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A Russian Takes On The Benedict Option

Editors’ note: The original version of Boris Mezhuev’s essay was published in the Russian magazine Intelligence + (Ум +).  Paul Grenier’s translation is based on that text but includes a few small clarifications for an American audience by Mezhuev.

In the article Party Organization and Party Literature, Lenin made the well-known pronouncement that “you cannot at one and the same time both live in society and yet be free from society.” For many years, in the USSR, this phrase was repeated like a mantra without anyone giving much thought about its meaning, and yet the time has now come to reflect on the truth of Vladimir Ilyich’s conclusion for those of us who do not share his atheistic worldview. 

The question is this: Can we live in today’s world, actively participate in its affairs, and at the same time remain Christians, or indeed faithful followers of any traditional confession?

For Russia, this issue might not seem altogether relevant just yet, as we still observe certain formal taboos and haven’t yet lifted certain prohibitions e.g., against same-sex marriages, active promotion of homosexuality in the press, things like child pornography and so forth.

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Meanwhile, in the US this year quite a bit of attention has been generated by a book urging genuine Christians to abandon the struggle to salvage a dying post-Christian world; to instead withdraw to their religious communities, continuing to observe Christian norms and maintaining those prohibitions against which secular society rebels. The book is The Benedict Option, and its author, Rod Dreher, is a religious conservative who writes for The American Conservative.

It was from the book After Virtue (1981), by British philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, that Dreher extracted the idea for his “Benedict Option” the book makes reference to the decision by a Christian saint of the 6th century to leave the decaying society of the fallen Roman Empire in favor of a life of withdrawal in a community of co-religionists.

St. Benedict of Nursia, founder of Catholic monasticism, carried the fire of Christianity’s truth through the “dark ages” of Europe and actually saved Western Civilization from complete decay. The Christians of the modern world, Dreher advises, should do the same.  It is impossible and senseless to struggle against the consequences of the victorious sexual revolution.  The post-Christian world is now a terrifying reality the task of believers today is to leave that world to its own devices and put as much distance as possible between its toxic fumes and Christian community.

Dreher, a Protestant by birth, later converted to Catholicism, from which he then moved, in 2006, to Eastern Orthodoxy — a choice, incidentally, that has been made by many other paleoconservatives. His turn away from Catholicism came about after discovering the strength of the so-called Pedophile Lobby which had tried to hush up the numerous scandals associated with sexual harassment of parishioners by individual priests. It must also be emphasized that, of all the regular writers at The American Conservative, Dreher is the most critical, even to the point of active hostility, toward President Donald Trump. Dreher considers Trump the perfect embodiment of both personal moral debauchery and political braggadocio. A person who promises “to make America great again” but is incapable, even outwardly, of properly controlling his own behavior.  In general, for the author of The Benedict Option, Trump presents evidence plain as day that America is doomed, and that traditional conservatism in the U.S. has let itself fall victim to false temptations.

Dreher does not skimp on making alarmist statements about the consequences of the sexual revolution. From his perspective, the victory of the LGBT community and the legalization of same-sex marriage is not just the opening of Pandora’s box, it’s more like our first direct acquaintance with what that box contained. As one can judge from his current journalistic output and he literally on a daily basis puts out a stream of articles and blog posts on The American Conservative’s website the next step towards the Omega point of the history of Western Civilization will be society’s full acceptance of the idea of “open marriage.”

On May 11 this year, in the New York Times, a thorough journalistic investigation of this very subject was carried out by a Times staff writer named Susan Dominus. In her article, “Is an Open Marriage a Happier Marriage?”, Dominus argues that, in general, yes it is happier, especially in the case where it is the woman who acquires many partners: jealousy spurs the sexual appetite of the man, and the sexual life of the partners comes into a nice balance. In general, all this, of course, is as old as the world, the only new thing here is that these recommendations are appearing not on a porn site, or in a Tinto Brass fan club, but on the pages of a leading liberal American magazine and replete with the latest references to various scientific authorities.

