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Is ‘The Benedict Option’ Insufficiently Radical?

I have had an open tab on my browser for almost three weeks now, trying to figure out how to engage with this massive, massive post about The Benedict Option from a blogger named Handle.  [1] It might be the longest single post anyone has ever written about the book. He likes parts of it, and he doesn’t like parts of it. Most of his commentary is really interesting, and I’ve been struggling with how to engage it without giving myself over to a 7,000-word reply that few people will read.

This recent essay by Victor Davis Hanson — “Epitaph For A Dying Culture” [2] — gave me a way in. Hanson surveys the culture, pointing to a number of examples of a “new Dark Age” falling upon us. I won’t quote him at length — read the essay — but he’s talking about the widespread abandonment of cultural traditions (including legal principles) in favor of progressive dogma. Hanson warns that culture is much stronger than politics.

“In this growing Dark Age, nothing is as it was,” he writes. “We have only faint memories of what was normal just decades ago.”


The result is that, in lieu of pushback, to escape the new Dark Age, tens of millions of Americans are increasingly dropping out in search of some sort of physical or mental monastery, an escape, a refuge from a vindictive state and from those who crafted and are invested in it.

Millions no longer watch the Emmys or Grammys or any sort of entertainment awards event. They do not go to the movies or even watch new Hollywood releases on their computers or televisions.

Popular music is skipped on the expectation that it is not just vulgar and foul, but incoherently politicalized. They more and more pass on professional sports, neither watching nor attending what has become condemnatory rituals or lectures on social justice from pampered multimillionaire athletes.

At work, they keep their thoughts to themselves and nod assent to received pieties.

Courtship resembles a careful script in which a wrong word, an unartful advance can spell career destruction. To be safe, would-be couples inquire firsthand about their respective politics and traditions. The amoral marketplace, in Brave New World fashion, answers with promises of inanimate and mechanical sex partners.

All scour their past—in fear that something 20, 30, or 50 years prior might resurface, immediately become mythologized and thus weaponized to destroy them, especially should they have achieved status, public recognition, affluence, or influence. One’s personal privacy is kept hidden, not just in disgust with our generation’s therapeutic maladies in which others pour out their emotions and fragilities in lieu of an idea, but because any disclosure is expected later to be used against oneself.

An idea of retirement is not merely a house by the lake or a cottage on the coast to die in peace, but now a mental refuge in which we are at last free from 24/7 sermonizing and worry over thought crimes, both in person and electronically—a world in which a sermonizer on a computer screen or in a television set does not lecture us for perceived shortcomings without acknowledgment that he is more likely than not to also fail to meet his own standards of morality.

In other words, America is resembling the medieval Balkans, where spent traditionalists fled to the mountaintops, abandoned the plains of a dying culture to the new zealots who stormed in under the pretense of civilization.

Read the whole thing.  [2]

Many of us on the Right who have been dismayed by the Trumpening have been hard hit by the Kavanaugh debacle, and have concluded that whatever our misgivings, we have no choice but to vote Republican this November, if only out of self-defense.

But let me quote two passages from The Benedict Option [3]:

The cultural left—which is to say, the American mainstream— has no intention of living in postwar peace. It is pressing forward with a harsh, relentless occupation, one that is aided by the cluelessness of Christians who don’t understand what’s happening. Don’t be fooled: the upset presidential victory of Donald Trump has at best given us a bit more time to prepare for the inevitable.

I have written The Benedict Option to wake up the church and to encourage it to act to strengthen itself, while there is still time. If we want to survive, we have to return to the roots of our faith, both in thought and in deed. We are going to have to learn habits of the heart forgotten by believers in the West. We are going to have to change our lives, and our approach to life, in radical ways. In short, we are going to have to be the church, without compromise, no matter what it costs.


[T]he new Trump administration may be able to block or at least slow these moves with its judicial appointments, but this is small consolation. Will the law as written by a conservative legislature and interpreted by conservative judges overwrite the law of the human heart? No, it will not. Politics is no substitute for personal holiness. The best that orthodox Christians today can hope for from politics is that it can open a space for the church to do the work of charity, culture building, and conversion.

… [B]elievers must avoid the usual trap of thinking that politics can solve cultural and religious problems. Trusting Republican politicians and the judges they appoint to do the work that only cultural change and religious conversion can do is a big reason Christians find ourselves so enfeebled. The deep cultural forces that have been separating the West from God for centuries will not be halted or reversed by a single election, or any election at all.

I admit that Trump was better on judges than I expected him to be. That said, I still stand by this diagnosis: Christians who believe that politics alone will be sufficient are not going to be prepared for what’s going to come when the Republicans lose the White House and/or Congress, which is inevitable. Our politics have become so sulfurous that there will be a vicious backlash, and that backlash will fall primarily on social and religious conservatives. A prominent pro-Trump Evangelical conceded in private, post-Kavanaugh conversation that when the Democrats regain power, conservative Christians are going to be in very bad shape.

To be clear: my Ben Op argument has always been that conservative Christians already are in very bad shape. Political power is holding up a façade that won’t remain much longer, precisely because politics is a lagging indicator of culture. Christians in America today — even those who identify as conservative — are far more catechized by popular culture than by the church. It’s not even close. The statistics are clear (I present them in my book.)

So, what does this have to do with the blogger Handle and his lengthy critique of The Benedict Option [1]

I want to focus in this post on one particular claim Handle makes early in his piece:

How valuable is the book? Even if was unfamiliar with Dreher’s extensive past writing on the subject, I wouldn’t say there’s much that’s informative or new about it, either to any serious and honest observer of the Western scene or even to those with only a small amount of historical familiarity.

To these people, it might be hard to stay very interested or invested since so much of what he’s saying seems obvious and noncontroversial.

And yet … despite that obviousness, it’s undeniably important for two reasons.

First, no one else seems nearly as motivated in sounding this indubitably necessary alarm, in nearly as clear and prominent a manner. Dreher is not ‘alone’ exactly as a voice in the wilderness, but he doesn’t have much company.

And second, raising that alarm makes a lot of people – both Christians (of a particular type) and anti-Christians – very upset in what is clearly a “she doth protest too much” manner. They understand the premise and its implications intuitively and well enough to feel an urgent compulsion to deny it and attack it vigorously, but when do so, they usually embarrass themselves by demonstrating ignorance of its actual content. The confidence that they simply have to be right and Dreher wrong, is felt so deeply that they apparently feel fully entitled to make all these attacks without, you know, actually reading the book.

It’s just intellectually painful to read nearly all of those ‘critiques’, being almost all devoid of any shred of good faith. That is, the lack of integrity, horrid quality, and hysterical character of most of these criticisms is more revealing – and probably teaches us more about what’s happening and what’s likely to happen – than Dreher’s book ever could be.

