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The Practical Benedict Option

A reader writes:

I notice in the comments that you’ve been getting a lot of flak over what the Ben Op is supposed to look like specifically, or what the people who won’t wear the rings in Australia are supposed to do, exactly.  It seems like you’re frustrated that people aren’t just thinking for themselves and realizing on their own what “be an actual Christian” looks like.  I get that.  It is super frustrating.

But I think, to be honest, that you may be expecting a bit too much out of the average “wants to be serious” Christian individual/family. As a pastor, in my experience, and that of many clergy friends, the laity that we love and shepherd are…how do I say this politely?  Wildly incompetent.

It was only after a year of co-authoring a daily family devotional for my confirmation kids and families, and sending it home each week, to no avail, that I realized the level of help and hand-holding I needed to provide.  No, sadly, it isn’t obvious.  Yes, I needed to actually write out the following.

Here the reader provides a guide to a very basic family devotional. It reads like it was written to help small children in deepest jungle mission territory know how pray at home. But this pastor lives in Red America.


It’s utterly ridiculous.  Some days I am so frustrated I can barely manage.  How do you people not know how to do this????? But then I remember that these are the same families whose children enrolled in the public school and who cannot read the Gospel of Mark aloud in any meaningfully proficient manner, and I try to have compassion on the poor, lost sheep.

So here’s my thought: I know that the book itself is meant to be a conceptual overview of the need for the BenOp, and not 40 Days To Becoming a Ben Op Christian.  But I think that people are going to need that kind of help.  We can’t all up and move to Clear Creek, nor do you expect us to.  But I’m wondering about some kind of website, perhaps, where we can find one another, build (virtual or IRL) communities, get answers, seek resources, etc.

How great would it be if someone could ask the question, “I need to find a different church.  We are currently Evangelical but open to Anglicanism and Lutheranism.  We live in Podunk, Flyover State.  Can anyone recommend a parish?”  or “I’m ready to get rid of TV in the house, but my kids are pitching a fit and the Comcast sales rep offered me a really good deal to keep cable…how do I talk to the kids and stay firm in my resolve when I’m on the phone?”  or “I need help budgeting in to order afford shopping somewhere besides Walmart” or “who in the Minneapolis area would be willing to meet for dinner once a month to talk BenOp living?” and pastors who know people in the area, and a dad who already did it and a mom who’s a former Comcast employee and a rockstar budgeter and 6 other people from Minneapolis chime in?  I think a lot of us would have questions, and a lot of us would be willing to offer what we can to help others – but we need a way to connect with one another, first.

I know you’ve mentioned you’re working on getting a website out.  Is something like this part of it?

I slightly edited this letter to protect the pastor’s identity, but this is a good letter — and one that motivates me. I’m getting this question a lot. I own a URL for a website, and want to develop one like this to help connect Christians all over the world who are interested in the Benedict Option. I need to get started building that site. If you have any recommendations for web developers I might hire, please write to me privately at rod — at — amconmag — dot — com. You would not believe the volume of mail I’m getting today, so I can’t answer everyone. Please don’t assume that I didn’t get the email if I don’t respond to it.

Today my agent sold publication rights for France to a French Catholic publisher. It means a lot to me that The Benedict Option is going to be in French. I hope I have the opportunity to go to France for the launch, and to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Geneviève, to thank her for her prayers. This Benedict Option thing is not only for Americans. We all need to be making these contacts, building these networks, both nationally and internationally, while we can.

UPDATE: Tell me what features you would like to see on this site. Again, it’s not going to be a site to sell something, but a site that will be a practical guide.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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