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On Misreading The Benedict Option

A reader writes:

Tuesday I was having lunch with someone who is a pretty popular blogger. We got to talking about the Benedict Option. He told me two or three problems he had with it. I asked him if he’d read it. He said no he was relying on reviews. I said I thought as much. I said I had read it and what he was criticizing was not what you said. I suggested he read the book. I liked the book.

I find this endlessly frustrating. Why are so many people so eager to see things that are NOT in the book? Why are so many people quick to attribute to me things that I clearly do not believe, and that I explicitly contradict in the book? It’s bizarre.

Here’s a pretty clear summary of the Ben Op’s cultural critique from the popular Evangelical writer Scot McKnight. [1] I smiled at this reference to Jamie Smith’s slimy “review” in the Washington Post:

Facts and interpretations are alarmist according to the eyes of the beholder. I read Smith’s review twice before I read Dreher’s book and Dreher’s book is not recognizable to me in Smith’s review. Hence, I want to give Dreher’s book a fair description.

And McKnight does just that — which doesn’t, of course, prevent some commenters on that post from saying that they haven’t read the book, but it seems to them that … and off they go accusing me of advocating things I do not advocate.

The National Review piece by Rachel Lu  [2] is a great example of this — better than most, because it is pretty clearly not written from a malicious point of view. Rather, it’s the view of a very smart person and a good writer who seems to have worked exceptionally hard to miss the point. Excerpt:

Worldly withdrawal is a hard row to hoe, which is why we probably needn’t worry too much that droves of Americans will suddenly decide to “go Benedict.” There will never be so very many who want to give up modern comforts and securities to become turnip farmers, and it’s not necessarily bad to have a few. Traditionalist experimentation can yield benefits for society, just as other forms of innovation can be beneficial. Tiny, traditionalist communities may succeed in uncovering or preserving certain salutary truths that have been lost to the culture at large. In any case, a free society should be able to make room for a few such endeavors.

Right, because if there’s one thing that The Benedict Option [3] preaches, it’s that everybody should all rusticate themselves and become turnip farmers for Jesus. Good grief. For the record, here is one of many passages from the actual book in which I refute this lazy caricature — in this case, by quoting someone living out a Benedict Option:

“Ultimately I think Christians have to understand that yes, we have to be countercultural, but no, we don’t have to run away from the rest of society,” he says. “We have to be a sign of contradiction to the surrounding society, but at the same time we have to be engaged with that society, while still nurturing our own community so we can fully form our children.”

Another Lu passage:

The Benedict Option was controversial in large part because religious conservatives are already very attracted to quietist modes of thought. Quietism, a posture of spiritual detachment, has appeared in various forms throughout Christian history and culture. It gains force when a culture is in decline or elites become overtly hostile to Christianity. Withdrawal holds appeal, not only because the world is hard but also because Christians believe themselves to be the inheritors of a rich tradition that promises something better. To Christian faithful, life is first and foremost a quest for eternal redemption. If the mainstream culture seems uncongenial to that journey, there will always be some who judge it best to give up the fight for the world and to focus instead on forging a less perilous path for themselves and their loved ones.

So the Benedict Option is quietist? That’s not what the actual book says. From The Benedict Option [4]:

The real question facing us is not whether to quit politics entirely, but how to exercise political power prudently, especially in an unstable political culture. When is it cowardly not to cooperate with secular politicians out of an exaggerated fear of impurity—and when is it corrupting to be complicit? Donald Trump tore up the political rule book in every way. Faithful conservative Christians cannot rely unreflectively on habits learned over the past thirty years of political engagement. The times require much more wisdom and subtlety for those believers entering the political fray.

Above all, though, they require attention to the local church and community, which doesn’t flourish or fail based primarily on what happens in Washington. And the times require an acute appreciation of the fragility of what can be accomplished through partisan politics. Republicans won’t always rule Washington, after all, and the Republicans who are ruling it now may be more adversarial to the work of the church than many gullible Christians think.

