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Is It Benedict Option Time?

Reader Michael, who lives outside the US, posts a comment saying he’s tired of reading me wringing my hands over the place of cultural and religious conservatives in the culture wars. Time to go MacIntyrean and embrace the Benedict Option. Here’s his comment:

I have to say, that your behavior around the “Culture Wars” reminds me of co-dependents of alcoholic spouses. As you may be aware, co-dependency is a spiritual sickness just like addiction is. The co-dependent simply cannot control his or her compulsive urge to try to “fix” the addict, in spite of overwhenling eviudence that the addict does not want to be “fixed.” The co-dependent tries logic, argumentation, moralizing, shaming, pity ploys, the whole works. Nothing helps.

The only thing that breaks the co-dependent’s obsession, is the gut-level realization that the addicted spouse is NOT married to the co-dependent at all, but is “married” to alcohol or drugs. Once that epiphany happens, then the co-dependent grabs the kids, flees the house, moves in with relatives, and begins the slow, hard work to regain sanity.

Likewise, Rod, you need to come to the same realization yourself. You do not have a relationship to American society, any more than the co-dependent has a relationship to an addict. Once you have that epiphany, then you can either physically emigrate (as I did, but as you probably do not wish to do), or you can “inwardly emigrate.” “Inner emigration” (which Morris Berman calls the “New Monastic Option” and which you refer to as the “Benedict Option”), involves detaching onself, psychologically and emotionally, from the society at large. It means putting up effective firewalls between you and your loved ones, on the one hand, and a decaying and collapsing society on the other.

Please stop trying to save American society. You cannot do it. As Berman said in a recent talk, what we are watching is like an Abrams tank going over the edge of a cliff. You are not going to stop this. You have no influence over the trajectory of that tank, the speed with which it falls, the direction of its fall, or the size of the “moon crater” it will leave when it makes impact.

The watchword is sauve qui peut . Save yourselves and your loved ones. Base decisions strictly upon what makes sense for you, your family, your community and your clan. Wall off the rest of society as much as you can. Yes, you will be persecuted for this, but there is nothing else you can do.

I recommend that you check out a copy of Berman’s “Twilight of American Culture” from the library, and study his concept of the “New Monastic Individual.” I also recommend you study Dmitri Orlov’s series on “Communities That Abide”:


I will close by stating, that you are not adding value to your readers, by trying to re-fight a Culture War that Christians have lost and which the theomachs have won, hands down. A far better use of your column, would be to tell your readers what you are doing in St. Francisville, to build your “Benedict Option.” A lot of people, who want to do the same thing, would benefit from hearing about your experiences in that regard.


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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