Dreher responded with a sharply critical article of his own, “Perversion as Progress [1],” in which he once again urged his readers and co-religionists to leave this decaying world with its “happy marriages.” And yet, not all of his colleagues agreed with this counsel. Some even pointed to the disappointing statistics, from the perspective of supporters of “open marriage,” that most couples are not yet aiming at opening up their marriages in order to once again experience the joy of vice. In the given case, however, I doubt statistics should serve as our guide. It is clear that a secular society will move in this direction the one indicated by Dominus and Dreher unless cataclysms of some sort don’t first prevent it.

Christianity, when you come right down to it, is really not a very demanding religion. It permits believers to eat pork and drink wine except on days of fast. On lay people it does not impose particularly harsh domestic norms. In fact, the only strictly tabooed side of life in Christianity relates to sexuality. Sex is permissible only in marriage and preferably for the purpose of giving birth to children, while deviations from this norm give rise to various suspicions. For the modern world, such a stance sounds terribly depressing. There are, in fact, two types of attitudes toward Christianity. It is either, as Chesterton once said, “the glad good news” of original sin, or else it is, along with other Abrahamic religions, an apparatus for suppressing something important and necessary in sexual life, something which, apparently, is stifled by traditional marriage and is of little use for the continuation of the species.

Among the things common to all religions is that they all impose taboos on female promiscuity, and on same-sex sex, but it is Christianity that adds that a person is obliged not only externally, but also internally, to be free from attraction to what is prohibited by the tradition. Of course, it is very difficult to achieve this in a world where, out of commercial interests mainly, instincts of every imaginable description have been emancipated. It is easy to sympathize with Dreher, who, seeing no other way out for Christians, recommends self-isolation in closed communities of like-minded people.

Here’s what’s strange, though. It turns out that the “Benedict Option,” in the context of Dreher’s book, operates something like a self-contained metaphor that doesn’t actually require realization in the real world. After all, Dreher is not writing instructions on how to lead a monastic life. He does not demand from his readers that they actually remove to settlements populated only by the faithful, places where neither television nor the Internet will be available any more. It is obvious, to the contrary, that he himself peruses the Internet, and even those newspapers and magazines where they write about love that is “free and pure.” The Benedict Option is nothing more than a person’s self-alienation from the affairs of the surrounding society, a refusal to strive for victory within this society. It is something more like heroic pessimism in the spirit of Max Weber: the world is dying, so let us be the courageous witnesses of its last days, not sharing in hopes for its miraculous salvation. In the aesthetic sense, this position is even very appealing. And yet it provokes questions along ethical lines.

First, is what Dreher talking about here relevant only to the West, or does all of this equally apply to other civilizations? How invulnerable to the threat of “sexual liberation” will remain Russia, China, the Islamic world? Differing answers to these questions will give rise to different options for action different at any rate from the option to which Dreher points. It’s another matter that these actions may not, in themselves, be acceptable to him as a citizen of the U.S. and a member of Western culture but then it becomes a question of making another choice that would also be interesting to discuss: should one remain politically loyal to one’s state even after you notice that it’s well on its way to hell? Personally, I would answer that, if the loyalty still remains even in such a case, then we’re not quite ripe yet for talking about the Benedict Option. It means we are still members of this political community, still accepting political responsibility for it, and its freedom even from more moral, or at any rate less corrupted, foreigners.  

After all, if we considered some other civilization to be more religious and less decadent than our own, shouldn’t we then support increased migration to our country from (for example) places in Latin American and in the Muslim world where the religious worldview still retains its influence?  If, to the contrary, we reject such an approach and make our stand based purely on considerations of ethno-cultural identity  it means our worries have yet to cross the Rubicon separating history from eschatology.

Secondly, Dreher’s position amounts to religious libertarianism as regards his relation to society. Instead of fighting for the dominance of our faith in the public sphere, we are only trying to achieve corporate independence from the pressures of the secular state. Alas, I think this position is strategically untenable. In any case, the legal pressure of the state in relation to religious bodies will exist, and, I must say, this pressure in itself is neither good nor bad. There are different sorts of religious communities, and society cannot always tolerate their internal rules. It is difficult, perhaps impossible to draw the exact dividing line between fair and unfair forms of intolerance. In one religious community, let’s say, all women could be subject to regular beatings on the principle that all of them are known to be sinners by nature. In another religious community women could be forbidden from entering into extramarital affairs, but if they do, they are threatened with divorce and exclusion from their community.