Many Christians are so discouraged by the political situation that they have resolved to disengage from partisan politics or at least to care less about it than they once did. This need not mean a retreat into quietism. [Emphasis mine — RD]

Later in that chapter, I hold up the late Czech dissident Vaclav Benda, who was a Catholic, as as an example of Christian engagement in a post (or anti) Christian environment:

At serious risk to himself and his family (he and his wife had six children), Benda rejected ghettoization. He saw no possibility for collaboration with the Communists, but he also rejected quietism, considering it a failure to display proper Christian concern for justice, charity, and bearing evangelical witness to Christ in the public square. For Benda, Havel’s injunction to “live in truth” could only mean one thing: to live as a Christian in community.

Benda did not advocate retreat to a Christian ghetto. He insisted that the parallel polis must understand itself as fighting for “the preservation or the renewal of the national community in the widest sense of the word—along with the defense of all the values, institutions, and material conditions to which the existence of such a community is bound.

I personally think that a no less effective, exceptionally painful, and in the short term practically irreparable way of eliminating the human race or individual nations would be a decline into barbarism, the abandonment of reason and learning, the loss of traditions and memory. The ruling regime—partly intentionally, partly thanks to its essentially nihilistic nature—has done everything it can to achieve that goal. The aim of independent citizens’ movements that try to create a parallel polis must be precisely the opposite: we must not be discouraged by previous failures, and we must consider the area of schooling and education as one of our main priorities.

From this perspective, the parallel polis is not about building a gated community for Christians but rather about establishing (or reestablishing) common practices and common institutions that can reverse the isolation and fragmentation of contemporary society. (In this we hear Brother Ignatius of Norcia’s call to have “borders”— formal lines behind which we live to nurture our faith and culture—but to “push outwards, infinitely.”) Benda wrote that the parallel polis’s ultimate political goals are “to return to truth and justice, to a meaningful order of values, [and] to value once more the inalienability of human dignity and the necessity for a sense of human community in mutual love and responsibility.”

In other words, dissident Christians should see their Benedict Option projects as building a better future not only for themselves but for everyone around them. That’s a grand vision, but Benda knew that most people weren’t interested in standing up for abstract causes that appealed only to intellectuals. He advocated practical actions that ordinary Czechs could do in their daily lives.

How anybody can read these passages (to say nothing of the rest of the book) and conclude that I am advocating Christian quietism is beyond my ability to comprehend. There’s more:

Personality cults come and go, but the Jewish carpenter has held strong for nearly two millennia, today claiming almost 40 times as many living followers as voted for Trump in the last election. The lamb may look vulnerable, but he’s proven to be very resilient.

The book is explicitly about Christianity in the West, not global Christianity. To fail to see that and to acknowledge it in one’s critique is a fundamental failure as a reader. More:

Quietist-type thinking trains us to look on our culture with an eye only for the things we cannot change. Dreher traces our current malaise back to philosophical errors deep within the modern psyche, although at the same time he also blames Christians for their own downfall, contending that they were too willing to sell their birthright for short-term political victories. Our current struggles, it seems, were somewhat inevitable; nevertheless, in Dreher’s view, we should blame ourselves and don sackcloth.

At this point I wonder: what on earth is wrong with this reviewer? The Benedict Option [4] is filled with practical examples of all kinds of Christians doing things to counter the spirit of the age. Rachel Lu is having an argument with a book that does not exist except in her imagination — and she is far from the only reviewer doing so. The reader who sent me the Lu piece adds:

I’m assuming she read it. I’m also assuming she is young, and sees the political sphere as a worthwhile arena for her efforts. But for some reason they just don’t get it. Not sure how else you can say it.

It’s like she was a liturgical traditionalist and thought Gregorian chant was the cat’s meow, and decided to start a traveling mission to bring it to parishes across America, but showed up at the first place and everyone realized she had no musical training. Could not sing. Could not play. Could not read music. Could not conduct. Sorry Rachel, you need to know how to do Gregorian chant to infuse the culture with Gregorian chant.

Or if she saw a great need for a soup kitchen and gathered up 100 volunteers, who showed up to discover no food, no money, no plates, no kitchen. Sorry. You aren’t prepared to embark on the mission you propose.

