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Benedict Option FAQ

What is the Benedict Option?

Start with this famous paragraph from philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre’s book After Virtue:

It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman empire declined into the Dark Ages. Nonetheless certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead often not recognizing fully what they were doing—was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—St Benedict.

The “Benedict Option” refers to Christians in the contemporary West who cease to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of American empire, and who therefore are keen to construct local forms of community as loci of Christian resistance against what the empire represents. Put less grandly, the Benedict Option — or “Ben Op” — is an umbrella term for Christians who accept MacIntyre’s critique of modernity, and who also recognize that forming Christians who live out Christianity according to Great Tradition requires embedding within communities and institutions dedicated to that formation.

What is MacIntyre’s critique? Be succinct.

MacIntyre says that the Enlightenment project cut Western man off from his roots in tradition, but failed to produce a binding morality based on Reason alone. Plus, the Enlightenment extolled the autonomous individual. Consequently, we live in a culture of moral chaos and fragmentation, in which many questions are simply impossible to settle. MacIntyre says that our contemporary world is a dark wood, and that finding our way back to the straight path will require establishing new forms of community that have as their ends a life of virtue.

Why can’t we Christians just make up our mind to be good, and join a church with good people in it?

Well, what is the Good? How can you tell good from bad? How does your community makes decisions on right from wrong? How do you? Our culture has become so overwhelmingly individualist that we inevitably end up worshiping the Self. The sociologist Christian Smith’s work on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism [1] has shown how historical Christianity has been revolutionized from within by modernity, and has become pseudo-Christian. To oversimplify, modern forms of Christianity do not challenge modernity’s assumptions, and are therefore highly susceptible to being colonized by it. This, in fact, is what has happened to most churches, and most individual believers. As MacIntyre would put it, the lack of awareness of this fact is part of our problem.

We Christians are forgetting our story. This is not a bug of modernity; it is its purpose. As the church historian Robert Louis Wilken has put it [2]:

Nothing is more needful today than the survival of Christian culture, because in recent generations this culture has become dangerously thin. At this moment in the Church’s history in this country (and in the West more generally) it is less urgent to convince the alternative culture in which we live of the truth of Christ than it is for the Church to tell itself its own story and to nurture its own life, the culture of the city of God, the Christian republic. This is not going to happen without a rebirth of moral and spiritual discipline and a resolute effort on the part of Christians to comprehend and to defend the remnants of Christian culture. The unhappy fact is that the society in which we live is no longer neutral about Christianity. The United States would be a much less hospitable environment for the practice of the faith if all the marks of Christian culture were stripped from our public life and Christian behavior were tolerated only in restricted situations.

So what does St. Benedict have to do with any of this?

Benedict of Nursia (ca. 480-537) was an educated young Christian who left Rome, the city of the recently fallen Empire, out of disgust with its decadence. He went south, into the forest near Subiaco, to live as a hermit and to pray. Eventually, he gathered around him some like-minded men, and formed monasteries. Benedict wrote his famous Rule [3], which became the guiding constitution of most monasteries in western Europe in the Middle Ages. The monasteries were incubators of Christian and classical culture, and outposts of evangelization in the barbarian kingdoms. As Cardinal Newman wrote:

St Benedict found the world, physical and social, in ruins, and his mission was to restore it in the way not of science, but of nature, not as if setting about to do it [the caveat], not professing to do it by any set time, or by any rare specific, or by any series of strokes, but so quietly, patiently, gradually, that often till the work was done, it was not known to be doing. It was a restoration rather than a visitation, correction or conversion. The new work which he helped to create was a growth rather than a structure. Silent men were observed about the country, or discovered in the forest, digging, clearing and building; and other silent men, not seen, were sitting in the cold cloister, tiring their eyes and keeping their attention on the stretch, while they painfully copied and recopied the manuscripts which they had saved. There was no one who contended or cried out, or drew attention to what was going on, but by degrees the woody swamp became a hermitage, a religious house, a farm, an abbey, a village, a seminary, a school of learning and a city.

Are you saying that contemporary Christians ought to be monks? How would that work?

Well, the world would be a lot better off if more men and women today became monastics, but that’s not really what I’m talking about. Remember, MacIntyre says that we await a “new and very different St. Benedict” — meaning a charismatic religious figure, or figures, who can help us form these new communities. The Baptist theologian Jonathan Wilson, in his book [4] on what MacIntyre has to say to the churches, says the question contemporary Christians should ask ourselves is this: “What must the church do in order to live and witness faithfully as a minority in a culture in which we were once the majority?”

As we try to determine which forms of community, which institutions, and which ways of life, can answer that question, we should draw on the wisdom of St. Benedict and his Rule. We should innovate ways to adapt it to forms of non-monastic living in the world.

Here are some basic Benedictine principles that we might think of as tools for living the Christian life:

1. Order. Benedict described the monastery as a “school for the service of the Lord.” The entire way of life of the monastic community was ordered by this telos, or end. The primary purpose of Christian community life is to form Christians. The Benedict Option must teach us to make every other goal in our lives secondary to serving God. Christianity is not simply a “worldview” or an add-on to our lives, as it is in modernity; it must be our lives, or it is something less than Christianity.

2. Prayer and work. Life as a Christian requires both contemplation and action. Both depend on the other. There is a reason Jesus retired to the desert after teaching the crowds. Work is as sacred as prayer. Ordinary life can and should be hallowed.

3. Stability. The Rule ordinarily requires monks to stay put in the monastery where they professed their vows. The idea is that moving around constantly, following our own desires, prevents us from becoming faithful to our calling. True, we must be prepared to follow God’s calling, even if He leads us away from home. But the far greater challenge for us in the 21st century is learning how to stay put — literally and metaphorically — and to bind ourselves to a place, a tradition, a people. Only within the limits of stability can we find true freedom.

4. Community. It really does take a village to raise a child. That is, we learn who we are and who we are called to be in large part through our communities and their institutions. We Americans have to unlearn some of the ways of individualism that we absorb uncritically, and must relearn the craft of community living.

Not every community is equally capable of forming Christians. Communities must have boundaries, and must build these metaphorical walls because, as the New Monastic pioneer Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove writes, “we cannot become the gift to others we are called to be until we embrace the limits that are necessary to our vocation.” In other words, we must withdraw behind some communal boundaries not for the sake of our own purity, but so we can first become who God wants us to be, precisely for the sake of the world. Beliefs and practices that are antithetical to achieving the community’s telos must be excluded.