I appreciate him saying that … but Handle finds my critique wanting:

Almost all Dreher’s critics accuse him of crying wolf or being a chicken-little at best, and more usually a looney-tunes-level alarmist kook or worse. Meanwhile, I’m saying that Dreher is underestimating his enemy, painting an overly rosy picture, and not being nearly alarmist enough. [Emphasis mine — RD]

Here’s the core of his critique:

In the final part of the introduction, Dreher outlines the structure of the book, and lets the reader know he isn’t going to get behind any specific proposal or suggestion. He is going to continue to raise the alarm, present some examples of Christians giving it a shot, and hope that it inspires people to get together and try to solve the problem.

Like, say, cutting themselves off from the mainstream and running for the hills.

Oh, whoops, Dreher doesn’t want to say that. That’s because it is one of two major ‘critiques’ of his thesis which are made by nominal Christians who really don’t want to admit they’re now going to have to choose between their Christianity and comfortable lifestyles. “Dreher says run for the hills!” is an interesting kind of argumentative fallacy. It is a sneaky way of trying to dismiss Dreher’s basic premise. If (1) a conclusion follows from Dreher’s statements, and (2) is so undesirable that my brain won’t accept it, then (3) it must be wrong and absurd, thus (4) Dreher is nuts and everything he says can be ignored. So (5) Whew, what a relief! Now we can ignore the problem and just go back to whatever we were doing. QED.

Dreher recognizes the power (however unfair) of this rhetoric in the fight for deutungshoheit and control over the public opinion on the issue. He responds by saying, “I’m not saying run for the hills! Over and over again, I insist, in the most explicit terms, that I’m not saying run for the hills! These people aren’t able to quote me, and they aren’t even making an argument that it’s a conclusion implied by anything I’ve said. Please stop saying it!”

Now, it’s true that his milquetoast-Christian critics haven’t made that argument, and they show no real interest in doing so. But unfortunately for Dreher, that doesn’t mean one couldn’t make it, or it wouldn’t be valid if one did.

It’s true that Dreher insists over and over that he isn’t saying run for the hills. But unfortunately, he can’t show that the solution set for the problem includes anything less drastic or radical He would be more honest to say, “I might be saying run for the hills. I’m not sure yet; nobody is. It’s not something I’ve worked out or could work out. I really hope I’m not saying that, but it’s possible I am. To be even more gloomy and frank about it, it may turn out in the final analysis that even running for the hills wouldn’t be enough. Hills are much protection anymore.”

I suspect that everyone, Dreher and his critics, grasps all that, but that the rhetorical games dance around it. Both Dreher and his critics may suspect it to be true, but have to pretend it’s false, for different reasons.

The critics pretend RFTH is false because that implies they don’t have to get off their asses to do anything: the most comfortable and pleasant possibility.

Dreher has to pretend RFTH is false because he doesn’t want it to scare away readers before even having a chance to make his case.

But again, how do we know that Christians won’t need to RFTH? How do we know that Dreher’s historical examples of Christian survival despite oppression and adversity are relevant to the modern age?

Modern religion faces a different kind of enemy: the metaphysical revolution of empiricism and eliminative materialism. One is contending not with superstitious pagans or even someone like Celsus but with a set of ideas altogether (and durably) antithetical to all serious theological sensibilities. And it is a set which has solidly owned the perch atop all the hierarchies of our intellectual life for centuries, with every sign of being irreversible so long as advanced civilization persists.

The other major criticism from these types is the claim that separating from mainstream society can’t preserve Christianity because it is inherently anti-Christian. All Christians, these critics say, are commanded to evangelize and proselytize on behalf of the faith. They are to be the salt of the earth and a light unto nations. That, at a minimum, requires them to remain integrated with the heathens in order to be ambassadors for Christianity and winsome examples projecting the noble virtuousness of the Christian character. By such example and good works, and by routine display of courage and the strength of their commitments, they will generate such a positive impression that it will open the hearts and minds of the heathens, and make them receptive to the gospels.

This argument has even more rhetorical strength and emotional resonance than the previous one. Religious commandments are not easy to counter by rational explanation of exceptional circumstance in which injudicious obedience would be self-destructive. When the pragmatic mode of cognition turned off, the counterargument – that there is no sustainable strategy if converting one man come at the cost of losing two – simply doesn’t resonate. “Will the last convert please turn out the cemetery lights.”

Dreher instead says, “We can’t give away what we do not have,” and something about the savor of salt. He is desperately trying to communicate with these critics in the accepted language of Christian argumentation, but it’s hard to sustain much patience for it.

I understand why he can’t be more blunt, but I sometimes wish he would break down just once and hit them with a 2×4 of frankness, like this:

It’s completely unethical of you to abuse the duty to evangelism as an excuse to do nothing except put your head in the sand, deny the crisis, and avoid reality. It’s not like you’re some full-time missionary, converting and baptizing people left and right, and I’m asking you to stop all that and give up your important, holy works. You just don’t want to make the sacrifices that would follow from disengagement and separation from mainstream society. And you’re so desperate to avoid them that you’ll disgustingly pretend it would be anti-Christian to do so, which is perverse. And also, frankly, blasphemous, since the result of your counsel would mean a continuation of the status quo which is, obviously, the suicide of Christianity. “Passive evangelism” goes both ways, and you don’t look winsome to the abyss without it looking winsome back to you, or, more importantly, to your kids. It’s so winsome, in fact, that you can’t bear the thought of leaving it, even if means the death of your Faith for your family. That allure is why you’re making all these excuses in the first place. You can’t bullsh*t your way out of this one, so get you head out of your a*s. Jesus commands you to tend to the survival of Christianity, and isolation or insulation of one kind or another is only the bare minimum of what it’s going to take. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Once we could play offense. Now we must play defense. Or perish. So buck up, it’s time to get with the program.

Read the whole thing.  [1]

I am going to have to think about this. HH is correct that I have downplayed the “run for the hills” thing, but not for book-selling strategic reasons. I’ve done this because I don’t believe that it’s possible for the overwhelming majority of Christians to “run for the hills.” We’ve got to figure out how to do this where we live, at least most of us do.

But HH is onto something important. In some sense, the geographical sense of “head for the hills” — that is, me having to assure freaked-out Christian normies that they don’t have to load up the truck and head for a survivalist compound — has obscured the necessity of the Ben Op’s radicalism. Put another way, maybe HH is right. Maybe I don’t take the implications of my own argument seriously enough.

Maybe we will have to head for the hills, either literally, or, if we stay where we are, then embrace a kind of separatism in a more direct and consequential way.

More from HH:

And, to be blunt, there is just something pathologically suicidal about modern American Christianity un-tempered by a commitment to a superseding principle of the survival of the things one claims to care about.