And that to me is the central critique. Of the BenOp.

Maybe I’m drunk. Or everyone else is. But this constant misreading seems to me like a pretty bad sign.

You say, hey, the music at this church needs work. Nobody can sing. Nobody can play. The organ is broke. Luckily we have a strong tradition. Let’s get some people trained up. Let’s raise some money and fix the organ. It’s important.

Response: Dreher hates music! He says stop singing. He says everything is wrong. Alarmism! Music is important! It’s a crucial ministry! What about St. Cecilia!? Let’s resist his urge to turn away from music and keep playing!

Dreher: But I love music. I’m saying you aren’t doing real music because the organ is broke and if it weren’t nobody could play it anyway, and…

Response: Music hater!

Yep.

Look, don’t misunderstand: I hope everyone will like the book, but I am certainly aware that folks will have principled objections to parts of it, or all of it. That’s fine. That’s normal. What frustrates me are these people who seriously mischaracterize the book and its claims and contentions. I had a brief exchange on Twitter over the weekend with a self-styled Christian educator who dismissed the book entirely. When I asked him if he had read it, he did not respond, only redoubled his criticism.

If you have decided that The Benedict Option [4] is all wrong, but you have not read the book, only read reviews of it, then you may be making a big mistake. Read it for yourself and make up your own mind. If you want a short, accurate description of its basic claim, read this Scot McKnight blog entry [1]. McKnight seems to be writing a series of blog posts describing the book (here’s part 2 [5]), and I assume he will make his own judgment of it. I will be eager to read what he has to say. Though he is so far only really summarizing it, the accuracy with which he states the book’s argument and claims is hopeful. Even if he doesn’t agree, ultimately, I’m grateful for the clarity McKnight brings to the discussion.

As Maggie Gallagher said in the comments here, she has big problems with the book, but she says I ask all the right questions. I appreciate that. If others have better answers to those questions, then I surely want to hear them. My future as a Christian and the future of my descendants depends on it.

(Hey, readers, I’m about to head for the airport to pick up J.D. Vance, and then go on into New Orleans for the event tonight. I won’t be able to approve comments for most of today. Please be patient.)

75 Comments (Open | Close)

75 Comments To "On Misreading The Benedict Option"

#1 Comment By Poop the Potato On April 18, 2017 @ 2:06 pm

Somewhat unrelated, but if you haven’t seen this Good Housekeeping article yet, it’s basically everything you’ve been warning about:

I Had 4 Boys — Until One of Them Told Me She Was Really a Girl

I was raised as a devout, conservative Christian with strong Republican values in the South. It’s a place where being different can not only be unforgiving, but unsafe. I was, and am, an active member of our local church. I used to lead a small ministry teaching Bible study, and I didn’t support or condone those living the LGBTQ lifestyle. That was just part of the Christian makeup I’d been brought up to believe. I knew I’d instill those same principles in my children. But all of my beliefs and convictions were brought into question when, at 18 months old, Kai began exhibiting very strong female characteristics.

[6]

#2 Comment By Ted King On April 18, 2017 @ 2:09 pm

I watched the discussion about the book at the Union League Club on C-Span last night. I did not care for that black lady’s perspective. She seemed to have a chip on her shoulder. She thinks we shouldn’t be concerned with western Civilization because it’s white. What if one of the panelists had said Africa didn’t matter?
She also said that young people don’t get Christianity because it opposes homosexuality. Most young people were not raised in the faith and need to be educated in the truth of Christianity.

#3 Comment By hstrom On April 18, 2017 @ 2:13 pm

Typing doesn’t keep up with thought, and mistakes get made. Duplicate post with errors corrected.