5. Hospitality. That said, we must be open to outsiders, and receive them “as Christ,” according to the Rule. For Benedictine monks, this had a specific meaning, with regard to welcoming visitors to the monastery. For modern laypersons, this will likely have to do with their relationship to people outside the community. The Benedictines are instructed to welcome outsiders so long as they don’t interrupt communal life. It should be that way with us, too. We should always be open to others, in charity, to share what we have with them, including our faith.

6. Balance. The Rule of St. Benedict is marked by a sense of balance, of common sense. As Ben Oppers experiment with building and/or reforming communities and institutions in a more intentional way, we must be vigilant against the temptations to fall intorigid legalism, cults of personality, and other distortions that have been the ruin of intentional communities. There must be workable forms of accountability for leadership, and the cultivation of an anti-utopian sensibility among the faithful. A community that is too lax will dissolve, or at least be ineffective, but one that is too strict will also produce disorder. A Benedict Option community must be joyful and confident, not dour and fearful.

Can you point to any contemporary examples of Ben Op communities? 

Yes. There is a Catholic agrarian community around Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey [5] in eastern Oklahoma. The lay community gathered around St. John Orthodox cathedral [6]in Eagle River, Alaska, is another. Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia [7], is working towards incorporating a version of the Rule of St. Benedict within its congregational life. Rutba House, a New Monastic community in Durham, North Carolina, and its School for Conversion [8], is still another. I recently met a couple in Waco, Texas — Baylor philosophy professor Scott Moore [9] and his wife Andrea — who bought a property near Crawford, Texas, and who are rehabilitating it into a family home and a Christian retreat called Benedict Farm. There is the Bruderhof. [10]

I think schools can be a form of the Benedict Option. Consider St. Jerome’s, a classical school in the Catholic tradition [11], in Hyattsville, Maryland, or the Scuola G.K. Chesterton [12] in San Benedetto del Tronto, Italy, which is run by Catholics for Catholic children, following the vision of the late Stratford Caldecott (see his essay, “A Question of Purpose” [13]). Homeschool groups can be motivated by the Ben Op.

I am certain that there is no such thing as a perfect Ben Op community, and that each and every one of them will have struggled with similar problems. In working on the Benedict Option book, I intend to visit as many of these communities as I can, to find out what they are doing right, what they wish they did better, and what we can all learn from them. The Benedict Option has to be something that ordinary people can do in their own circumstances.

Do you really think you can just run away from the world and live off in a compound somewhere? Get real!

No, I don’t think that at all. While I wouldn’t necessarily fault people who sought geographical isolation, that will be neither possible nor desirable for most of us. The early Church lived in cities, and formed its distinct life there. Most of the Ben Op communities that come to mind today are not radically isolated, in geography or otherwise, from the broader community. It’s simply nonsense to say that Ben Oppers want to hide from the world and live in some sort of fundamentalist enclave. Some do, and it’s not hard to find examples of how this sort of thing has gone bad. But that is not what we should aim for. In fact, I think it’s all too easy for people to paint the Benedict Option as utopian escapism so they can safely wall it off and not have to think about it.

Isn’t this a violation of the Great Commission? How can we preach the Gospel to the nations when we’re living in these neo-monastic communities?

Well, what is evangelizing? Is it merely dispersing information? Or is there something more to it. The Benedict Option is about discipleship, which is itself an indirect form of evangelism. Pagans converted to the early Church not simply because of the words the first Christians spoke, but because of the witness of the kinds of lives they lived. It has to be that way with us too.

Pope Benedict XVI said something important in this respect. He said that the best apologetic arguments for the truth of the Christian faith are the art that the Church has produced as a form of witness, and the lives of its saints:

Yet, the beauty of Christian life is even more effective than art and imagery in the communication of the Gospel message. In the end, love alone is worthy of faith, and proves credible. The lives of the saints and martyrs demonstrate a singular beauty which fascinates and attracts, because a Christian life lived in fullness speaks without words. We need men and women whose lives are eloquent, and who know how to proclaim the Gospel with clarity and courage, with transparency of action, and with the joyful passion of charity.

The Benedict Option is about forming communities that teach us and help us to live in such a way that our entire lives are witnesses to the transforming power of the Gospel.

It sounds like you are simply asking for the Church to be the Church. Why do you need to brand it “the Benedict Option”?

That’s a great point, actually. If all the churches did what they were supposed to do, we wouldn’t need the Ben Op. Thing is, they don’t. The term “Benedict Option” symbolizes a historically conscious, antimodernist return to roots, an undertaking that occurs with the awareness that Christians have to cultivate a sense of separation, of living as what Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon call “resident aliens” in a “Christian colony,” in order to be faithful to our calling. And, “Benedict Option” calls to mind monastic disciplines that we can appropriate in our own time.

It also draws attention to the centrality of practices in shaping our Christian lives. The Reformed theologian James K.A. Smith, in his great books Imagining the Kingdom [14] and Desiring the Kingdom [15], speaks of these things. A recent secular book by Matthew B. Crawford, The World Beyond Your Head [16], talks about the critical importance of practice as a way of knowledge. Here is Crawford writing about tradition and organ making:

When the sovereignty of the self requires that the inheritance of the past be disqualified as a guide to action and meaning, we confine ourselves in an eternal present. If subjectivism works against the coalescing of communities and traditions in which genuine individuals can arise, does the opposite follow? Do communities that look to established forms for the meanings of things somehow cultivate individuality?

… [C]onsider that when you go deep into some particular skill or art, it trains your powers of concentration and perception. You become more discerning about the objects you are dealing with and, if all goes well, begin to care viscerally about quality, because you have been initiated into an ethic of caring about what you are doing. Usually this happens by the example of some particular person, a mentor, who exemplifies that spirit of craftsmanship. You hear disgust in his voice, or see pleasure on his face, in response to some detail that would be literally invisible to someone not initiated. In this way, judgment develops alongside emotional involvement, unified in what Polanyi calls personal knowledge. Technical training in such a setting, though narrow in its immediate application, may be understood as part of education in the broadest sense: intellectual and moral formation.