In the first case, Dreher no doubt will agree that the state should intervene and punish the fanatics abusing women. But sooner or later a state that has been abandoned by Christians, and thus left to the whims of “original sin,” will consider the actions of the second religious community to be equally fanatical. Will Dreher find enough lawyers to make him capable of proving the opposite? It seems to me that religious libertarianism is an illusory solution to the ills of postmodern society. For the present, the Benedict Option remains in any case premature.

Alas, for Christians today there are only two options: either this time all metaphors aside to truly enter the monastery, or else continue the fight to save one’s society and preserve, as far as possible, whatever remains within it of tradition. Lenin, it turns out, was right. To live in society and yet be free from society is impossible. One can try to improve it, or if not improve it, then at the least preserve everything best of what remains like the activists in Arkhnadzor, who are trying to save Moscow’s old mansions, though perfectly aware, of course, that the beauty of ancient Moscow has been hopelessly lost.

Which leads us to another problem – will the moral catastrophe brought on by secular civilization truly resemble an invasion by the Goths or Huns? Is secularization in its final act really a scene of devastation and disintegration? In fact, we do not know this there is no guarantee that the future world will be horrible in the literal sense of the word, that those who are there will have to experience sadness and discomfort. We see so many examples, in our mass culture, of the reverse being true that the old conservative fears are gradually departing from the world. In the end, after all, it was much more pleasant to live inside the Matrix than in the “desert of the real.” Secular humanity is not so blind today; to the contrary, the shortsighted ones are those who continue to see in the future only horrors. Secular humanity is moving towards some kind of flickering light; Christians know that this is not the Light that shines in the darkness, but if Christians leave this world, who then will be left to point that out?

If the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.

To my mind, it is in this well-known fragment from the Gospel of Matthew that we find our best answer to the book by an American religious conservative and his call for retreat from frontline positions that are not yet fully overrun.

Paul Grenier translated this piece by Boris Mezhuev, professor of history of Russian philosophy at Moscow State University. He is the editor-in-chief of Politanalitika, a publication of the Institute of Socio-economic and Political Research, and the author, among other works on Russian politics and geo-politics, of Perestroika-2: The Experience of Repetition (Moscow, 2014).

 

26 Comments (Open | Close)

26 Comments To "A Russian Takes On The Benedict Option"

#1 Comment By Chris On June 21, 2017 @ 12:45 am

Very thoughtful observations, thank you for sharing.

#2 Comment By Fran Macadam On June 21, 2017 @ 1:10 am

I sympathize with this take, but I think it makes the all too usual mistake of seeing the Benedict Option as withdrawal. This misunderstanding is likely due to the monastic option implicit in using Benedict as an example confusing the different reality of this century and what is required. Western Christianity has grown tepid and superficial for the most part, a mile wide but an inch deep in either understanding or commitment. My own belief is that Dreher is urging a strengthening of the sincere faith that remains, else it will not survive disfavor and even persecution. That requires a withdrawal from the worldly, if not the world.

But there does remain the acute problem: when discrimination and persecution come for those holding and expressing an unpopular religious commitment, who will offer employment and places to live for those cast to the margins as deplorables? That could only come from those willing to defend them, which would have to be in the main others similarly committed. So building up a faith that believers can sufficiently rely on one another is very important, else there will be no one to defend each as they are picked off one by one. Those who have not engaged in a personal and corporate version of a Benedict Option will not have what’s needed when real trouble falls upon them.

Yet at the same time, this ought not to imply that however we can, we will not give the kind of witness to the world the New Testament commands us to – not to bury our lamps under bushels, but spread the gospel using the appropriate cultural context that is necessary, meaning that to do so one must be engaged. However, Dreher’s advice makes it clear this is not Republicanism as Christianity, nor militaristic flag worship (though sometimes he returns to those former reflexes under duress.)

#3 Comment By PoppaG On June 21, 2017 @ 4:01 am

Great article – just one question:

Why does a Russian author describe St Benedict as the founder of “Catholic monasticism”?

Benedict lived centuries before the schism and innovations of Roman Catholicism; he was an Orthodox saint.

#4 Comment By Rob G On June 21, 2017 @ 7:38 am

This fellow has missed one of the main points of the book, i.e., the idea that the “retreat” being recommended is not a total retreat but a strategic one, and thus temporary (even if open-ended). This oversight seriously undermines the writer’s claim about the BenOp amounting to “religious libertarianism.”