There is something that craves the self-righteous satisfaction of taking a conspicuously public stand for collective martyrdom for the sake of ‘principle’ – one that is hard to distinguish from generic, progressivism-compatible ‘niceness’ – no matter how futile, impotent, unreasonable, or counterproductive. These performances overflow with displays of sanctimonious indignation, but at the end of the show it’s clear that they don’t take the danger of failure seriously. That’s someone else’s problem.

Absent the special circumstance of a solid track-record transforming this kind of commitment into net increase and propagation, any beleaguered group whose members care about something more than survival, won’t survive. We cannot all be the priests in the French Carmelite Convent, or the holdouts on top of Masada, or there will be no one left to honor the martyrs and be inspired by their example.

Either you’re willing to accept the end of something, or you’re not. Well then, what if you’re not?

Perpetuationism is the general idea that for anything one deems worthy of permanent continuation, the moral imperative of existential preservation gets top priority. When working through one’s moral calculus and choosing among alternative courses of action, the principle of survival and maintenance of viability always has precedence and trumps other considerations.

When survival is not threatened, one is freed – indeed morally obligated – to use one’s position of security and surplus to practice the other virtues, widen one’s circle of concern, and elevate the overall climate of social interaction, so far as it is feasible and prudent to do so. If one can afford to be gracious, one should be. If not, one is justified in stern harshness.

But in times of peril and catastrophe, it’s perfectly reasonable and normal to adjust ethical regimes as necessary and appropriate, especially when to do otherwise would mean to permit the perverse result of one’s defeat by a less scrupulous enemy. This is merely what happens when a situation warrants the declaration of martial law, and what people mean when they discuss “lifeboat ethics” or “wartime ethics”.

All of this seems consistent with common sense and normal moral intuitions, so why is the commentary so lopsided, and why do American Christian public intellectual commentators so often stick with advocating naively idealistic policies even when they are clearly counterproductive? There’s just no incentive for them to do otherwise. That’s what virtue signaling is all about. When one doesn’t actually bear any responsibility for consequences, one is judged only on what one says, not on the bad results which follow. That why the focus on things like ‘reputation’ instead of consequences.

At any rate, the “preserve our reputation” line relies on a myth. With perhaps the exception of a few high-status Christian commentators, Progressives have already believed that about all religious conservatives for a long time: either they were brainwashed idiots or Elmer Gantrys at best. Nothing but evil liars paying lip service to religious sentiments they didn’t share, and scriptures they had never read, merely as means of suckering the brainwashed idiots as a road to power. The minute a principled man of character steps into the limelight and emerges as a potential threat, the progressives give that individual zero credit and their media apparatus spares no time at all in smearing the man as evil incarnate, whether that individual lived a scandalous life that gives them plenty of ammunition to do so, or whether he’s been a spotlessly clean boy scout from birth. E.g., Mitt Romney. (Though they are happy to emphasize all those positive traits and rehabilitate all the beautiful losers the minute after they no longer pose any political threat, and prove useful for other purposes.)

Now, it’s true that Dreher doesn’t want to be the “no choice but to vote GOP to buy time” guy for much the same reason he doesn’t want to be the “run for the hills” guy. It’s a wise position. It would cause unwanted and distracting collateral controversy that will seriously detract from his main message and deafen the ears of too many members of his intended audience. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean there are any better alternative options.

Again: read the whole thing. [1] I’m going to think hard about what he’s saying here, and will blog more on it later. I wanted to throw it out there for you all to consider.

Warning: I want to have a serious discussion about this in the comments thread. If you only want to troll, or throw rhetorical bombs, don’t bother commenting. If you have nothing meaningful to add to our understanding and debate, save yourself the bother of commenting, because I’m not going to post it.

UPDATE: Several of you progressive readers have posted the usual comments about how Christians have brought this upon themselves, or that Christians are worried about something that isn’t going to happen, etc. I have not approved those comments because a) it’s the same old same old, and b) because of that, you are not adding to this discussion. Seriously, save yourself the time and trouble. If you think the Ben Op is nonsense, that’s fine with me, but this thread is not for you.

130 Comments (Open | Close)

130 Comments To "Is ‘The Benedict Option’ Insufficiently Radical?"

#1 Comment By Augustine On October 11, 2018 @ 4:13 pm

Firstly, I haven’t read your book nor finished reading this criticism or these comments. Feel free to stop reading here then.

It seems to me that both of you are focusing your minds on how to answer the Lord’s call for us to live in this world without without being in bondage to its vainglory, particularly in this time and place, the contemporary US.

I must start by stating that I never liked the association with St. Benedict, because it’s anachronistic and involved firstly only people called to the monastic state of life. In this sense, Handle seems to agree with me on the first part and elaborates on it better than I could.

I found that Handle provided great insights that cut to our hypocrisy, as conservative Christians, such as our virtue signaling in our own group and our mealy compromise with the world draped in a false evangelical fervor, actually an evangelical torpor.

But perhaps the best on so far was that, unlike what we expected, the new social order is not nihilistic, just a new one. It made me thing that perhaps we’re realizing how the pagans felt when Christianity took it over. Of course, our faith truly comes from above, while theirs came from the earth, even if their desire had come from above just like ours.

In this sense, methinks that this is a crucial information to consider when discerning how to respond to the Lord’s admonition. If we are to consider other similar examples in history to inform our discernment, I agree with Handle that St. Benedict is not a good fit. Another new culture in recent times that tried and for some time succeeded to supplant Christianity was Soviet Communism in Christian Russia. Moreover, it shares many traits, truly sharing much of the same lineage of thinkers and ideologues, with the contemporary Western culture. And the worst part is that it’s been a work in progress not for 60 years, as both you and Handle claim, but for a century, since the scandalously murderous Great War among Christian countries. It was the original backdrop that resulted in the Russian revolution. The rest of the belligerent countries had their own revolution, which was the rise of the welfare state. Regardless, both revolutions resulted in the supplanting of Christian institutions and functions by the state. The state, or, more precisely, the political elites, gained the throne that before belonged to the Church, from where the mores would be identified. Whether it’s a Bolshevik in Russia or a Progressive in the US, it’s still a secularist elite who’s performing a role that until then, more or less consistently, belonged to the Church. While the Bolsheviks turned murderous against their rivals in the Church, Progressives were more passive aggressive (is Progressive just an acronym for passive aggressive?) in the West. In both places, Christianity was banned from public life or shunned from polite society. Is it then surprising that things to this point in the US?

However, though it took longer to bring Christianity to its demise in the West, after facing practical demise in Russia, it’s still alive and thriving, at least with healthier prospects than in the US. So, can the Russian Christians teach anything in our discernment? Unfortunately, it seems that there is scarcely any work written about it. A devout Russian Orthodox friend of mine, himself the son of atheistic Party members, is reading the diary and letters of a pious woman who baptized thousands of people in secret throughout all of her adult life in the Soviet Union and he finds it illuminating how one lived as a Christian then.