… What emerged in my conversations at Taylor and Boody [a traditional organ-making shop] is that the historical inheritance of a long tradition of organ making seems not to burden these craftspeople, but rather to energize their efforts in innovation. They intend for their organs still be be in use four hundred years from now, and this orientation toward the future requires a critical engagement with the designs and building methods of the past. They learn from past masters, interrogate their wisdom, and push the conversation further in an ongoing dialectic of reverence and rebellion. Their own progress in skill and understanding is thus a contribution to something larger; their earned independence of judgment represents a deepening of the craft itself. This is a story about the progressive possibilities of tradition, then.

The Benedict Option is about how to rightly order the practices in our Christian lives, in light of tradition, for the sake of intellectual and moral formation in the way of Christ. You might even say that it’s a story about the progressive possibilities of tradition, and a return to roots in defiance of a rootless age.

It’s all about the gays, isn’t it? I didn’t hear a thing about the Benedict Option until the Obergefell ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. 

Now, now. I have been talking about the Ben Op in my writing for over a decade. You can find it in my 2006 book Crunchy Cons. If there were no such thing as gay marriage, we would still need the Benedict Option, because modernity is dissolving authentic Christianity. Hauerwas and Willimon are not theological conservatives, but a generation ago, they wrote their great book Resident Aliens [17] in response to the effects of modernity on Christianity, at the practical, parish level.

That said, it is true that the rise of gay rights has provoked an intense interest in the Ben Op among conservative Christians. Why? I think there are several reasons.

For one, the it awakened many small-o orthodox Christians to something that ought to have been clear to them a long, long time ago: the West is truly a post-Christian civilization, and we had better come up with new ways of living if we are going to hold on to the faith in this new dark age. The reason gay rights were so quickly embraced by the American public is because the same public had already jettisoned traditional Christian teaching on the meaning of sex, of marriage, and even a Christian anthropology. Same-sex marriage is only the fulfillment of a radical change that had already taken place in Western culture.

For another, the way civil rights laws work in the US means that religious liberty is now and will increasingly be at grave risk from the progress of gay civil rights. Christian institutions will struggle to stay open in the years to come. Individual Christians will also face increased pressure to turn from the truth about sex, marriage, and the family, for the sake of participating in American cultural and economic life. We had better start forming now the institutions and communities within which we can live out our faith in a hostile culture, teach our children the faith and raise them to be resilient, and to support each other.

Finally, we are under a new set of conditions, in which the old ways of responding don’t work. Read Prof. Kingsfield on what we’re facing.  [18]Voting Republican, and expecting judges to save us, is over. It’s all about culture now.

But St. Benedict was a Catholic. I’m not. What’s in it for me?

Hey, I’m not Catholic either. So what? We Orthodox claim him as one of our own, as all the pre-schism saints are. But never mind. Evangelicals need to look deeply into Church history to find the resources to withstand the pressures of modernity. St. Benedict is one of them. Because of our varying ecclesiologies, a Catholic Ben Op is going to look different from a Protestant one, and an Orthodox one will look different too. That’s okay. Depending on the telos of the Ben Op institution, we may be able to work together ecumenically.

This is all rather gloomy, don’t you think? Where is your Christian hope?

You call it gloomy; I call it realistic. Hope is not the same thing as optimism. St. Benedict didn’t set out to Save Western Civilization™; all he wanted to do was create a space within which he could pray and worship God away from the chaos and decadence of the city. What he and his followers did, without knowing it, was to lay the foundation for the birth of a new civilization out of the ruins of the old. So it is with us. We need to learn to play the long game. Pope Benedict XVI said:

From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, she will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly she will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Alongside this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize her true center and experience the sacraments again as the worship of God and not as a subject of liturgical scholarship.

The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution—when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain—to the renewal of the nineteenth century. But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.

And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult…but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.

He was talking about the Roman Catholic Church. I think it applies to all Christian churches in the West.

I don’t know. All this Benedict Option stuff sounds really radical to me. 

It is, but let me ask you: what else is there? To continue the path we’re traveling, hoping that things will get better, is to court disaster. Millennials are leaving Christianity is unprecedented numbers [19] — and why shouldn’t they, given how wan and lukewarm Christianity is? De-Christianized Europe is our future in America. In fact,  Jean-Francois Mayer, a Swiss academic who studies religious movements, told me that among the Christian communities left in Europe, many are making plans right now for how to hold on through the long night. And Father Cassian Folsom, prior of the Benedictine community in Norcia, told me that the only Christians who are going to make it through what’s to come are those who embrace some form of the Benedict Option.

In the end, it’s not really an option. It’s a necessity.

UPDATE (10/7): Is this only a spiritual thing, a pietistic movement? Or is there more?

Caleb Bernacchio and Philip de Mahy have written — here [20]and here [21] — about the importance of adding an economic dimension to the Benedict Option. I intuit that they are correct, though I am going to need to do a lot more thinking on and investigation of this point. Caleb has suggested to me in private conversation that Spain’s highly successful Mondragon Cooperative [22]offers a good economic model for the Benedict Option. Here, via PDF, is a history of Mondragon [23], which was founded in the wake of the Spanish Civil War by a Basque priest, and which is now one of Spain’s biggest corporations.

The economic dimension of the Benedict Option, and even the political dimension of the Benedict Option, are areas that bear further study and reflection. Given my own interests and biases, I have focused on the moral and spiritual aspects, but Bernacchio and de Mahy show why working out the Benedict Option is going to have to be a collaborative project.

UPDATE 12/28: 

I still think you are telling Christians to run away from the world. How can this ever be reconciled with the kind of faith most of us are supposed to live? It’s still not making sense to me.

OK, let’s try this again. I know that some Evangelicals and Catholics instinctively recoil from talk of the Benedict Option, the point of which is primarily “for the Church to tell itself its own story and to nurture its own life” because we Christians cannot be what we are supposed to be for the world if we lose touch with our own story and our own life. They are under the impression that the Benedict Option is a turning-inward for its own sake, a refusal to evangelize, to tell the Church’s story to the unconverted in the world.

They are wrong, and their error has consequences. First, let’s get one thing straight: no church can be authentically Christian without evangelizing. That is perfectly clear from Scripture and Tradition. So let’s get out of the way the idea that the Ben Op is against evangelization (though there are many forms of evangelization).