The author otherwise makes some good points, but they aren’t anything that Rod hasn’t previously addressed and in certain instances actually agreed with.

#5 Comment By Howard On June 21, 2017 @ 9:18 am

… should one remain politically loyal to one’s state even after you notice that it’s well on its way to hell? Personally, I would answer that, if the loyalty still remains even in such a case, then we’re not quite ripe yet for talking about the Benedict Option. It means we are still members of this political community, still accepting political responsibility for it, and its freedom even from more moral, or at any rate less corrupted, foreigners.

Direct hit.

“The sixth Deadly Sin is named by the Church Acedia or Sloth. In the world it calls itself Tolerance; but in hell it is called Despair.” — Dorothy Sayers

#6 Comment By Dana Pavlick On June 21, 2017 @ 9:25 am

“Like a eunuch longing to take a girl’s virginity, so is he who uses force to argue cases.” ( Ecclesiastes 20:4 )

The case for sterility worship, implicit in contraceptive and sodomitic acts (as well as usury), the case for pornography, pre-natal infanticide, euthanasia, erasure of legal recognition of sex as binary and whatever else I’ve omitted, every one of these cases has been made on the basis of force: Craven, cynical materialistic governmental representatives imposing social chaos on their citizens on the basis of nothing other than the exercise of raw power. They’re awful brave when they have six media corporations’ suppression of truth to hide behind.

Scripture, as cited above, does not invite a response of either alarmism or defeatism to man’s use of force to argue his case. So far from that, it tells us in no uncertain terms that force rests upon a foundation of impotence.

You cannot get a foundation weaker than that. It falls of its own weight, as anyone who looks these days can see. “When I am strong, then am I weak,” evil testifies.

The only retreat one can intellectually- honestly advocate is participation in the evil itself; hardly participation in its overthrow, Wherher one enlists in the fight either in the contemplative or active branch of service to Truth, is the only question remaining to be answered.

It is not Christ who urges Mr. Dreher’s response of fear-mongering to the culture of death.

#7 Comment By John On June 21, 2017 @ 9:35 am

Professor Mezhuev makes some excellent arguments, but my guess is that he is not completely familiar with just how post-Christian the Western world has become. It is really not so much that people who choose the Benedict Option, or argue for it, are advocating leaving a situation that is in disarray, while there is still hope of righting things, but that society has already left traditional Christian culture and values far behind, in pursuit of Faust’s next temptation.

The discussion is not now “how can we repair the Christian West and keep it running for another generation?” It is really now about the dawning realization that Western Christian society is no longer mainstream, and that authentic Christian practice, has essentially been de facto siloed and become irrelevant. It’s like thinking you need to replace the roof, but finding that the foundation has dropped into a sinkhole, termites have eaten the beams away, and everyone moved out a long time ago.

The nagging question still is whether or not Christians will see true persecution, not just being trampled by arbitrary and ill-considered laws, or called nasty names and made fun of in the popular media. At the same time, I question whether there is enough political clout from Christians left to legally prevent persecution if it were to occur, especially in states and areas that are more “liberal.” My sense, too, is that Christianity is looked on more as an irrelevant antique than a threat worthy of persecution – after all, the cultural war has long since been lost.

The great cities all started as small villages. I believe Rome was once a backwater customs post stuck in the middle of a swamp, early on. We can talk about not being a “city on a hill” anymore, but it took a good 300 years before the city of Christendom was built in the first place. In the meantime, it was kept alive in the basements, upper rooms, and catacombs, just like it probably is going to be a few decades from now.

The other thing is – as authentic Christians, we are called to believe in both a higher power, but also in the struggle of salvation. Perhaps the most valid argument against the Benedict Option is whether or not we would miss chances to reach people and bring them toward the path of salvation. This is the part which I think is most difficult to understand. However, if we let authentic Christianity become TDM, or simply be crushed by secular pressure, then this option is simply not going to be available anyway. In the end, does it matter if Christianity dies out, if there is the promise of the Second Coming? Or is following the “Great Commission” something that requires sheltering our faith while the world chooses wickedness, just as Noah sheltered his family?