Regardless, one thing that was common to St. Benedict and to this woman was that both were inspired by God to do what they did. I wonder if both of you, Rod and Handle, and myself have been looking at the wrong places for an answer. God already has it and, in His Providence, will give it if we ask and follow it. And I suspect that it won’t be the same for every Christian. Yet, they’ll all work to maintain His Church alive.

On to our work now. If it’s the case, I’ll come back with more musings as I read more of Handle’s work.

#2 Comment By ludo On October 11, 2018 @ 4:16 pm

“A hundred years after Vercingetorix was defeated in Alessia, Emperor Claudius received the first Gauls to enter into the Roman Senate (*). The result was quite far from a holocaust.”

Upwards of a million Celts were killed in Gaul during the time in question (and a like number enslaved). Caesar says as much. I call that ethnic extermination, a holocaust.


[NFR: OK, historians … now let’s get back on topic. — RD]

#3 Comment By Jefferson Smith On October 11, 2018 @ 4:19 pm


Some possibilities might be (i) buying a piece of territory from a country that wants/needs the money, (ii) gathering in a particular place and building a critical mass to demand autonomy (ala the “Free State Project”), or (iii) directly petitioning governments for a homeland, Israel-style.

I’ve thought for a while now that Christians should migrate to Syria. Syria was the original Christian homeland, the place where Paul was received into the faith after his visionary conversion experience on the “Road to Damascus [Syria].” Today, the country is a total mess, the scene of a civil war. Christians could sort all that out and set themselves up as the dominant faction in a Western-aligned country that would be closely allied with Israel. This would be a service to all concerned.

#4 Comment By JonF On October 11, 2018 @ 4:49 pm

Vikingls, I am looking ahead some distance- about a human lifetime or so. I am not just looking at today’s headlines and projecting them forward indefinitely. (I do not kowtow to the tyranny of Now and the error of presentiam.)If that was the way the future worked we’d still be arguing about women’s suffrage, banning booze and of course Free Silver. And as I have said and said, to no avail, the vast majority of secular people are simply indifferent not actively hostile to religion. The “spirit of the age” is one of moral exhaustion not radicalism. The radicals too have trouble marshalling the masses because the masses are too busy smoking quasi-legal pot, playing video games and watching Netflix. This is why our culture is so stuck in a rut, and our nation unable to reform itself. The Orthodox Church will not have trounle over the fact that it does perform gay marriages any more than it has trouble over the fact that it does not commune unconverted Jews and Muslims. The secularists don’t want get married in the Orthodox Church anyway-why would they? They tend to marry in some innovated ceremony of their own invention, maybe with some new-agey or MTD cleric presiding,
or just a civic official. Haven’t you ever been to one of those weddings? That’s the wave of the future for the vast majority of people. You can see it in Europe- or even more so in Japan where secularism is the farthest advanced: Shinto is kept around as a sort of quaint cultural relic, and Buddhism, social conservatism and all, is there for funerals and a remnant of still-devout Japanese. But no one is persecuting them even if they stand apart and sometimes even against the spirit of the age. That too is our future: perceived irrelevance. And later on down the line when Stuff Happens and the world goes to hell in a handcart? I don’t know, but I am pretty sure the blowback won’t be against Christianity: it won’t have its hands dirty with that calamity.
I’m sorry I can’t explain these things any better.

#5 Comment By JohnInCA On October 11, 2018 @ 4:51 pm

“Honestly just wearing our crosses visibly would be sufficient.”
Lots of people openly wear crosses, including self-identified Christians from liberal churches.

So nope. So long as y’all play “No True Scotsman”, it’s not just us dirty heathens you have to distinguish yourselves from, it’s all those insufficiently-Christian Christians.

#6 Comment By JonF On October 11, 2018 @ 4:56 pm

Alice I COME FROM MICHIGAN. I have been to Dearborn, for the Easter Liturgy and to shop at English Gardebs on Ford Rd as recently as 2017. My Mormon step sister and her daughter and grandchildren live in the suburbs of Minneapolis. I visit occasionally. I can say with utter confidence that in neither state is Islam any sort of existential threat. Frankly, that’s paranoid, and in the clinical sense

#7 Comment By Peter on the prairies On October 11, 2018 @ 5:00 pm

I find HH’s critique mostly secular and philosophical. From my Reformed perspective it is Christ’s church and He will maintain it. That’s not to say we shouldn’t do our utmost but ultimately it is His church not ours.

HH’s thinking is also very western focused. The church may dwindle to a remnant in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand but it is healthy and growing in much of the world.

And I’m not sure that our ethics can change in light of a dire situation. Christ clearly commands us to turn the other cheek. And during his time physically among us he most certainly was not pre-occupied with self preservation. If following him leads us to give all then that is what we must do.

I’m not saying we should sleepwalk through this. By all means let us strengthen our Christian communities and make sure we all are firmly grounded in Scripture, good practice and sound doctrine. But in the end we are called to be his disciples and witnesses not the preservers of any particular institution, including our denominations.

#8 Comment By JonF On October 11, 2018 @ 6:18 pm

Re: And, again, why is defending liberalism so important to you?

Now that I am home and can use a proper keyboard not the travesty of one on my phone, let me give you a clearer answer than my earlier maunderings:

There are some sins so repugnant I will never set my hand to them.
Every attempt to replace liberalism with “something better” has led to an abattoir.
I will continue to value the order of liberty, tolerance and valuing the individual as an end in himself, never a means to someones else’s end.
Yes, the liberal order is certainly flawed as all worldly projects are.
But I will defend the regime that my ancestors fought and sometimes died for.
I have no clear sense that I could better, in worldly matters, but I plainly see that I could do much worse.

#9 Comment By Haigha On October 11, 2018 @ 6:18 pm

Jefferson Smith:

Interesting idea. Personally, I’ve had my eye on the Falkland Islands, which have a very small population, and very low population density, and are extremely isolated.

#10 Comment By Nate J On October 11, 2018 @ 6:25 pm

[NFR: I’m going to be giving a talk in a couple of weeks at Notre Dame on Solzhenitsyn, St. Benedict, and the Orthodox contribution to the Benedict Option. — RD]

I hope you record and share it.

#11 Comment By VikingLS On October 11, 2018 @ 8:19 pm


Okay the post at 4:49 is just speculation on your part, and you have NO evidence that things are going to go that way.

It’s not they way that things have played out in Europe. It’s not they way things are already playing out in the USA.

You are flatly refusing to acknowledge that Christians have ALREADY been sued, threatened, and abused for not serving gay weddings. Your “why would they mind, we’ll all get along!” theory is not real. Those events are.

You already can’t adopt in England if you have the wrong views on homosexuality. A gay couple has ALREADY sued the Church of England for not hosting a wedding.