Here’s the thing: after the decision has been made for Christ — and, if baptism and/or confirmation [in Orthodoxy, called chrismation] has been performed — what next? The Christian life is not a destination, but a journey towards God, towards fulfilling Christ’s charge to “be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” None of us can achieve perfection, and certainly not on our own. We can only do this through God’s grace alone. We need the help of others in the church on our pilgrimage, and we need to help others in turn. We first become Christians by baptism, or, if you prefer, by consciously accepting Jesus as our Saviour. But how do we become disciples? How do we grow in holiness? The Benedict Option is a broad attempt to inspire churches and small-o orthodox Christian believers who locate themselves in the Great Tradition to do this in a post-Christian society.

The Christian life, properly understood, cannot be merely a set of propositions agreed to, but must also be a way of life. And that requires a culture, which is to say, the realization in a material way – in deeds, in language, in song, in drama, in practices, etc. – of the propositions taught by Christianity. To be perfectly clear, at the core of all this is a living spiritual relationship with God, one that cannot be reduced to words, deeds, or beliefs.

86 Comments (Open | Close)

86 Comments To "Benedict Option FAQ"

#1 Comment By Heidi On October 7, 2015 @ 3:38 pm

Hi there,
Our family has been following your writings on this for quite some time now and have one question, in several parts: Can we form a Ben Op Study Group in our church community, use your materials and, perhaps, even have you mentor said group?
Looking forward to your response,
Heidi

[NFR: That would be great, but I’m afraid I have no time to mentor. Thanks! — RD]

#2 Comment By workingdad On October 7, 2015 @ 3:49 pm

When you stated ” If all the churches did what they were supposed to do, we wouldn’t need the Ben Op. Thing is, they don’t.” you failed to state why they do not foster Christian living. MTD churches, Catholic or Orthodox, even o-rthodox churches cannot achieve this. Celibate monastic living is not for everyone and nor will families be able to follow a large body of strict rules. The change of Christians from attending church on Sundays to living a different type of lifestyle should be a gradual one. However the exception to that should be intentional, immediate (for the individual family that joins) and economic in nature; a job, a place to live or childcare/education. The agreement initially should be that this is because “we are all (insert church)Catholic and want a better place to raise our children…” Sunday morning church should continue to be the place where newcomers are welcome and those who cannot follow the more strict codes (or whatever rules develop) can still have socialization with the tighter nit community. If western civilization is going to bring everyone down with it and we need a means to survive as it does then we must be able to not just provide for ourselves but also be respected by the surrounding community. Monks did this because they took care of themselves, could read and write, and made good beer. In your last paragraph you hint that this is an area you need to research more and I believe it is critical aspect for success of the BenOp.

#3 Comment By Brendanyc On October 7, 2015 @ 3:50 pm

Nice to finally understand what you’ve been on about with the Benedict Option. My sister and her (large) family are part of the Homestead Heritage community in Texas, and although they are certainly very Protestant, not Catholic, they seem to be attempting exactly what you are advocating.
I have been interested to learn that their members are overwhelmingly from either RC or Jewish backgrounds, and try to preserve much of those traditions, even within the context of this evangelical protestantism. Very admirable, i think–also preserves the practice of a lot of great music.
This has led me to wonder why this accepting, generous trait is rare in most isolationist communal religious groups. I’ve decided that there is a strain of xenophobic that is attracted to such settings, and a strain of xenophobia that thrives within the thinking of separatist theology and leaders.
Not my business, really, since i have no intention of living this way and would never teach my children to think this way (although they love their aunt and cousins!–sweet people, all). But still i worry, since it is such a short step from fear of the other to bigotry.
i like multi-dimensional, multi-racial, multi-lots of stuff communities, and i think this characteristic is necessary to preserve and grow what we think of as “American” values. Maybe i am wrong, but i worry about the children i see who have grown up around only similar people. ANY ‘discipline’ adopted as organizing principle of a community carries a serious risk of parochialism certainly (almost by definition), of bigotry possibly, and eventually of paranoid mental cloisterism.
Not attractive, to my mind.
How would the advocates of the Ben Op prevent, discourage, cope with this?
My sister’s community seems to, but they’ve been around for less than a full generation so far. i am curious how long it can be maintained–especially maintained as a nice place to live and raise children, since this would be needed to see this culture flourish.

#4 Comment By workingdad On October 7, 2015 @ 4:23 pm

After reading Richard B’s comment and thinking about people in my own family that I would like to live closer to but are basically secular I realize that many will be attracted to the community, family life, maybe even material simplicity(hopefully that does not mean not being prosperous) that will naturally occur. The spiritual aspect is actually my weakness in my understanding of how this could happen. I think overt behavior would by necessity be regulated, but what about (a particular) church attendance, not being enthusiastic about volunteering etc. How do you handle people that want to be in the community but not any of the more spiritual aspects?

I think too, going back to McIntyre, that just like what is happening with Western institutions that are crumbling more people will leave those for something better, their local BenOp community. Public schools are loosing intelligent students to private schools and homeschooling, while the good teachers are getting fed up. this is largely due to political government interference (with a government institution, i know) but if we look at public parks, especially the big national ones we can see where government employees who care and the public that uses those parks care have taken very good care of a public institution. Other than the initial taking of the land and so long as there is no significant resource these places tend to stay pristine and enjoyed by those who use them without political interference. I can see the situation that is happening with education happen to the military/police. As more people see that power is being used against them and their culture(whether you think Kim Davis is right or wrong strategically, we sympathize with her, unnecessary foreign wars, etc) smart strategy thinkers(future military planners), engineers who would have worked in the military industrial complex will no longer sign up and it soon it too will begin to die a slow death. I think in this way we will see Western Civ fade, people will just stop participating(i think midterm primary elections are hovering in the single digits of voter participation.)

#5 Comment By DFB On October 7, 2015 @ 6:18 pm

Seven centuries ago, Gervais de Bus authored an allegorical poem entitled “Le Roman de Fauvel,” in Latin and French (translation below is from the liner notes of my CD) which was “reworked” and edited by Chaillou de Pesstain and set to music by Philippe de Vitry. Perhaps the following is pertinent to your discussion about the problems posed by modernity and the Benedict Option:

Virtus moritur

Virtus moritur vivit vicium,
Fides truditor in exilium;
Jam jus cogitur ad silencium,
Dolus oritur et fraus coliditur;
Incurrit lex dispendium.
Omne vetitum censet licitum
Ceca divitum mens cupidine
Non in numine
Fidens alio quam denario
Cujus gracia fit propicia
Omnis curia previa
Falvelli malicia

Aussi l’ordenance divine
Est du tout tornee a ruine:
Nous alons par la nuit, sans lantern
Quant bestiaute nous gouverne.

