here, or a poor white neighborhood over there.

And waste assets, a holocaust to the baby boomer ego. If this crap was going to work, it would have worked in the 70s. Something is wrong with their repentance model.

No, you've got to go for easily defensible land, and look for the sort of people capable of building a city, of creating cultural products- and I think people are instinctively afraid of this because they know a fight will be coming. And you've got struggle to be ready for the fight when it comes- and hopefully you are strong when it comes, but you've got to know it's coming because you are competition of the worse kind (or you should be)- competent competition. People want good governance, and good governance is rather simple; all these bureaucratic creatures with their hands in the cookie jar like to pretend it's difficult, but it's not.

Dreher's just offering himself and his people as a low level target. Implicit in his statement is a non-compete clause with the government. So, maybe they'll leave him alone until they after they take down the more explicit threats.
Jeffrey S. said…
Having read Rod's book and as someone who checks in on his blog rather frequently, here is my take:

1) I find Rod both extremely annoying (I never liked his "crunchy con" persona and often think that his philosophical ideas are incoherent) and yet often perceptive when it comes to cultural trends;

2) His book is really an attack on the modern church -- he spends quite a bit of time going over data that suggests conservative evangelicals and Catholics are not currently doing a good job of bringing up the next generation with (small "o") orthodox beliefs and a willingness to live faithful lives for Christ;

3) His admires and holds up as models some of the groups that Anti-Gnostic mentions (the Hasidim, the Amish, the Mormons) because they are able to live faithful lives and grow demographically (one of the biggest issues facing the West -- we are dying off);

4) Many of his examples and ideas are all about carving out space for families to practice the faith and grow (he has a whole chapter on education and another on work);

5) Rod wants Benedict Option communities, like his beloved Tipi Loschi in Italy or Elk County, PA to be able to support large families, allow those families to educate their children without relying on state schools, and grow;

6) The big unknown is the what happens without religious liberty -- if the progressives do march in to take the kids because they must learn than so-called "gay marriage" is good or that 57 genders is the most important science lesson of middle-school, etc. then those Benedict Option communities have a problem. The hope is that they can be left alone long enough until they are too big to be pushed around and as Anti-Gnostic hints at, eventually push out into the world to seize power and change the culture (when the time is ripe -- this might be in another couple of generations!)
Implicit in his statement is a non-compete clause with the government.


A family member used to my cranky, insane outbursts laughed when I said, "I don't want to overthrow the State; I want to be the State!"
I think nowadays we attribute far too much influence, and sacrifice far too much of our own responsibilities, to the State.
Chris Jones said…

Have you read the book? Your apparent reduction of Dreher's ideas to "a strategy for not showing up" makes me doubt it. If your alternative is that we traditional Christians ought once again to "seize the levers of State power" then I wonder (1) how you think we are going to get there from here, and (2) what good it will do us (as Christians) if we do.

Implicit in Dreher's thesis is the idea (that I take to be quite true) that the modern project to live without God is doomed to failure and utter collapse. Will there be faithful Christians on the other side of that collapse to rebuild a Christian civilization? Apart from the building of a counterculture of orthodoxy, orthopraxis, and Christian ascesis that Dreher urges, I don't see how that is going to happen. And that counterculture will, in the current "progressive" age, inevitably look like withdrawal. Truth appears as madness in an age where falsehood reigns.

Jeffrey S's comment is the fairest and most insightful on the thread so far. He seems to get what Dreher is really saying. In answer to his question "the big unknown is ... what happens without religious liberty," the answer of course is the opportunity for martyrdom. Religious liberty is a feature of the modern liberal order, not of Christianity itself. Christ never promises us religious liberty, but he does promise us tribulation and persecution. I do believe that persecution and martyrdom are coming, though perhaps not in my lifetime (I'm 63). If so, Christians are going to need the spiritual strength that will come from the sort of strategies that Dreher recommends.

Unless, of course, you can succeed in seizing the levers of State power. Good luck with that.
Chris - the ultimate goal, as Jeffrey and August suggest, is to get too powerful for martyrdom so your children survive to populate the Church. Again, the Benedict Option as interpreted by Rod seems a toothless plea to be left alone. It is also ahistorical, as Benedict lived and worked in a Christian milieu. The Church was already four centuries old and the Empire was officially Christian. That was actually a motivation for the ascetic movement.