I am going to have to check out your book from the library to read it all, but I did watch a CSPAN program last night in which you and several people including Michael Ware and the fellow from the NY Times you talk about all the time, Ross Douthat(?) discussed the book. And I think that I was able to glean a bit more about it. But I think, from what I can tell, that you either missed a bit in your logical presentation or you emphasized some things that didn’t need to be, and deemphasized some things that should not have been. I’ll be able to tell more when I read it. I did see that it is a #1 best seller whatever that means. Is that based on actual sales or book orders or copies printed? I never know. At any rate, I will read it all eventually; and I have followed what you have written here about it – sometimes agreeing and sometimes not. I suppose the biggest issue or question I want to delve into is your view of cultural Christianity. I am a big fan of Francis Schaeffer, though he was really before my time in terms of an adult understanding of the world. And I think he was probably one of the first, or certainly most well-known evangelicals to write about the church and its prognosis in a post-Christian or post-modern country or era according to his understanding. I think it all hinges on worldview – what it means to be human, and the logical consistency of objective truth or really, objective morality. The first great countermove has to be in defining and emphasizing Truth as it has always been acknowledged. Anyway, you should be proud – your efforts resulted in the Best Seller, though God knows (through these blog pages) you always seemed to be confronting some sleep-deprived illness as you wrote.

#4 Comment By TA On April 18, 2017 @ 2:58 pm

There is one other explanation for this. She is writing for the National Review. Both she and the Review are strong advocates for very active conservative engagement and action across all aspects of government with the goal of governmental and cultural conservative dominance.

From where she sits (intellectually), your position is a long ways off and in the direction of quietism.

Is quietism the correct label for your position? Nope.

Are your position and quietism both so far from her position that they appear almost indistinguishable from her vantage point? Yep.

#5 Comment By Vic McCracken On April 18, 2017 @ 3:26 pm

I’m reading the book right now, spurred in large part by critiques I’ve read. There are parts of the book that resonate with me. Its a sort of Hauerwas/Willimon for the evangelical crowd in my view. However, I think Dreher misconstrues the tone of his own book when he argues at the beginning that he is not offering a “decline-and-fall lament.” There are parts of the book that come across in just that way. The first chapter relies on a flood metaphor to describe Dreher’s feelings about where we are now. In chapter 4, the metaphor is an earthquake, a metaphor he returns to in his conclusion. In chapter 5 the metaphor is cancer. The six-part story of western civilization (chapter 2) is structured as a decline story.

I also find some of the evidence Dreher employs to justify his critique to entail a very poor reading of sources. For example, Dreher lifts one sentence from the majority decision in Casey v. Planned Parenthood (1992) as evidence of a “radical, even nihilistic, conception of freedom” borne by the Sexual Revolution. This reading prompted me to go back and reread Kennedy’s opinion, and I’m at a loss to see how Dreher could find Kennedy’s opinion evidence of moral nihilism. The larger point of the sentence that worries Dreher (the sentence: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life”) is that in a community in which there are widely divergent conceptions of the good liberty entails that the state refrain from imposing a particular conception in the form of coercive public policy. The “right to define one’s own concept of existence” is not a metaphysical claim by the Court; it is a claim about what states may rightly do given the reality of reasonable pluralism.

The fuller context will make the point clear, from the majority ruling: “Our law affords constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education. Carey v. Population Services International, 431 U.S., at 685 . Our cases recognize the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child. Eisenstadt v. Baird, supra, 405 U.S., at 453 (emphasis in original). Our precedents “have respected the private realm of family life which the state cannot enter.” Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 166 (1944). These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.”

#6 Comment By Sam M On April 18, 2017 @ 3:33 pm

TA:


Is quietism the correct label for your position? Nope.

Are your position and quietism both so far from her position that they appear almost indistinguishable from her vantage point? Yep.”

Not sure about that. She is a philosophy professor at a Catholic university. She uses the capital-Q quietism, which has a very specific meaning. I’m pretty sure she’s aware of the various forms it might take.

#7 Comment By dennis On April 18, 2017 @ 3:54 pm

Once posers read reviews to join the conversation…now reviewers are posing.

#8 Comment By mwing On April 18, 2017 @ 4:48 pm

I think it’s the title. Your commenters have been telling you this ever since you started the project: If you don’t want people to think it’s a “head for the hills” message, don’t name it after someone who DID JUST THAT.