Virtue is dying, vice lives on,
Faith is pushed into exile.
Now right is reduced to silence,
deceit rises and fraud is honored;
The law rushes to its ruin.
Everything forbidden is permitted:
the minds of the rich
are blinded by desire,
not trusting in any other deity
than money,
thanks to whom every court is biased
By the wickedness of Fauvel.

So the divine ordinance
is quite turned to ruin:
we walk by night, without a lantern,
When beastliness governs us.

– Gervais de Bus, Le Roman de Fauvel, Livre I (1310)

Same song, different tune?

#6 Comment By Rob G On October 7, 2015 @ 7:06 pm

Rod, if you’ve never seen it do yourself a favor and watch the documentary about Sacred Harp singing called Awake My Soul. The way that these folks maintain this particular musical tradition is an excellent microcosm of how larger traditions, like those necessary for the BenOp, actually should work.

Here’s the trailer:

#7 Comment By Sam M On October 7, 2015 @ 7:49 pm

Brendanyc:

“ANY ‘discipline’ adopted as organizing principle of a community carries a serious risk of parochialism certainly (almost by definition), of bigotry possibly, and eventually of paranoid mental cloisterism.”

And you think secular modernism and multiculturalism are immune from that?

Been to many colleges lately? Ask Ryan Anderson about paranoid mental cloisterism.

#8 Comment By Brendanyc On October 7, 2015 @ 8:06 pm

Sam M:
no, i think none of us are immune to this, which is what makes inward-looking, linked-arms collectives especially risky. Combined with the certitude that god is on our side, this is a recipe for the unpleasant surprises that follow pride. Not inevitably (some of us were remarkably opened up by college, for example, and have blossomed since), but always a risk to be managed, guarded against.

#9 Comment By Richard B On October 7, 2015 @ 11:44 pm

[NFR: SoCons may blame it on liberalism, but in that they’re only half right. It’s more accurate to blame it on the Enlightenment, or even modernity. Conservatives who think the root of our problems started in the 1960s are blind. — RD]

I see where you’re coming from. I’ve often suspected that there’s a great deal to recommend various older times and cultures, if usually for reasons other than religious. I don’t forget, though, that I have no actual understanding of what it’d have been like to live in those times, places, cultures. Could be a perspective problem.

Technological change yoked to unchecked capitalism would have been a more accurate descriptor of what I think drives all this cultural churn. The ever-increasing pace especially concerns me. Technology changes us and how we interact with and understand the world in ways so fundamental we often don’t notice or question them. I guess it’s modernity that concerns both of us.

I see that I wrote “eye of a camel” above. That’s an interesting twist on the verse. My apologies to the author.

#10 Comment By Ron Pavellas On October 8, 2015 @ 1:33 am

I am in general accord with the six principles, as listed, yet I am not a professed Christian (neither am I an ‘atheist’). I am a conscious member of western civilization and am doing what I can to honor and support it, privately and publicly. My point is that one need not embrace Christ to recognize that there is a power greater than we, of which we are a part and which inhabits (what we imagine to be) our soul. I parenthesize ‘imagine’ because ‘science’ has yet to locate and measure it even if those in thrall to scientism ‘know’ (believe) that it is possible and inevitable.

#11 Comment By Priest Raphael On October 8, 2015 @ 12:03 pm

With Rod’s approval I just formed an FB group to discuss these ideas: Come on out! [24]

#12 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On October 9, 2015 @ 8:14 am

@Rod

It’s wonderful you are studying the cooperative movement, I think that cooperation is one of the best routes to a Christian economy, within the context of a free market.

In Italy, cooperation has a hugely succesful history, making for 8% of GDP and 6% of the workforce. During the 2008-2012 crisis, cooperation was one of the few sectors of employment growth, demonstrating its strong fundamentals.

I recommend you take a look to this [25] (in English), outlining the history of the Italian cooperative movement, with short essays about cooperation in other countries and an overview of the philosophical/political/theological background of cooperation. I’m sure you’ll find many good ideas.

#13 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On October 9, 2015 @ 12:10 pm

JonF,

You can find traces of pre-Islamic Persian civilization in the modern Persosphere too, including the language and the sense of history. At the level of fundamental worldview and metaphysics though, the modern Persosphere is Muslim not Zoroastrian, so in the deepest sense of the world what mattered most in Persian civilization is gone, and has been gone for over a millennium.

#14 Comment By Tom Jurenka On October 11, 2015 @ 3:20 pm

Mr Dreher, like you, I greatly value Western Civilization, and and I recognize Christianity’s role in that civilization.However, when I read this and some other articles, I don’t recognize the the world I live in. You write that we live in a “new dark age”, in a “a culture of moral chaos and fragmentation” where “[t]he barbarians have already been governing us for quite some time”. Yet when I think the world today, despite the many obvious problems, what occurs for me is that we are living in a golden age. The world is largely at peace (yes, with the usual horrors in the usual places.) Economic growth and opportunity, particularly in India and China, has lifted literally hundreds of millions of people from poverty, and perhaps will do the same in Africa. Personal liberty, notwithstanding some ups and downs (eg: Russia, but there are others) is on the rise and is seen as an actual and valid measure of civilization. Women are more free than ever before. Marginalized groups are being recognized and slowly being integrated into full economic and civic life.. Technology has broken down barriers to communication (while creating new challenges in privacy, government surveillance and all the rest.) I could go on and on in this vein for some time, but suffice it to say that I look forward to the 21st century as a time of tremendous opportunity for the entire world – counterbalanced to be sure by tremendous challenges. But then I see you discussing bunkering down (at least in some sense) with like-minded individuals and families, seeking to actively wall yourselves off from “the new dark age” in order wait and pray for… well, something else, anyway. What gives?

To be blunt, it seems to me that you don’t really know your history – you probably know your church history – and I think this is a real problem for a public intellectual like you who is proposing a very demanding course of action in part driven by an interpretation of history. I do know my history, and I have a few things to say.