You honestly think we’re more like Japan than England? I don’t think so.

Oh well, there is none so blind as the man who is absolutely determined not to see.

As to point two. Did you HONESTLY think I was asking you about liberal Democracy?

Now let’s try this again. Why are you so determined to defend the Progressive movement?

#12 Comment By VikingLS On October 11, 2018 @ 8:23 pm


An Orthodox Cross is distinctive from other Christian crosses. It has three cross bars as opposed to only one on most crosses.

What I said was in NO way reflective of any sort of opinion on other Christians, and your taking offense at it strikes me as little on the narcissistic side.

#13 Comment By VikingLS On October 11, 2018 @ 8:34 pm


For that matter my point was not to disparage non-Christians.

America actually is a fairly tolerant society to religious minorities. One it’s established that someone is out of the mainstream, the peculiarities are usually tolerated, honestly because in most cases (Islam lost this, not entirely without reason) a tiny religious minority is not a threat.

Since Orthodox Christians ARE a tiny minority in the USA we might be better off being perceived as one.

#14 Comment By Robert D. Crane On October 11, 2018 @ 9:09 pm

Haiga’s email of Oct 11, 9:53 AM, calls for an “independent,autonomous, traditionalist homeland”, to which Rod Dreyer replied, “I am too much of a natural conservative to believe in utopia”. The search for utopia can provide the ultimate power to produce a totalitarian nightmare. Witness the fate of many of the American-style utopian communities in 19th-century America, and especially the Communist and Nazi utopias of the 20th century. Perhaps the Jewish experiment in the Holy Land is the best example of a Run for the Hills community, simply because after a hundred years it still maintains both the worst and the best possible outcomes, which the Muslim sociologist 800 years ago, Ibn Khaldun, called Asabiya. The bad asabiya is tribalist pride in one’s own community that provides identity by looking down on other people as inferior. The good asbiya is pride in the best of one’s own community so that one can appreciate the best of other communities, and everyone can work toward the common benefits of interfaith and intercultural cooperation.
The greatest spiritual leader in the world during the 20th century, Rebbe Abraham Isaac Kook who was the Chief Rabbi in Palestine from 1919 to his death in 1935, taught that every religion contains the seed of its own perversion, because humans are free to divert their worship from God to themselves. The greatest evil is always the perversion of the good, and the surest salvation from evil is always the return to prophetic origins.
Although some of his modern followers have reversed much of his teachings, his entire life spoke his message that only in the Holy Land of Israel can the genius of Hebraic prophecy be revived and the Jewish people bring the creative power of God’s love in the form of justice and unity to every person and to all humankind. “For the basic disposition of the Israelite nation”, he announced, “is the aspiration that the highest measure of justice, the justice of God, shall prevail in the world…. The Jewish people’s commitment to the Oneness of God is a commitment to the vision of universality in all its far-reaching implications … whose vocation is to make the world more receptive to the divine light … bearing witness to the Torah in the world”.
The Jews now have the perfect opportunity during the currently appearing collapse of civilization to build an Abraham Federation as a model of two nations (defined as a large group of people with the same sense of their traditionalist heritage, same values in the present, and same hopes for the future) sharing the same land without territorial separation or competing claims of modern sovereignty.
The future of the world may be seen in the future of the Holy Land. It may be a good example of the Benedict Option, and perhaps we can all learn from it.

#15 Comment By Robert D. Crane On October 11, 2018 @ 9:29 pm

As a former Franciscan monk and recently a professor and Director of the Qatar Foundation’s Center for the Study of Islamic Thought and Muslim Societies from 2011-2015 (until the Saudis first threatened to invade the emirate of Qatar), I support both the Benedict Option and the St. Francis Option. St. Francis and his monks saved Europe from Ghenghiz Khans’s threatening Mongol invasion (both were born in the same year) by going out into the highways and byways and “preaching the good news from the house tops”.
The practical problem, in my view, is whether an individual can do both at once. If not, then institutions must be strengthened or created whereby each specializes on only one of these two strategic options in order to provide holistic harmony within a common vision and purpose.
The harmony in the vision of the Qatar Foundation’s founder, Shaykha Moza,as the wife of the Emir, was simple: “Let us bring together the best of all civilizations and religions to universalize their spiritual awareness and plurality of wisdom by interfaith cooperation in pursuing the vision of peace, prosperity, and liberty through the interfaith harmony of transcendent and compassionate justice for everyone”

#16 Comment By anon_the_second On October 11, 2018 @ 11:09 pm

Frankly Rod, I was nodding my head all the way through “Handle”‘s essay. He has less to lose than you do, being an anonymous person on the internet, not even trying to reach a broad audience. That might be why he feels free to follow your argument to its logical conclusion, as you’ve hesitated to do–and I don’t blame you for that! You’d be dismissed as a crank if you advocated RFTH, or as I prefer to call it, integralist distributivist Catholic monarchy. Handle gets right at it with his section on a “Christian Zion.” Sooner or later, political separation will be necessary.

There’s been lasting confusion about what the Ben Op actually *is*, What exactly are you recommending that we should do, in concrete terms? Many people don’t know how to get started. Your answer seems to be “shelter in place,” but I think we’re seeing day by day that that will only be a stopgap solution. Therefore, the only logical end goal to strive for is our own confessional nation-states.

Perhaps I’m putting words in your mouth, but I imagine that if you were writing the book today, post-Kavanaugh and all that, you might be less shy about coming out and saying it. As Handle says, the enemy has shed its mask of relativism, and is making amply clear that it will not rest until we all bow down and worship (“affirm”) it.

Just today, my elder kid brought home from school an envelope in which, it was hoped, I would put a donation “for the poor children of the world.” Covered with pictures of sad Africans naturally. “Look, look, we could buy a child a backpack! School books!” Read the fine print and it’s UNICEF. No thank you. So sneaky. I told her we will stick to donating to Catholic charities.

#17 Comment By Joe On October 12, 2018 @ 12:54 am

I tried reading thru the comments to find a response to well-off Christian friends — but there’s just too many to get thru.

Our well-to-do friends struggle with ideas such as the BO because they fear losing their economic security, especially, their children’s. To them, running for the hills or hunkering down into orthodox Christian communities means economic “isolation.” That in turn means slow financial suicide.

Rather, some prefer to imitate communities such as the Orthodox Jews. Live together geographically, build private schools for their children, worship together, intermarry in the community, etc. But remain “in the world” economically, i.e., work or conduct business feasibly (or literally, business as usual).

Is this compatible with the BO?

