That’s the newest New York Times Bestseller List, released late this afternoon (it will be in the weekend papers). The Benedict Option debuts at No. 7. What a humbling thing to have happened. Thank all of you who bought my book, or who contributed in some way to its creation these past few years.
Speaking of humbling, I just got home from the Divine Liturgy, which we celebrate on Wednesdays during Lent. In the liturgy, we all say this ancient penitential prayer, the Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian, and prostrate ourselves three times during it:
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.
With my head forehead touching the floor, I realized that I had something to publicly repent of, and to apologize for. Yesterday, I got into a rather disedifying public spat with an academic who made what I consider to be racially charged, low-down comments about my book. I responded by getting sarcastic on this blog in response. He subsequently went lower. Not a good look for either of us.
I deeply believe that his comments were disgraceful and a smear. But that does not excuse my provocative reaction. I wish I had had the grace to ignore what he said, focusing instead on “my own transgressions,” which are many, instead of adding fuel to the fire. My anger and my pride tripped me up, and I was wrong to give in to them. I apologize for that, and for contributing to scandal among Christian readers. I removed the material that caused the controversy from the previous blog post.
My friend Rod Dreher has struck again. He has this horrible habit of writing books that I am supposed to dislike and failing miserably because I end up liking them. The Benedict Option, A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation is no exception.
This one is different in one important way from his previous works. I am not the market. I’m really not the market. I’m the Enemy.
Now, when I say that, I do not mean that I, the person Uncle Chuckie, am the enemy. I may represent all the things that the Enemy is but Rod is a good friend and regularly prays for me to see the light. So, ok, now that you are totally confused, I’m going to try to give a little background.
We are living in a time of civilizational transformation. Christianity, in any of its forms, is no longer the only game in town. Its words often fail to persuade and it usually lacks the power to coerce. Often it is the opposite, which is why the book was written in the first place. The real civilizational battle now is what is going to replace Christianity as the dominant religion and what, if any, will be the place of Christianity in that future, when the Gates of Hell will have seemed to prevail. The strength of this book is that it advises hunkering down for the long term. The weakness is not in the book itself but in the assumption that at some future time the folks of the Benedict Option will emerge to rebuild Western Civilization that has collapsed. But what if Western Civilization does not collapse but changes in ways that make what the Benedict Option has to offer merely irrelevant curiosities of a bygone age, as alien to the men of that time as the days of St. Benedict are to us?
When Men walk the stars as easily as to the corner store and look at a mountain and say, “Take a little off the top and leave the sideburns,” what will the Benedict Option have to say that they will be interested in hearing? In “The Year of Our Ford” who will care?
We do not know. To Rod, the effort must be made and as his friend I wish him well though I believe it will fail.
That all been said, read this book. You will find it interesting even if at times mystifying and infuriating.
Now, for one minor but funny aside. I found the subtitle, “A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian World” interesting for the simple reason that back in 1988 I wrote small manual as part of a larger project with the subtitle, “A Strategy for the Age of Chaos.” Seems one of us has been onto something.
Read the whole thing. When I meet people at speaking events, readers of this blog, somebody inevitably asks, “Is Uncle Chuckie for real?” When I tell them that verily, he is, they often ask, “How do you put up with him?”
The truthful answer is: Because I love him. He’s the damnedest eccentric, and you know how I feel about eccentrics. There, I’ve said it. Now, that should blow his psionics helmet sky-high.