Oh well, anyway, good luck. I hope you sell lots of books!

#9 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 18, 2017 @ 5:14 pm

I did not care for that black lady’s perspective.

When you can give “that black lady” a name, and a bit of background on who and what she represents, what follows might be worth listening to. As Langston Hughes pointed out through the mouth of his beloved fictional character, Jesse B. Semple, “There are fifty eleven different kinds of Negroes in the USA.”

But all of my beliefs and convictions were brought into question when, at 18 months old, Kai began exhibiting very strong female characteristics.

I don’t in the least argue that sexuality can be somewhat fluid or tangled. But its a medical diagnosis, to be approached individually as such, not a cause celebre that requires earnest attention from the entire community at all times.

The world needs Christianity, but the world doesn’t need to be Christian.

Amen to that.

#10 Comment By Ken’ichi On April 18, 2017 @ 5:26 pm

You speak of being “about establishing (or reestablishing) common practices and common institutions”, but what do you do when the hostile state and culture outlaw those “common practices” and dismantle those “common institutions”?

#11 Comment By Brendan On April 18, 2017 @ 5:49 pm

I think it’s quite possible that some reviewers are deliberately being deceptive about the content of The Benedict Option, in order to discourage people from reading it. It’s a dangerous book.

@Susan —

I would say that it’s probably not deliberate deception, but that it’s being read a certain way because for people who are rather deeply committed to the cultural warfare aspect of things, it’s most certainly a very dangerous book. They are worried that if too many people take it seriously, their “ground troops” will be thinned out, and their efforts undermined. I think that fear is a real one, and it’s led to various relatively harsh perspectives on the premise and ideas of the book from very engaged social and religious conservatives. I think they’re fine if it results in a small group of “eccentric traditionalists”, Lu’s turnip farmers for Jesus. If it gets bigger and more influential, I think they’re rather frightened that this could undermine their entire cultural warfare effort, and so of course that is a major threat to people who have devoted their lives to that conflict.

#12 Comment By dfb On April 18, 2017 @ 6:00 pm

Dr. McKnight posted again regarding the Benedict Option today:

[7]

I found the following particularly pertinent:

“When I heard of this book and when I opened it I expected to read about Ave Maria University in Ave Maria FL, a community Kris and I wandered around one day. Not a word. Nor does it seem to me Dreher sees Ave Maria as what he’s on about. From my reading he imagines Christians remaining where they are but forming tighter fellowship with other like-minded Christians in their community. Unlike the Essenes of Qumran they are like the Pharisees of Galilee. (I know many see the word ‘Pharisee’ and think ‘negative.’ Forgive me, but I don’t. The Pharisees remained where they were and lived in their community according to their own rule of life, the Torah interpreted.)”

I am not yet through the book, but the comparison to Pharisee communities has occurred to me more than once as I read, as the comparison occurred to me occasionally reading the blog over time. I also agree with Dr. McKnight’s inclination not to view Pharisees negatively. The Hillel Option, perhaps:

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and learn.”

#13 Comment By mwing On April 18, 2017 @ 7:08 pm

I think a lot of your commenters are saying useful things! Brendan, about the phrase Benedict Option becoming a sort of meme that is not under your control. Several people, that “I don’t like it but I’m having a hard time articulating why and I have a tight deadline” leads to non- useful reviews.

Also, sort of related, is the issue that some reviewers do not really review the book they are reading, but rather compare it to the book they think you ought to have written instead. This is in all media. For example, I liked the movie “Chasing Madoff” (I was financial crimes hobbyist, if there is such a thing), I even liked its amatuerishness, as being in a weird way appropriate for the subject matter. But it got a lot of eh-poor reviews. I read some, after seeing it, and a common thread was the complaint that this was not a comprehensive documentary about what Madoff had done. Well, it wasn’t meant to be, it was a documentary largely about the mental state of a guy who’d figured out what Madoff had done while he was still doing it, but couldn’t convince anyone who mattered. I remember thinking, review the thing you’ve got, made for its own purpose, not the thing you think they ought to have made, for some different (and to reviewer) more important purpose.
Well, I’m not your intended audience, but I wish you all luck and sucess with this.

