Book Review, Catholic

The Benedict Option

By Jon Elordi

The Benedict Option is a book written by author Rod Dreher of The American Conservative. The book paints an ominous and bleak picture of what is to come for Christendom in the West. The central premise of the book is that Christendom has lost the philosophical battle in the West. That new dark age is dawning where Christianity is no longer the prevailing ideology. In a sense, Rome has fallen and we are entering a time of paganism and persecution.

Modern Liberal Paganism

We are living in a Pagan age. The enlightenment has led to reason and science to be deified. The enlightenment attempt to find morality without religion has led to a society that is neither religious nor moral. We have regressed to Paganism.

The rationalist philosophical teachings of Rene Descartes led to the rise of the enlightenment and to the decline of religion. The thinkers of this era moved religion from the public discourse to the private. With the ideologization of individual choice religion was no longer the law of the land, but the personal choice that must be made. The enlightenment separated church and state, the state became the church.

The authority of the church diminished Paganism and soon followed. An elevation of science and technology led to the rise of scientism. In the 1960s the rise of the sexual revolution brought with it a sort of pagan sex cult. Filled with hollows slogans like “Love is Love.” And let us not forget the fertility cult that is climate change. All these forms of paganism devolve into hedonistic materialism. Where what feels good must be right. People have once again become slaves to their base desires.

Their Eros is now directed to the material world, and no longer to righteousness.

While there is much to be said about the paganization of the west, the point of the Benedict Option is not explaining the fall of the west. The point of The Benedict Option is how to survive the coming flood.

The Benedict Option

The Benedict Option takes its name from St. Benedict. St. Benedict during the fall of Rome in the 6th century formed a relatively secluded monastery. These monasteries would keep Christendom alive during the dark ages. The monasteries with devout Catholic communities dedicated to asceticism. They were the arks during the dark age flood. Preserving Christendom and preserving the Christian Faith.

Rod Dreher makes the case that Christians need to be ready to do the same. He argues that we are entering a new dark age. The long reign of Christendom has come to an end the barbarians are not only at the gate but already in power. In much the same way St. Benedict creates the monastery to flee the Goths, Christians must create their own communities to flee liberal paganism.

How to Live

The book goes on to take lessons from the Benedictine monks and how Christians should apply it to their lives.

In terms of lifestyle, Dreher encourages aestheticism and asceticism. He discusses the failures of many Christian liturgies. Mainly that they’re ugly. Human beings are affected by what they do and how they interact with the world. Therefore it is vitally important to have an aesthetic and ascetic faith life. Regularly praying The Rosary is an excellent way to practice asceticism

The pandemic of low-church Christians worshipping in ugly buildings and ugly liturgy is a product of the Enlightenment. It is a result of Descartes’s mind-body dualism. The enlightenment placed little emphasis on the body aspect.  Much of Christianity has been reduced to the rational. Thinking and meditating on God. And by ignoring the body they are missing a major aspect of what it means to be Christian.

The Benedict Option encourages a return to more orthodox forms of worship. The book is ecumenical and does not prescribe any particular form of Christianity. For what it’s worth Dreher is a former Catholic and current Eastern Orthodox member. Likely the more orthodox sects of Christianity will agree with Dreher. But all of Christianity would benefit from reading the book.

Dreher discusses how the LGBT agenda will make it difficult for Christian and Christian organizations to succeed. The time will come where Christians will likely be fired for their faith. Suggesting that Christians will need to develop the skills necessary to have careers not affected by LGBT attorneys. This will likely develop into two main paths blue-collar labor and entrepreneurship. To be fair, a lot of blue-collar labor is entrepreneurial. The plumber is self-employed and there is no need to know the plumber’s opinions on social matters. Unlike corporations and larger organizations that need to state LGBT policies. Even entrepreneurship endeavors are not wholly protected photographers, bakers, and florists have all been sued for their refusal to cater to LGBT couples.

The last few chapters of the book discuss the use of the internet and technology. A few years ago I would have called him a paranoid Luddite. Dreher could probably be considered a member of the Lud-Right. But there is undoubted truth in what he is saying. Pornography is a plague to our youth especially our male youth. Social media has manipulated and corroded relationships. The smartphone has atomized and separated us. No man is an island, but the smartphone certainly can make you feel like one.

The Benedict Option’s stance on technology is simple. Don’t let kids use it. Adults need to be careful went they use it. It is undoubtedly a helpful resource and tool but be careful.

It’s Radical

The truth is the Benedict Option is radical. It would be easy to distill the Benedict Option down to have prettier liturgies and technological fasting. But this would be a fundamental misunderstanding. The core of the Benedict Option is to be aware the society has turned against them. And with their own souls and the souls of their children at stake, Christians have to take radical action. If you don’t do you actually believe?

It’s a terrifying test of fate. Most Christians know the world has turned against them. They scorned for their beliefs. Dreher offers a radical option to save your soul and the souls of the ones you love. But it is radical. The Benedict Option echoes one of the most terrifying verses in scripture.

Then Peter answering, said to him: Behold we have left all things, and have followed thee: what therefore shall we have? And Jesus said to them: Amen, I say to you, that you, who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting. And many that are first, shall be last: and the last shall be first.

Mark 19:27-30