#18 Comment By yahtzee On October 12, 2018 @ 1:18 am

Just got through the entire Handle post, I hadn’t read a good, 100-page neoreactionary screed in a while. I haven’t read the BO yet, but I’ve read every post here going back at least five years, so I’m pretty familiar with it (plus it seems like he quoted almost half of it in his post). In some ways this is less a critique than a synthesis of neoreaction and the BO, (“spiritual sovereignty” was a nice touch). There were already a lot of similarities (a focus on historicity, the concept of Exit), but this essay brings the neoreactionary focus on the formal expression of political power. The criticisms of both the BO and Rod aren’t entirely new from the orthosphere. Handle’s post is a more articulate, more polite, more conciliatory, and more mature version of the “trad dad” critique: that traditionalists (usually in the media) who understand the depths of the crisis will never be willing to give up their comfort (good food, high-status media jobs, fancy vacations, backyard BBQs, etc) to actually face the problem in the way that it needs to be faced.

Handle seems to get most of Rod’s take right, although gets a few things wrong. He doesn’t seem to understand what Rod means by making an “idol” out of family or community. He seems to think Rod means something like, “don’t worship your own family as if the members have no serious imperfections”, or “don’t romanticize all family life,” whereas Rod’s actual position is to not literally put family at the top of the hierarchical order of love, in place of God. It makes Handle’s arguments sometimes seem insensible (“Does anybody think attitudes toward the traditional nuclear family are too strong these days?”). Early on he argues that Rod doesn’t understand that what’s replacing Western civilization isn’t just an vacuum, but a full-fledged culture with its own morality, dogma, rituals, etc. Later on he backtracks on this and says, actually, Rod does seem to get this. This is an important bit of confusion because I find myself wavering on this exact question. Is leftism an “anti-culture”, or a new religion? Is there enough nebulosity here that, like light, it’s sometimes best described as a particle, other times as a wave? Answering this question, or at least understanding which framing works best with which discussion is going to be an important part of any future discussion.

Which gets to one of the strong parts of this. It seems to take the conversation beyond the hardcore Christians of the BO and imply that there’s a wider pan-traditionalist movement here. As a sometimes reactionary who’s spent my life completely enmeshed in leftist culture, I’m already very sympathetic to the older Molbuggian formulation of neoreaction. However, as a non-Christian, or at least as a non-believer (am I “culturally Christian” if I’m heavily invested in Western civilization?), I’m largely not the audience for the BO. Handle seems to be proposing some sort of bridge here, or at least open lines of communication. I don’t think non-believers should be part of BO communities (we’d just ruin it), but just as inter-faith cooperation between conservative groups is probably desirable, cooperation between different traditionalist groups, properly ordered, is a possibility.

Other strong parts of this: The criticism that the left is not going to let you take your children and opt out of society once they have all the power. Handle seems to get this in the first half but tries to be positive about the “Corrective Actions” proposed later. Another strong criticism, which he gets to at length and you can go read, is the fact that, “realistically, a faith that requires a life of constant suffering is not a “test” most people can pass.” To be fair, I think Rod concedes this and expects maybe even a majority to apostasize in the coming years. Basically the strongest parts of the article aren’t in disagreement about the nature of the threat, but seem more realistic (to me) about the short and medium-term severity.

The criticisms of this piece are the same criticisms you could have about neoreaction in general. Its tendency to wrap a lot of complex interacting forces into a monolithic “cathedral” has all the weaknesses of the feminist concept of “patriarchy” and the woke concept of “white supremacy.” It’s a non-falsifiable catch-all concept that can be motte-and-bailey’d enough to mean anything to anyone at any time, so makes for an always useful scapegoat. Handle argues that the force that’s trying to displace Western civilization is a new religion, complete with a new pope. But who is this pope? It’s not a person, or even a coherent idea or ideology, but a focus (basically, the direction all the elites are looking, “the compass needles all around the world respond to the field in the air and point toward it. That’s our new pope.”). It’s possible Handle is just describing entropy. You might as well say “the direction the water goes when you pull the plug from the bathtub.”

It also seems to take the unity of the left as a given and assumes it’s building towards some impervious final state (the proverbial boot stamping on the human face forever). Any left unity that currently exists exists because their opponents hold all the official political power, and now at least some parts of the formal power (the judiciary and the bureaucracy). Anyone who has spent five minutes with leftists knows that yes, once they hold power, they’ll come for the Christians and anyone who they’ve built up resentment towards. But it won’t last long before they’re at each other’s throats. The coalition of the fringes is inherently unstable, chaotic, and, despite their grand pretensions, not *actually* grounded in any philosophy beyond grabbing power. And we know this because we’ve seen it before in the Jacobins, the Bolsheviks, the Red Guard, the Khmer Rouge. I know the neoreactionary response to that is, “but the world always moves left so even if those frenzied power grabs burn out leftism is still successful.” I don’t agree with it, but I don’t want to derail. I think the more reasonable response is, ok but how much damage will they do in the meantime. And I think this is where Rod’s “hope but not optimism” is better than the orthosphere folks that have become blackpilled. And Handle’s somewhat bleaker take is pretty much this same message, but maybe a few degrees more pessimistic. I’ve become more positive about long term success, over a long enough time frame, but again I don’t want to derail.

That’s basically what I came away with. Handle implies a lot of shrewdness in Rod’s choosing of subjects and topics, but I think Rod is just speaking on the strengths of his perspectives. I think by making those assertions Handle reveals that he may have thought through the strategic element of pairing a deep neoreaction critique with a more normie-facing popular book (ironically, Rod is the “salt and light!” personality in this duo). I don’t think Rod needs to change anything he’s doing; he’s doing what Handle and the neoreactionaries can’t: reach a wide audience of people who are just starting to grasp at the problem. I think Handle’s doing something important as well, which is gaming out how formal power is likely to unfold in the years ahead, and putting out serious feelers for a serious issue (“we can’t rule out ‘head for the hills’, and we need to start thinking about it now.”) But I consider both arguments points on the same fork, and I hope the conversation continues.

#19 Comment By JonF On October 12, 2018 @ 6:36 am

Re:Oh well, there is none so blind as the man who is absolutely determined not to see.

Maybe I know and see things you don’t. The old proverb “In the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed man is king” is false: in the kingdom of the blind the sighted man is regarded as a fool and may even be persecuted. H.G. Wells write a short story on that once, an explorer who discovered a hidden, isolated valley where descendants of the Incas lived and all were blind by some hereditary illness. The people who totally adapted to their life without sight. They found the explorer’s ways bizarre and decided ultimately to blind him to “cure” his illness.
By the way I am no Pollyanna, as other posts I’ve made here should make clear. But obviously we differ as to details: you focus on only your tribe. I see a whole world about to fall off a cliff, albeit not in my lifetime (I’m 51 so that’s not much of a reprieve) . And in the number of the victims we differ by orders of magnitude. This century shall be infamous, but not for the reasons you think.