#14 Comment By Vm On April 18, 2017 @ 7:20 pm

Good article.

#15 Comment By Jeff On April 18, 2017 @ 8:53 pm

Rod, isn’t it mostly the fact that you called this “The Benedict Option” the reason people keep misjudging your book: because most cultured folk also misjudge Benedictines in particular and monasticism in general as “merely” withdrawal. Which it is not, but try explaining that to a progressive Protestant, let alone a liberal secularist.

That’s what I see going on in the mis-perceptions common in non-reading reviews of your book — they just make the New Math shortcut of “Benedict equals monks equals withdrawal” and proceed from there.

OTOH, if you get what most monastic orders are up to, you have no problem following MacIntyre’s point and your development of it. Or so I read the state of play.

#16 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 18, 2017 @ 9:20 pm

Post-modern deconstruction, which almost all reviewers now alive were marinated in, and acceded to in most cases in order to easily graduate, means a text has whatever meaning that the reader wishes to assign it. Isn’t that the overriding spirit of our age, that contra Schlesinger, everyone has a right to his own facts?

#17 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 18, 2017 @ 9:22 pm

Congratulations on having a NYT #1 best seller! Although I’m not sure you’re in good company. 🙂

[NFR: Alas, it didn’t make it to No. 1, only to No. 7 — but that still qualifies it as a NYT Best Seller™! — RD]

#18 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 18, 2017 @ 9:32 pm

“We can’t even agree that vaccines are good anymore as some very stubborn ignorants are hell bent on bringing back the pathological evils of the past.”

There are some huge problems with the way the federal fund that is supposed to pay for vaccine injuries is being administered. There are indeed such injuries and the victims do not suffer trivially. And as usual, the drug companies are pursuing profit at the expense of careful safety and efficacy vetting, in the firm belief that if something is worth doing, it is worth overdoing.

TAC published a thoughtful account of the issues involved, in which Big Pharma is not a benign force interested purely in health.

#19 Comment By Elijah On April 19, 2017 @ 7:48 am

I imagine the most frustrating thing about reviewers who don’t “get” the book are the ones who haven’t even read it. Hard for me to understand someone who publicly comments on a book they haven’t even skimmed!

On Easter Sunday our priest mentioned Smith Magazine and the six-word-memoir which got me to thinking about our reactions to ideas that are important to us in some ways. And I thought that the “right” response to the Gospel of Christ’s Resurrection is “What will you do about it?”

There’s all kinds of things in the BenOp that I can’t and won’t do, but the doesn’t prevent me from recognizing all the good ideas. So it moves me to think “What can I do right now?” If we stop and think about that question, we can all find at least a little something we can do to build up our local Christian communities.

I am a big believer in the maxim “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” We need to start somewhere.

In this case, start by actually reading The Benedict Option!

#20 Comment By Rob G On April 19, 2017 @ 8:39 am

“…is making me suspicious of the reliability of reviews in general.”

I have a friend who used to be the book review editor of a prominent magazine. He said that it was very common for a reviewer to read only a book’s intro and conclusion, if that, and use that as a basis for the review. In his experience reviewers who read entire books weren’t all that common.

I remember posting something last year about the critics at the time who were complaining that the BenOp wasn’t detailed enough, and needed to have more of a “program.” This struck me as largely an excuse to disregard it. Now that the book is out, and the thing has appeared in black and white, some of those very same critics are now misreading it and thus very much misinterpreting the “program” they were crying about wanting back then.

Makes me think that for certain people, to paraphrase Chesterton, the book has not been read and found wanting, it’s been found challenging and not read. If you start following BenOp practices in your life, in one way or another it will cost you, and some folks just don’t want that, seeing it as, if not out-and-out legalism, a species of “Eat your veggies!”

#21 Comment By Franklin Evans On April 19, 2017 @ 10:01 am

Ken’ichi:

You speak of being “about establishing (or reestablishing) common practices and common institutions”, but what do you do when the hostile state and culture outlaw those “common practices” and dismantle those “common institutions”?