For starters, the notion of the “Dark Ages” (which occurs no less than 4 times in this particular posting and obviously has some resonance with you) that you present has no grounding in historical reality whatsoever. It’s more like a pre-schoolers coloring book about the Dark Ages (Cardinal Newman, whom you quote, can perhaps be excused for his romantic view of ‘silent men’ (ie – monks) clearing out woody swamps to found cities, but he died in 1890, and we understand things a bit better now. Can you name one city founded by monks, by the way? Monasteries don’t count. In the meantime, where are all the people who actually did (re)build cities, fight the wars, invent new methods of agriculture, and in general by 1100 AD have organized Western Europe into a form that we can recognize, all without any reference to fragments of the letters of Cicero or the collected musings of Aristotle?) This isn’t the time and place for a history lesson, but if you have not already read it, “How the West Won”, Rodney Stark’s excellent survey of the history of Western Civilization ( [26]) , despite some simplification owing to the large topic, is a great place to start.

Prof Stark does an excellent job driving home what has been increasingly clear for some time: (a) that the Roman Empire was a dead weight on progress, a bureaucratic, slave-holding monster which deadened all creative forces, and that the best thing for European Civilization was to have done away with it; and (b) that the so-called Dark Ages were much more dynamic and creative than the old tropes would have you believe. This was the age that abolished slavery, invented the heavy plow, the water wheel, the money economy, and much else (all excellently summarized in Prof Stark’s book, which is not my only source for this – I must confess a rather geeky obsession with late Antiquity and the Dark Ages, particularly the Byzantine Empire, that goes back 40 years – but that’s neither here nor there, Stark is as good a summary as is available.)

I’m spending a bit of time on this because it seems to me that your main thesis is something as follows: a new Dark Age is upon us (!) so it’s time for good people to emulate their ancient forebears, and to patiently cultivate their fields (metaphorically or otherwise), bear their burden, and keep the faith until society is forced to realize the error of its ways and the New Jerusalem (or something) can begin.

But since there was no real ‘Dark Age’ (an age of turmoil, certainly), the metaphor breaks down pretty fast, which leads to the next question: when and where, exactly, was the ‘golden age’ that we have fallen away from? I have racked my brain thinking back to some reasonable example that is not a short term and very local one, and I can’t find one. Medieval Switzerland springs to mind, and maybe medieval Venice, and a few other places. Hardly universals.. Do you have a particular example? I am a very big admirer of George Washington and his immediate successors, and if you were white in America life was certainly better than in Europe (compared to today it was awful) but maybe that’s what you are thinking of.

But wasn’t the United States an Enlightenment project, by the way? You are well aware I’m sure that the Founders were big on the latest 18th century thinking that came to be called the Enlightenment. That big bad Enlightenment that “cut Western man off from his roots in tradition, but failed to produce a binding morality based on Reason alone?” (MacIntyre, quoted by you.) Hmm, tradition.. so, pre-18th century traditions, such as burning heretics, witches, and the rest? Or some other age that I missed? Just prior to the Enlightenment was something called the Age of Absolutism, was that the time? And before that The Wars of Religion, was it then? Or perhaps the age of the consolidation of the big nation states, which in one instance, to pick just one incident among many, led to the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 by their Most Catholic Majesties, Ferdinand and Isabella, was that the time of ‘tradition’?

It was those previous ages that the ‘Enlightenment’ was rebelling against. Calling the Enlightenment a ‘project’ makes it sound like Voltaire and Diderot and Jefferson and Franklin and all the rest had some big meeting in Vegas to discuss grand plans for ‘cutting Western man off from his roots’ rather than on a day by day basis fighting entrenched privilege, ignorance, and prejudice without any idea of what the future held (did they invite Francis Bacon to that meeting? Sure, he was a medieval cleric, but he popularized the empirical method in science, and we all know where _that_ led.)

And is it really true that we can’t tell right from wrong without ‘traditional roots’, whatever those might be? The Golden Rule works pretty well for me and most of the people I know, and I bet it works pretty well for most folks that you know. And it’s nice that Jesus said it, he was an extremely sensible person who I happen to admire very much, but so did many others, so it holds up pretty well world-wide ( [27]).

So I know I’m being perhaps pretty harsh here, but you are a public intellectual by choice, and you posted an article on the Interwebs, so here we are. While I respect your sincerity, the whole thing looks like an exercise in intellectual hand-wringing if not downright intellectual bed-wetting about how “things aren’t how they used to be”. That is correct. They are BETTER for the mass of people in the world. The challenge for ALL of us, Christians like you and secular people like me, is to engage as much as possible with the word to make sure it keeps getting better. It’s better because more people are getting the benefits of economic progress and personal freedom. THOSE are the true heirlooms of western civilization that can be applied to anyone in the world, regardless of faith, gender, or place. But there is much, MUCH more to be done. This is not a time to withdraw because there is too much free porn on the Internet, or because people say things about Christianity that you don’t like. Christians said (and still say, let’s be honest) bad things about other religions all the time (missionaries just don’t take ‘no’ for an answer!) So now it’s come around a bit – boo hoo.

You can’t expect the world to revert back to some mythical past. It isn’t going to happen. I’m not going to tell you about how to practice your faith, but I will say that it seems to me that Christianity eventually attracted the admiration of the big bad Romans because the early Christians were brave. They were out there, engaged, and it was a much, MUCH harder environment than it is now. But they were not trying to convert the entire world, not consciously. Before Constantine, they wanted to be able to practice their faith and get on with their lives and not be harassed or persecuted. It was Constantine who took this eccentric and fairly marginal group and gave it all the pomp and power of the late Roman state. No-one at the time was more surprised than the Christians. But since then, the idea has been that Christianity deserves some very special place in the world, and if it’s not getting it, it must be a new “Dark Age” (which is a very weird and backward thing to say, because the Dark Ages were very good for Christians. So I think you need a new metaphor.)

So, my message is: it’s not a new Dark Age, suck it up, keep calm, carry on.

I hope you don’t find that _too_ arrogant, I’m not trying to be, I’m trying to be frank. I think we are an amazing civilization and can do amazing things, but we all do them in our own way, and all those ways can contribute. Just no dropping out.