#20 Comment By Josh K On October 12, 2018 @ 8:58 am

How are we defining “the Hills” exactly? Does “only religious private schools, clustered neighborhood built around the place of worship, minimal if any socializing outside the faith, recognition that failure to do any of these things is an extreme danger bordering on spiritual suicide” count as the Hills because, for example, you still have a normal job and may live in an urban area? Or does “the Hills” literally mean “I moved to the middle of nowhere and mostly live in my compound?”

#21 Comment By VikingLS On October 12, 2018 @ 10:11 am

No JonF I see everything you see, and I see things you studiously refuse to see. I have given you concrete examples of what I am talking about. Rod has given them to you for years, and you refuse to see them.

That JonF is because it is YOU who are tribal, and to admit to these things would embarrass your tribe.

I have at times allied with both parties and both factions when it suited my purpose. I have loyalty to neither.

I also have quite a bit of experience of the world beyond our borders and honestly your suggestion that somehow the world is both going off a cliff strikes me as far far more alarmist than any of Rod’s opinions about our country.

You may have two good eyes, but for all your pomp and arrogance, you seem absolutely unwilling to use them if it reflects poorly on progressives.

#22 Comment By VikingLS On October 12, 2018 @ 10:13 am

Sorry that should have been “the world is going off a cliff” without “both”

#23 Comment By VikingLS On October 12, 2018 @ 10:22 am

Rod you’ve been here at TAC, what, 10 years now?

It amazes me that we have commenters that have come here every day for all that time, and seem to STILL insist that nothing is wrong on the left.

#24 Comment By Koseki On October 12, 2018 @ 12:35 pm

This has to be more than just “be more Christian, take your kids our of public schools”, etc. I know tons of people who did that before I was even born, it didn’t really work.

Yes and no. Note it HAS worked for us, and for many others. It’s a dream life.

But it’s far more than mere “homeschooling”. That’s just a prerequisite, a start. It’s primarily about living right. That is: No TV. SAHM. No processed foods. Growing gardens. Walking not driving. Cutting spending. Lifting weights. Raising or hunting livestock.

For all complainers? Be aware: these are the glory years of true peace and prosperity. Right now, today. If you can’t live a fabulous life in the wealthiest country in the history of humanity in this amazing era of peace and incredible freedom, a land where people are trying to sneak into? Well, the problem is found within. It’s a spiritual malaise.

Intentional communities or bust is my honest opinion, I pray every day that I’m wrong but I seriously don’t think so.

It would be nice to have great parents, great community, and a great culture. Sorry, it ain’t so. Life is hard. I believe the common cry for “intentional community” is mostly just people trying to avoid the very hard work required to transform oneself into a happy and healthy person who is able to support one’s own happiness, spouse, family, and community. There are exceptions. YMMV.

#25 Comment By One Male On October 12, 2018 @ 1:32 pm

Some commenters here made the point that we should live like Christ and that meant we should be more forgiving of sin. Christ said if your eye sins against you then rip it out. No where does Jesus command us to bow to the evil of the world or run for the hills. He commands us to go into every town and if they will not accept you then shake the dust from your shoes. Jesus himself says he did not come to abolish the laws but to fulfill them. Fulfilling the laws means to live within there commandment and actively obey what G-d commands of us. This is not passive and is not defensive. As one comment had it and I agree Judaism is defensive, Christianity is offensive. Judaism is the temple priest; Christianity the war priest and Jesus, the lamb, Commander of our war party.

Jesus dies on the cross for the forgiveness of sins which is true enough but he also died that he might confront death and defeat it. Jesus himself admonishes his disciples, you think I’ve came in the name of piece; I’ve come to bring a sword upon the earth. To turn every eye and every heart toward the Father, the light and the truth. There is no commandment to make that which is called sin normal or morally accepted. Every passage of the bible, new and old is a warning to the self inflicted wounds of sin. G-d does not punish the sinner. The sinner inflicts wounds upon himself. It is for this reason Jesus says, let ye free of sin cast the first stone. The sin does not only hurt the soul but the body, the family the society and the whole of creation and so Jesus then commands the festering wounded soul to go and sin no more. The command is not an indictment against judgment but revelation of infliction already born and purified. Purified not that it might become sick again but that it might live in good health according to the covenant. The anointed lamb does not command us to be weak and docile nor is the lamb itself. The lamb is a lion in a lamb skin. Brought upon the earth to make flesh the spirit and word of G-d. How could anyone be so foolish as to conflate someone who has been healed with the desperately ill?

As to creating communities separate from the populace as a solution to the sickness infecting the body politic. As others have said you cannot separate yourself without becoming known. Why? The Devil that’s why but remember that G-d to created the Devil and all things in there time and place have there reason. The solution to a festering wound is not to separate the heart from the body but to cure the body or amputate the wounded flesh.

#26 Comment By kingdomofgodflag.info On October 12, 2018 @ 5:49 pm

“If one can afford to be gracious, one should be. If not, one is justified in stern harshness.”

“But in times of peril and catastrophe, it’s perfectly reasonable and normal to adjust ethical regimes as necessary and appropriate, especially when to do otherwise would mean to permit the perverse result of one’s defeat by a less scrupulous enemy. This is merely what happens when a situation warrants the declaration of martial law, and what people mean when they discuss ‘lifeboat ethics’ or ‘wartime ethics’.”

As is the case with discussing just-war theory, there’s no consideration here of God’s ability and willingness to intervene in the affairs of man. Any noble goal that cannot be accomplished without disobedience to Christ must be left in God’s hands (e.g. – Matthew 5:38-39 and 43-44). If He wants Christianity to survive, it will.