I have a personal answer to that, and it is fully informed by history both objective and personal:

You go about finding accommodations, and when you can’t find them or they are denied to you or sabotaged, you search for alternatives up to and if necessary including exile.

The Jewish Diaspora should be the perfect example there. I’m the product of both “branches” of it — maternal line Ashkenazi, paternal line Sephardic — and the evidence of uncounted accommodations are clearly behind the differences between those lines in worship practices, cultural markers and even language.

That history is also rife with examples of the loss of practices and institutions to hostile states.

I do not draw any sort of connection or analogy between the Benedict Option and the Jewish experience. I do believe there are valid and constructive comparison points to be examined.

#22 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 19, 2017 @ 10:11 am

You speak of being “about establishing (or reestablishing) common practices and common institutions”, but what do you do when the hostile state and culture outlaw those “common practices” and dismantle those “common institutions”?

We have deeply rooted traditions in this country about how to handle that. When its a real “common practice” and “common institutions,” not merely someone with a bit of hubris trying to wrap themselves in the flag, the hostile state and culture tend to lose. (With a little help from our friends, as in, half the British public and not a few in parliament, even a fair number in the officer corps, were more or less in support of the revolution).

In case you should care to mention our Civil War, from my ancestors’ perspective, southern unionists were fighting for our common institutions against a hostile upstart state of limited duration.

#23 Comment By Sam M On April 19, 2017 @ 2:12 pm

mwing:

“don’t name it after someone who DID JUST THAT.”

But he didn’t. I live in a town that was founded by Benedictines. Sustained by Benedictines. The Benedictines started the schools and ran the hospital out of their convent when the community hospital burned down.

Benedictines have been a model of preservation, sure, but also a model of engagement, education, hospitality and evangelization.

#24 Comment By Ken’ichi On April 20, 2017 @ 5:42 pm

>>Franklin Evans

You go about finding accommodations, and when you can’t find them or they are denied to you or sabotaged, you search for alternatives up to and if necessary including exile.

Can you be more clear what by “accomodations” you mean? And what alternatives does one have, when the state says “do this or die”, or “do that and we’ll kill you”? When forced to trample the fumi-e, what alternative or “accomodation”? As for “exile”, exile to where? If the day comes when “small-o orthodox” BO Christians must flee America, where can they flee to?

>>Siarlys Jenkins

With a little help from our friends… not a few in parliament, even a fair number in the officer corps, were more or less in support of the revolution

Exactly, you “won” the “revolution” because plenty of (treasonous) elites were on your side. When the elites all side against you, as they do here, you lose.

#25 Comment By Franklin Evans On April 22, 2017 @ 1:23 pm

Ken’ichi,

I don’t mean to brush off your question, but it truly depends on circumstances. I can cite some from my family history.

My Jewish mother and her family were residents of Zagreb during the advent of the Ustaši government, who were in the process of “cleansing” Croatia of all undesirables, including Jews, Roma, Muslims and Serbs. Look up their version of the Nazi death camps, Logor Jasenovac.

Archbishop of Zagreb Aloysius Stepinac personally made it possible for them to escape, and leading up to that point were a series of increasingly oppressive edicts towards Jews, notably curfews that eventually made my grandfather’s ability to practice dentistry nearly impossible. My mother’s maternal uncles operated a store in Zagreb, and it was eventually put out of business and confiscated.

Please note that they were not to that point directly aware of what was actually happening in Germany, Austria and Poland. We can say in hindsight that they waited almost fatally too long to flee. They simply accepted the growing oppression and tried to continue their lives as best they could, that being just one example of what I meant with “accommodations”.

I caution you against trying to debate the extreme scenarios. The first reason is for the “what-if” fallacy, not meaning to demean your question, but to assert that we cannot know if such extremes will come to pass, and what attempts to prevent them might transpire first.

The second reason is entirely personal. I am already committed to placing my self, my voice and my fortune against the march towards those extremes. If my efforts can contribute to preventing them, they will not happen.