Thank you for your time

Tom Jurenka

#15 Comment By Erich Walrath On October 16, 2015 @ 9:59 pm

I don’t see much that is new here. The Catholic Worker Movement fits well within the discussion of a Benedict Option. So does the Sojourner Community in DC. The Jesus People of the ’70’s had their communes. The only difference that I see is a kind of reactionary impulse, specifically concerning LGBT rights. Previous expressions of Christian intentional community were far more optimistic – modeling the Kingdom through service to God and to the surrounding community. I’m certain that it’s not the author’s intention to recommend a sort of fortress mentality – a devolvement of the idea of monasticism into some sort of Christian gated community. But the danger is there.

#16 Comment By David Baltz On November 9, 2015 @ 6:05 pm

The Establishment would like nothing better than to round up all the practicing Christians left in the world and place them in concentration camps for extermination for being the insubordinate obstacles to individual freedom that we represent. Since that is not a practical option at this point, why not convince them to voluntarily place themselves in ‘communities’ which will make easy targets for Predator drone strikes!

I wonder whether St. Benedict had this in mind when he hid out in the mountains, but in our modern surveillance state, there will be no hiding of Christian communities–anywhere in the world!

When the whole Leviathan comes crashing down though, the masses will have no where to turn but back to God–and His people–who have the answers to life and happiness. This will most easily occur if those people are still their neighbors.

#17 Comment By Jim O’Donnell On December 12, 2015 @ 7:34 pm

The true historical antecedent for the Benedict option was the Donatist movement in north Africa. They well knew that secular authority, professedly Christian, and the majority Christian church were out to persecute them in their pursuit of the authentic message of Christianity. They were, arguably, correct and were suppressed by a mix of imperial authority and Christian hierarchy, led by Augustine. Are they a model to imitate?

#18 Comment By Jim O’Donnell On March 10, 2016 @ 10:34 am

The problem is in the first paragraph. Nothing AM says there would be accepted as fact by living scholars of late antiquity. He represents an early 20th century Catholic romanticization of the period and the people, but it wasn’t how he says it was. By all means act out the fantasy, but don’t claim Benedict as its patron saint.

#19 Comment By Martin B On March 14, 2016 @ 2:01 pm

Tom Jurenka, thank you for taking the time to type up exactly how I feel.

#20 Comment By Jonathan On April 5, 2016 @ 8:08 am

I recently posted a comment on my understanding of the Benedict Option.

[28]

If any of you readers have the time or inclination to read and comment, I would be happy to discuss at (even) greater length.

#21 Comment By Michael On April 11, 2016 @ 11:41 am

There’s just one problem with these Ben Op communities. It’s called Islam. As the ambient culture falls apart, Plan Obama kicks in, the Muslim Brotherhood takes America and wipes what’s left of Christianity from the map.

#22 Comment By David Townsend On April 29, 2016 @ 6:42 pm

Mr. Dreher, thank you for discussing the Benedict Option; it was new to me. However, I think I see a precursor plan in the little book “Walled Towns” (1919) by Ralph Adams Cram. Cram was bemoaning certain disastrous aspects of modernity, in the light of the recent Great War. He proposed that like-minded (Christian) families retreat to intentional communities and practice right living and working.

Regardless of the accuracy of his views of history, or of the practicality of his suggestions, one can certainly enjoy his prose:

“The soul is not forever engaged in the graceful industry of building for itself ever more stately mansions; it is quite as frequently employed in defiling and destroying those already built, and in substituting the hovel for the palace.”

“It is not sufficient to hate the tawdry and iniquitous fabrications of the camp-followers of democracy; the gross industrial-financial system of ‘big business’ and competition, with the capital versus labour antithesis it has bred. It is not enough to curse imperialism and materialism and the quantitative standard. There must be some vision of the plausible substitute, and while this must determine itself slowly, through many failures, and will in the end appear as a by-product of the spiritual regeneration that must follow once the real religion and a right philosophy are achieved, there must be a starting somewhere.”

Cheers!

#23 Comment By Regan Hines On May 12, 2016 @ 12:15 pm

Those interested in the conversation about the Benedict Option might find this interesting.

From Fr. Stephen Freeman’s blog, Glory to God for All Things:

“The notion popularized in the eponymous book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, does not exaggerate the importance and the role played by monastics. Today’s conversations surrounding the “Benedict Option,” are referring to an essential part of this monastic role. Frankly, I do not think anything less than a radical renewal and growth of monasticism within Orthodoxy will meet the crisis of the coming deluge.

It is exciting to me that people want to study and understand this part of Orthodoxy, whether among the Celts, the Brits, the Russians, Greeks or whomever. The suburbanized consumer Church of contemporary Christianity is a vanguard of failure and apostasy. Civilization needs saving yet again.”

[29]

#24 Comment By Fr Stephen Petrica On May 20, 2016 @ 11:29 am

I don’t know what it will look like, but I think [lower-case “o”] orthodox Jews will also have a place in the Benedict Option.

#25 Comment By Robert Widdowson On June 3, 2016 @ 12:18 am

Very thought-provoking article. As an armchair historian, I’ve been fascinated by St Benedict and the monastic system for some time now. And have seen it as a possible viable alternative for some Christians in the future.

The past may teach us a great deal about possible future courses to be taken. For instance, a monastery of the past never (or rarely) existed in isolation, but was part of a network of like-minded monasteries that crossed national boundaries.

Many monasteries had ‘professional’ monks (who dedicated themselves to the monastic life and lived on site) as well as laymen (who affiliated with the monastic life but may have lived outside the monastery).

Also, some monastic orders held conferences (annually or semi-annually) that included reps from all the monasteries in their order. The reps shared ideas and kept each other abreast of new developments in the world. In other words, they were international organizations that were very coherent as well as entrepreneurial.

Finally, some (most?) of the successful monasteries were engaged in the local community at the same time as they maintained their exclusive, inner community. In other words, they chose to interact with the world during the day, but retired to their tight-knit and like-minded community in the evening.

They were not afraid of the world, they just didn’t trust it wholeheartedly. Instead, they trusted their fellow monks.

#26 Comment By Bob On August 24, 2016 @ 10:23 am

The Bible actually instructs all Christians to be separated from culture. “Be ye holy, for I am holy” “Follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see God.” The literal meaning of the word that’s translated as “holy” is “separated”.