At the end of the day, the most compelling argument for the Benedict Option comes down to how we want to raise our children, and how we can help them not go down the hellish path that is being taken by most these days. If we are authentic Christians, then we believe there are objective truths, rights, and wrongs, and cannot bring ourselves to advocate for them. We love the sinner, but hate the sin, and nothing can be a compromise on that. Society has become nothing but compromise, which means we essentially are speaking a completely different language, and there is nothing left to talk about until modernity has burned itself out, just as the culture of degeneracy in Rome burned itself out, and people began to look for truth again.

#8 Comment By John Turner On June 21, 2017 @ 11:49 am

Boris Mezhuev comments on what he clearly misunderstands. Dreher is not recommending that Christians withdraw from society where they can still have useful influence, but he is acknowledging that there are many areas in which we have lost meaningful influence, and there are many areas in which we must resist influences that are alien to our interests.

Two areas in which we have at least temporarily lost meaningful influence are in the government’s regulation of education and in the government’s regulation of marriage. Wherever that government control is being aggressively asserted in ways that deny Christian understandings of proper living, we must find ways around being governed by those rulings. Whatever it takes, in cases where we no longer have the practical liberty we need in order to live faithfully, we must develop our own education systems and our own marriage regulations.

That is not withdrawal; it is merely recognizing that we have been kicked out.

The practical reality of being kicked out of meaningful freedom and influence varies greatly from state-to-state, from community-to-community within any given state, and from education institution to education institution. But the reality of mostly denied religious repression is rapidly spreading like the proverbial heat of the water in the frog kettle. At some point, wise frogs jump out.

Nothing says that, when we jump out of the kettle, we have to withdraw from any productive work for legal, social, educational, etc., change. Withdrawal is no the point.

Forming partnerships with like-minded liberated frogs may look like withdrawal to some, but to the frogs it looks like building toward a better (unstewed) future.

#9 Comment By Alan M. On June 21, 2017 @ 12:08 pm

> will the moral catastrophe brought on by
> secular civilization truly resemble an
> invasion by the Goths or Huns?

You do realize that by the 4th and 5th centuries (the invasions), the Roman Empire had become been solidly Christian in culture, worship, education, and law? And that by then, many of the Northern European invaders (though not the defeated Huns) were Christianized too? Which is why the Church sailed right though relatively unscathed, to rule in the following era? The destruction of Rome was not about secularism on either side.

Such historical ignorance makes me wonder how studiously unmoored from reality the author is about other matters.

#10 Comment By Will Harrington On June 21, 2017 @ 12:19 pm

What Fran said (and well said indeed). The critique offered was not an uncommon one but I have come to believe that it is used as a desperate attempt to avoid dealing with Rod’s basic premise, and lets be clear, it is a straw man. If, however, the critics can convince themselves that they have, by destroying the straw man, refuted Rod’s basic premise, then they are relieved of the hard work necessary in rediscovering what it actually means to live a Christian life in an anti-Christian culture.

#11 Comment By Anne On June 21, 2017 @ 12:27 pm

Mezhuev does point to one rarely noticed inconsistency: If social conservatives are so convinced this society has jumped the tracks by rejecting traditional mores and doomed itself to oblivion, they’re acting against their own interests when they simultaneously stoke resentment and hostility to immigrants from those parts of the world where traditional values hold sway. Only the Catholic bishops seem consistent enough to refrain from alienating the so-called “aliens.”

#12 Comment By JonF On June 21, 2017 @ 2:42 pm

Re: Lenin made the well-known pronouncement that “you cannot at one and the same time both live in society and yet be free from society.”

And yet Jesus instructs us to be “in the world but not of it”. I think his advise carries more weight than old Vladimir Ilyich.

#13 Comment By Joan On June 21, 2017 @ 2:47 pm

Among the things common to all religions is that they all impose taboos on female promiscuity, and on same-sex sex

This is a bit of a stretch. All the major religions impose such taboos, but the way a religion becomes major is by being the official religion of a conquering empire, and the results of these taboos, especially the strenghtening of father-son loyalty and the exclusion of domestic strife (what young people call relationship drama) from the daily life of military units, are advantageous for conquering empires in a practical, earthly way. If a conquering empire doesn’t have these taboos in its religion, it will be out-competed by another of its kind that does have them. 