#27 Comment By Eric Bergerud On October 13, 2018 @ 4:45 am

When I joined the Church ten years back I was given a tremendous and unexpected gift for someone of sixty years. It brought me to the study of scripture and Holy Tradition which had been completely absent in my life. So I spent a rich five years in the Church of Benedict and JPII. It was obvious we were in the counter-culture, but as Jesus warned believers to expect rejection, I considered it a badge of honor. Foolishly I assumed my fellow Catholics did too.
The bewildering moral corruption of the Francis papacy has been a bucket of cold water in the face. I knew 21st century secularism was puerile and corrupt, and could not comprehend the idea that a Pope, with full support of morally bankrupt bishops in three continents wanted to reach a full accommodation with almost everything disgusting in the modern world. So I read Benedict Option and Out of the Ashes more or less back to back. And yes I can see why Handel could be viewed as seeing things the way they really are. As a Christian I must believe that the truth will prevail, but I wouldn’t want estimate the body count of souls lost and lives lived for little purpose before God gives us all a proper spanking.
I don’t quibble with Rod’s analysis of the deep seated and powerful forces that have been humiliating Christianity for a hundred years. Yet I think there are three factors that provide at least some hope that history does not move relentlessly against us.
First, a view of Church history (or the history of religion in general) gives many examples of decadent elites that almost decapitated Mother Church. (The period after Charlemagne was wretched, as was the Avignon exile. Francis reminds me greatly of the Renaissance Popes Leo and Clement who were so concerned with secular affairs that they abandoned the faithful in much of Europe.) I don’t want to claim any Hegalian dynamic, but bad days were followed by reform. Trent may have bought Mother Church centuries. Christians stung by Enlightenment and the terror it engendered in France created a second “Great Awakening” in the early 19th Century. The post-WWII Christian revival perhaps lacked depth, but the Churches were full. Indeed, I think that Vatican II is incomprehensible without realizing that the Church saw great opportunity in what still appeared to be a Christian world.
Could anything trigger a renewal in 2018? If Francis creates a train wreck as large as the one I think he will, it will either send believers to the hills or trigger a new Counter Reformation and a new Trent. I’ve heard cardinals and bishops say things about Francis that I had never heard about JPII or Benedict. The reaction against JPII, best represented by the 1989 Cologne declaration came from European theologians like Schillebeeckx and Kung, representing about every claim made for the “spirit of Vatican II” (ordination of women, end of celibacy, larger role for college based theologians in the magisterium, emphasis on social justice over spiritual guidance even to the point of neo-Marxist liberation theology, abandonment of Scripture as a guide to the word of God etc etc) but based on none of the Council’s documents. The challenge was open and hardly unexpected. But it did not trigger the kind of personal retaliation shown by Francis many times. The Cologne fans wanted the Church to emulate the Anglicans ASAP. JPII saw that
joining the secular world would make the Church a part of it. We can see now, perhaps more clearly than Catholic secularists of that era, that the road to a “relevant” Church was a road to oblivion. A passing glance at the fate of every “mainline” Protestant denomination today illustrates how right JPII was.
The Cologne fans have gotten their Pope, but he’s dishonest, mentally dull and surrounded by moral midgets: I’m not sure that was the plan. (Ex CDF head Cardinal Muller said last week that the Pope’s biggest problem was the miserable caliber of his “friends” surrounding him: I can’t see Ratzinger saying that about JPII.) And Francis and some of his closest pals are financially corrupt – again like Leo.
Francis claims he will change the Church so drastically that it will never return to a position where scripture and 2,000 years of tradition brought it. I think it just as likely to trigger a schism or a new Trent.

Second, in my experience the believers who treasure the Church as the spiritual center of their life are making inroads. In my area there are parishes using Latin or ad orientum liturgy are doing very well. San Francisco, of all places, is becoming a stronghold of a lively orthodoxy. For what it’s worth, the Holy Spirit Parish at UC Berkeley has a very large student following attracted to a largely orthodox message. Perhaps these examples are anecdotal and of no importance. Perhaps, however, you don’t have to go to Norcia to find a meaningful faith.

Third, if the Church can find it’s footing – a tough assignment during the Francis debacle – it may stand as secularism begins to crumble. The Western elites appear to find satisfaction in individual autonomy gone nuts, but the roadkill caused by the dynamics unleashed by 21st century secularism continues to grow. Maybe the Left will devise some kind of acceptable policy of bread & circuses or a politics of dependency. They may also bring an increasingly pointless unhappiness to an ever growing number of people. The pro-life movement continues to thrive in the US. I could certainly see serious “buyers remorse” coming from millions of forth wave feminists.

So maybe, just maybe, we should be grateful for the time bought Trump and leaders like him that are appearing throughout Europe. The defeats suffered by believers in the last 50 years have been very real and very painful. But the enemy may over reach. Tyrants have done so in the past. I just pray that if we can survive the immediate threat we will never forget the stakes in the struggle and the absolute necessity to identify friend and foe.

#28 Comment By Rob G On October 13, 2018 @ 1:44 pm

~~~But HH is onto something important. In some sense, the geographical sense of “head for the hills” — that is, me having to assure freaked-out Christian normies that they don’t have to load up the truck and head for a survivalist compound — has obscured the necessity of the Ben Op’s radicalism. Put another way, maybe HH is right. Maybe I don’t take the implications of my own argument seriously enough.~~~

I’ve read only the HH excerpts posted here, not the whole piece, and while I think he makes some very good observations I think that his critique misses an important point.

If we as Christians grant that the radical human autonomy espoused by liberalism/progressivism cannot but end in some form of nihilism, we must combat that nihilism first in our own lives and families. This is difficult because, like Flannery O’Connor’s nihilism, the idea of autonomy is inescapable — it’s “the gas we breathe.”

Thus, even if it’s reason that brings us to the point of seeing the poison for what it is, there’s no way for us to reason our way out of its influence, ubiquitous as it is. The only opposition is action, and the opposite action of that based on autonomy is action rooted in self-denial. What was Zossima’s “answer” to Ivan Karamazov’s Grand Inquisitor? Self-denying love for others and for the Creation. As Fr. Seraphim Rose put it somewhere, the only antidote for nihilism is asceticism.

What this means for American Christianity (and it’s precisely here that I see the BenOp as being a hard-sell) is that we American Christians have to learn that “the good life” as provided by consumerism and it’s “Have it your way!” mentality is subversive of our faith and a large barrier to our ability to pass it on to our children. Simply put, when it comes to the materialism of the culture, we are nowhere near counter-cultural, regardless of how much we pride ourselves on holding the line on sexual matters. (It’s notable that in a time when even some secular observers are noting the connection between consumerism/materialism and today’s problematic sexual libertinism, we still think that these two things can be hermetically sealed off from one another.)

Thus I wouldn’t argue that the BenOp isn’t radical enough, but would instead pose the idea that it’s too radical for American Christians, not because of the supposed HFTH mentality, but because the underlying logic more or less demands that we make lifestyle changes where we are right now. I’m afraid, frankly, that many of us won’t move to make those changes until we’re forced to.

#29 Comment By John Blade Wiederspan On October 13, 2018 @ 9:09 pm

Rod, having read some of the comments on your dilemma of separate/not separate, you chose not to print my comment? Ah well, no money left my pocket and I was not physically harmed. In today’s zeitgeist, I call it a disappointment, but not an aggravation. I thought a bit of historical perspective would be helpful. Oh well.

#30 Comment By Steve On October 14, 2018 @ 2:43 pm

This article over at Public Discourse was more favorably influenced by The Benedict Option:


“the Evangelical alliance with Trump is dangerous for the Christian witness. Rod Dreher makes a convincing case in The Benedict Option that Christians who view President Trump’s election as a victory for the Christian social vision are mistaken. Dreher predicts that, despite the president’s claim to champion Christian causes, Christians’ association with the president holds as many challenges and dangers for the church’s social witness as it does promises of policy gains. In his view, “No administration in Washington, no matter how ostensibly pro-Christian, is capable of stopping cultural trends toward desacralization and fragmentation that have been building for centuries. To expect any different is to make an idol of politics.”