Personally, I left a typically sleepy evangelical church at age 16 to become an Apostolic (holiness) Pentecostal. (Think “Kim Davis”, Kentucky county clerk) I left because my former church was less interested in following the commands of Scripture than they were getting along with the community. They didn’t want to be too “out of step” with culture. I had had quite enough of culture, and was more than ready to be out of step with it. And I was crazy enough to believe that I should do precisely what Scripture instructs, even if it makes me look weird.

Since then I’ve seen a lot of criticism sent our way, much of it from “orthodox” Christianity. We’re too extreme, too out-of-step with our culture to be of any meaningful influence. We’re Pharisees and legalists because we think that we’re supposed to actually “do what the Bible says to do.” (Apparently “salvation by grace, not of works” means that Christians get to do whatever in the world they want to, the law of sowing and reaping having been long ago repealed.)

And yet, while most normal churches have plateaued or declined, our numbers are growing rapidly. I think it’s precisely BECAUSE we unashamedly adopt Scripture’s counter-cultural “old fashioned” instructions for how to live and behave. I thinks it’s because we embrace the idea that the Scripture has veto authority over the culture and not vice-versa. After all, what’s the point of conversion if it makes no real changes in the life of the converted?

So while we don’t move to remote enclaves (we are to be “in the world but not of the world”, right?) we remain holy (separated) to God. You can tell by our actions, our appearance, our life choices, and our families. Our men look like men and adopt male Scriptural roles. Our ladies look like ladies and adopt female Scriptural roles.

And anyone can do that. You don’t have to move to a compound. You just have to be crazy enough to live how the Bible says to live, and look how the Bible says to look. Embrace what the Scripture calls holy, reject what the Scripture calls profane. And be ready to disregard all criticism, both from outside and inside of “Christianity.”

You’ll find yourself plenty-separated indeed.

#27 Comment By Maurice Hagar On October 22, 2016 @ 1:06 pm

I think The Community of Jesus is another example: [30].

#28 Comment By Joshua Chamberlain On November 4, 2016 @ 9:37 am

Evangelizing? Everybody in the world, including people from China and India, have heard of Jesus. People choose not to be Christians not because they don’t know what it is but because they have no interest in it.

#29 Comment By Jane Jimenez On February 27, 2017 @ 4:45 pm

Whew! My copy of “The Rule of St. Benedict” is 96 pages containing its 73 Chapters. MacIntyre and his constituents take 10 times that number of pages to “talk about” Benedict versus to “live the life” of Benedict.

As a former protestant turned Catholic, I suggest that modern secular (Protestant) attempts to follow the way of Benedict are doomed to failure for the very reasons that have splintered God’s church since the Reformation. Authority.

While the Benedictines were and are tremendously successful in living out “The Rule,” they suffer the regular human frailties that plague each of us.

Give 100 Benedictine Monks the right to individual interpretation of their Rule and God’s Truth…and you will have 100 angry Monks leaving to start their own monasteries.

The glue for their community? Submission to “The Rule.” And…their submission to the ones who oversee their community in light of their Rule…their Abbot, their Bishop, and the Pope. Interpretation has to have a backstop somewhere or we all become our own masters…the very same modern world from which MacIntyre wants to escape.

Aye…there’s the rub. Anyone willing to submit? If so, to whom might you submit? Luther was aghast at the divisions that followed his singular lead to break from the Pope. From his reformation, Luther expected 2 churches, his church and the Catholic. He was greatly disturbed when Calvin broke “from the first break.” Today we have 40,000 breaks, 39,999 more than Luther envisioned.

I love the fact that MacIntyre is generating consideration of the modern problem and further questions. I will continue to follow these discussions. But anyone who wants to suggest a Benedictine solution would do well to live the Benedictine life for several years.

#30 Comment By mary salmond On March 13, 2017 @ 10:56 pm

If we were starting our family, or if our adult children were young, we would move to Clear Creek, Oklahoma in a heart beat. Love the idea. When Western civilization was struggling, the monasteries were centers of education, community, and spirituality; however, I’m not sure this is taught in history anymore. Or maybe in one sentence. Read about the Benedict Option and then saw RD on Fox. Thanks.

#31 Comment By judyann zerbo On March 17, 2017 @ 12:40 pm

Thank you to, Bob, who clearly defines the precepts of Christianity. 🙂

#32 Comment By AesopFan On April 9, 2017 @ 10:53 pm

Your Benedict values precisely describe the LDS church organization and much of the doctrine.
Hiding in plain sight?

#33 Comment By Frederick Klippel On May 14, 2017 @ 4:51 pm

Listening intently to a re-broadcast of your March presentation and panel discussion, I applaud your effort, intellect, and desire. There remain caveats, in my opinion, when any entity attempts to reduce God’s wisdom to yet another program.

#34 Comment By Amy On May 21, 2017 @ 1:27 pm

I like your idea of Benedict Option but here’s the thing. What do you do in a world where arch-bishops, bishops and priest are now corrupt? We have a hierarchy and we have an oath of obedience to those above us even if they are going against Christ. So what does an Orthodox Christian do?

#35 Comment By Carolyn Riddle BSCD On July 20, 2017 @ 10:21 pm

There is a community which is living out the Benedict option without calling it that by name, and I am a joyful member. That community is the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, founded by John Michael Talbot. We say that we are Christian from a Catholic base, and Catholic from a Franciscan base. We study Benedict’s Rule, to which our own Scripture Rule is indebted. We have monastics, but the majority of our members (350+ nationwide) live in our own homes and work in the world. Our charisms are prayer, study, penance, solitude, poverty, chastity, and obedience. Our mission is to renew our parishes through presence and service and to evangelize by our quiet witness to faith in a chaotic world. We aim not to be against anyone, but to courageously be “for” what we believe as Christians, speaking truth with love.

#36 Comment By Brandon On August 3, 2017 @ 3:53 pm

The way you describe the Benedict Option reminds me very much of covenant communities. All of them ones I’m aware of have a charismatic basis, but they all involve a pattern of life that includes family meals, small faith/life sharing groups, a commitment to both personal and corporate prayer, a long-term commitment to the community, and a strong commitment to hospitality.

The interesting thing is, the people I know involved in these communities are more joyful, more open to encountering the culture, and have more frequent reception of the Sacraments (I’m Catholic, and most of those I know are Catholic) than the average, devout Catholic that I know.