Rod is a frustrating read, because he frankly agrees with a lot of what we say in this corner of the Internet but he always veers away from that last step. He doesn't want to compete with the government, and he doesn't want to upset his cosmopolitan friends.
Jeffrey S. said…

I would meet you half-way -- I do think there will probably be sacrifice and yes, even martyrdom in the future for Christians in the West (because we'll be fighting both secular liberalism and Islam.) One of my favorite recent quotes comes from Chicago's (where I live) last Cardinal (our current one is weak and silly), Cardinal George:

"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history."

The key, which relates to Anti-Gnostic's point, is the last part -- we want to be ready to "pick up the shards of a ruined society" OR where I perhaps disagree with the Cardinal and you and Rod and tend to agree with Anti-Gnostic is that if we are strong enough (and have guns!) we can stand our ground and fight back. Unjust aggression against Christians deserves to be meet with a far fight!
Chris Jones said…

That was non-responsive.

I still don't know how you are planning to seize the levers of power. Are you counting on the next establishment President having an in hoc signo vinces moment?

Everybody dumps on Dreher. The Crunchy Con thing basically ended his tenure at National Review; when he converted to Orthodoxy virtually all the neo-Catholics in the country went after him, claiming that Orthodoxy was just a passing phase. One person (I forget who) said that Dreher would turn Muslim within two years. And now, of course, the Benedict Option has everybody accusing him of cowardice and defeatism.

But through it all, people keep reading him and through reading him they're thinking about issues they might not otherwise think about, even if you don't like his take on those issues.

Have you read the book?
I haven't read the book. Feel free to excerpt any salient parts.

You asked me how I plan to seize the levers of power. First, I have better sense than that even when posting anonymously, and second, I don't have to tell you because I haven't written a manifesto. Nevertheless, I can tell you with 100% assurance it won't be by a bunch of white liberals quaking in tiny missions and begging the Left to be let alone.
Bert said…
The Catholic Church are a bunch of pedophile baby rapers. They grasp for power in whatever form it takes because that's what they've always done throughout history. The Know-Nothings had the right idea.
Deacon Nicholas said…
"I haven't read the book."
Well, with that and the ad hominem attacks on a decent man, you've lost all credibility.
Rod's got a lot of people gunning for him. My anonymous sniping is the least of it.
Bert said…
Jeffrey, Chris, and Deacon are all weak cuckservatives. They fit Trump's definition of low energy almost to a T. Old and pathetic with nothing to say except tired old bromides that mean less with each passing year.

Oh yeah, and Rod Dreher is still a faggot. :)
Chris Jones said…
I am puzzled and a bit surprised at being called a "cuckservative." I thought that in order to be called a "cuckservative," one would have to be, or at least claim to be, a conservative of some sort. But apart from identifying myself as a traditional Christian, I don't think I have given any hint of my political or social views on this thread. So I don't see how Bert can call me a "cuckservative."

It's all of a piece, I suppose, with the Anti-Gnostic presuming to do a substantive analysis of a book he hasn't read: ad hominem argumentation based on willful ignorance.

Inapt as it may be, I'll wear the accusation of being "cuckservative" as a badge of honor.
Own the term. Tell your fellow cucks you greet them with a proud, wide stance and you'll be happy to show them where the bathroom is.

Bert said…
Comments like that are why I love your blog Anti-Gnostic.

And I'm impressed by the extent to which old Boomers continue to pontificate and moralize about their "deep" and "thoughtful" opinions even as their children get ready to shuffle Grandpa off to the nursing home where the sheboons and chiquitas the Boomers foisted on this nation will help themselves to your valuables while ignoring your cries of pain and joking about you behind your back (or to your face if they really don't give a shit, as is the case with the Haitian breed of nigger.)

Farewell Cucky.
Luke Daxon said…
To Rod's defenders, I suggest you acquaint yourself with his unhappy habit of washing his family's dirty linen in public. The sins of his late father and late sister, namely attachment to small-town life and apparent failure to understand him, have been punished to the full. Years of passive-aggressive sniping at them, broadcast to the world through the American Conservative, has seen to that. His modus operandi is always to talk about what great people they were but then to doubleback and opine that 'they didn't understand me'. The implication is that, well, were they that great after all? Classy. Really, really classy.

So, while I am prepared to give him his due when he puts his finger on the truth, I shan't follow him to the Mosquito Coast.