However, once we look beyond the conquering empires, and especially when we look at those societies that reckon their family lines mother-to-daughter rather than father-to-son, we see something else entirely. These societies, which include most societies native to what is now the United States, had no preference for monogamy and did not identify monogamy with marital fidelity. They did not privilege children born to a married couple over those concieved and borne by a woman not married at the time. A child’s status at birth was inherited from the mother, not the father, so paternity was not a major concern. (I am using the past tense here because all of these societies have been forced by their conquerors to take paternity into consideration to some degree.) They did not enjoy total sexual freedom. The incest taboo loomed larger in most of these societies than it does in ours. The range of possible pairings forbidden was wider and the punishments harsher. But, for the most part, it applied equally to men and women. 

The position of same-sex sex, as well as gender fluidity, varied a great deal between these societies, but complete tolerance was not unknown. 

#14 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 21, 2017 @ 3:13 pm

” . . . the book makes reference to the decision by a Christian saint of the 6th century to leave the decaying society of the fallen Roman Empire in favor of a life of withdrawal in a community of co-religionists.”

Just a small note. That description is not what they did. They were involved and lived in community deeply.

#15 Comment By Dale McNamee On June 21, 2017 @ 3:13 pm

John,

What an excellent post!

You captured the essence of the Benedict Option and why it’s important to serious Chrisitians who don’t want to perpetuate the rotting culture by cutting back their involvement with it and not feeding their children to it…

#16 Comment By Terry Thomas On June 21, 2017 @ 9:46 pm

I don’ think Professor Mezhuev get’s it. Maybe he needs to see a picture of the White House illuminated in gay-pride colors after the SCOTUS ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

Many Christians have been fighting the morality war on the political front for decades—long before Russia returned to being called ‘Russia’—with some success, but losing it on the judicial front (e.g., school prayer, abortion, same-sex marriage). But after Obergefell v. Hodges I likened the situation to when Marines hoisted the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi. It signified that they had taken the island even though the battle for Iwo Jima went on for another month. In our case “they” are the soldiers of nominalism and Christians are the Japanese soldiers. (I use the battle for Iwo Jima because of the well known iconic photo of the flag raising, and not in any way intending to make a disparaging comment about our Marines or the Japanese. And, I don’t necessarily see Christians in America suffering the same fate–but of course I can’t speak for Christians living in other places.)

I think the point Mr. Dreher is trying to make is that this approach, i.e., the politics, has not worked and we need to come to the realization that America can no longer be regarded as having its moral base rooted in a Judeo-Christian reality. Therefore, we need to adapt those principles of monasticism that are applicable to the current environment and form communities/spaces consistent with the new reality—not so much as places of retreat or escape from the world but, as it were, places for R&R. We might even find some of what kept the Russian Orthodox Church in existence while Russia was the USSR, to be useful as well.

If there is one difference I might have with Mr. Dreher, it is with the duration of this new ‘dark age’. I don’t see it lasting centuries as with the first one, maybe decades; because everything is moving faster now than it did then—and all the while constantly accelerating. Also, how we emerge from it could actually be different. The Second Coming? Let’s hope so!

#17 Comment By Will Kemp On June 21, 2017 @ 10:29 pm

Nice to see a casual conflation of consensual homosexual acts and child pornography here. Pleasant company you folks keep here.

#18 Comment By JonF On June 22, 2017 @ 8:16 am

REe: All the major religions impose such taboos, but the way a religion becomes major is by being the official religion of a conquering empire

Religions can and do become “major” without becoming some sort of legally official religion to the exclusion of all others. Buddhism, is an obvious example.

Re: the exclusion of domestic strife (what young people call relationship drama) from the daily life of military units

Huh? Ignore recent generations. For most of history common soldiers had their wives along on campaign and those who didn’t bring wives accumulated concubines along the way. Besides the obvious sexual services, these women also cooked did mending and so forth. And yes, there could be quarrels and drama, even deadly drama.

#19 Comment By Mario Diana On June 22, 2017 @ 9:16 am

I read Rod Dreher’s book, and by my reading much of what he describes is more like ethnic neighborhoods than monasteries. Even his warnings about orthodox Christians being driven out of various professions is akin to: “Irish need not apply.” Almost all critics of his work, the author of this essay included, make too much of the notion of withdrawing.

Dreher argues for building communities where orthodox Christian culture can be preserved, practiced, and passed down. Members of these communities will still regularly go out “into the world”—where does he claim the contrary? But they will have created a sane place to come home to.

Did I miss something?

#20 Comment By Seraphim On June 22, 2017 @ 11:48 am

Lenin’s axiom “you cannot at one and the same time both live in society and yet be free from society” is I think sociologically unimpeachable. When Our Lord directs us to be in the world but not of it, He is commanding that we not succumb to the corrupted mentality of the world, not that we do not adopt modest dress or speech styles of the society in which we live. Thus the challenge is for us be free of the secular mindset, and hold fast to the traditional Christian faith, while still dressing as, what, at least late twentieth century folk, if not 21st century folk (although I note in passing that at least here in Houston, young ladies are now wearing dresses much more frequently, surely a good sign), and using more or less current language. For this delicate balance, we need strong, consistent clerical leaders to steer us on the narrow course. As one of those paleo conservatives that the good professor speaks of, I look to Patriarch KIRILL and Metropolitan HILARION for this leadership. They are clearly, just as the caption of the photo says, the leaders of traditional Christians in the world today. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

#21 Comment By Seraphim On June 22, 2017 @ 11:51 am

And let us pray that we Americans will be able to find the humility necessary to sail in the tranquil wake of the Russian Ark.

#22 Comment By Larry Uzzell On June 22, 2017 @ 5:43 pm

Sorry, paleoconservatives should not trust the current Moscow Patriarchate. Please read this:

[2]

#23 Comment By Dave On June 23, 2017 @ 10:36 am

I think the logical outcome of the decay of civilization is persecution and marginalization of believers in Christ. I have tried through the years to reconcile and accept whatever God was doing in whatever tradition or group I found myself in keeping fellowship with the Living God through Christ. Any witness to the truth of God in Christ is a living one, found primarily in individuals to other individuals and disintegrates in institutions (as comfortable and home-like they are to us for seasons). God raises kingdoms and brings them to dust. So, what is God doing? How do we know? I like Thomas Terry’s metaphor “…I likened the situation to when Marines hoisted the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi. It signified that they had taken the island even though the battle for Iwo Jima went on for another month. In our case “they” are the soldiers of nominalism and Christians are the Japanese soldiers.” It is clear to me that, as the Japanese were doomed so are Christians in this world. Then the most pressing question is “how shall we then live?” Did the Japanese begin to ask themselves if they had been building the wrong kingdom? If God is about to “destroy this place” (Genesis 19:12)is our going out to escape joining another institution?

#24 Comment By Janet Baker On June 23, 2017 @ 3:44 pm

Oh just great. First let Vatican II trash tradition, including the Restoration (which was still on the table, along with several Catholic states even though their economies had long since succumbed). Vatican II gave up imposing morality on the culture while church attendance was not only strong, it was growing. Vatican II ended that, on purpose.And so having trashed a strong Church, we now say “we’re too weak to save the culture,” and we throw up our hands AGAIN. This author is completely right when he says, “The Benedict Option is nothing more than a person’s self-alienation from the affairs of the surrounding society, a refusal to strive for victory within this society.” It was that same impulsein 1965 and it is the very same thing now in Dreher, only deeper and deader. Fight for the Faith! Evangelize! Ignore the Council’s prohibition against proselytization.

#25 Comment By JonF On June 23, 2017 @ 4:38 pm

Re: First let Vatican II trash tradition, including the Restoration

Huh? What Restoration? The Bourbons? The Stuarts?

#26 Comment By Claudio On June 24, 2017 @ 10:21 am

Janet Baker has nailed it. One of the main agents for the destruction of Western civilization has been the evil Vatican II who attacked and destroyed the basis of sound Catholic doctrine. You conservatives need to wake up and face the enemy responsible for the utter degradation of the Western civilization: The jewish School of Franfurt. Pure Marxist-Freudian poison. The jewish deep hatred for the Christian, hierarchical society that build the most wonderful civilization the world has ever seen is the root of the problem. By the way the concept of heroic pessimisism is not Max Weber’s but Oswald Spengler’s whose magnificent work The Decay of the Western World should be a matter of compulsory reading.