Author: Rod Dreher
I’m still experiencing the afterglow of reading this book and a surprising energy, a desire to ACTUALLY DO something. Indeed, after Dreher’s call for readers to get off their behinds and build the strong Christian community that they want to live in, instead of wasting time and efforts seeking solutions in politics, I started looking more closely for communities near me. Coming from someone who is a self-affirmed hermit, this is a true testimony to the power of The Benedict Option, both the book by Rod Dreher and the actual lifestyle.
Dreher starts with what Western Christians already know. The West is no longer friendly to Christians, at least those who walk-the-walk. If your faith isn’t watered down, all inclusive, and ultimately meaningless because “everything goes” you won’t be persecuted in the traditional sense (no fighting lions in the Colosseum or being burnt as torches, Nero style), but you will certainly be outcast. As the social ostracism grows in power and scope, it has become increasingly difficult to stay true to God while following certain career paths, meaning that living as a Christian in the West can kill both your social life and your ability to financially support both self and family. Many Christians are flocking to politics as a solution, but in The Benedict Option Dreher points out that the answer doesn’t lie in passing the buck, as it were, and in trusting politicians to revitalize a waning practice of true faith. Uncomfortable as it may be, the answer lies in being the change we want to see and creating our own faith-based community. It also involves dropping the American obsession with individualism and embracing both discipline and community.
For those of us who are simply exhausted by the world we live in, where anything goes but choosing to say “no,” The Benedict Option is a refreshingly honest and mature look at a problem that we are partially responsible for creating. We’ve all fallen prey to the idea that our individuality is completely fluid, totally up to us, and ultimately not our responsibility. We’ve forgotten that living a good life requires discipline, requires knowing when to stand up and when to be silent, and requires a community.
Inspired by Benedictine monks, the Benedict Option is a disciplined and purposeful way of living. It embraces both the physical and the mental and is just as highly disciplined as it is freeing. Dreher does not advocate we all rush to join a monastery, but instead that we learn from this simple yet effective lifestyle and apply the lessons to our own day to day choices and actions. Dreher shows examples of how “liquid modernism” has made us collectively weak and unhappy. The evidence is both scientific (i.e., how technology has rewired our brains) and anecdotal. It’s also just plain common sense, as is the Benedict option itself. A hedonistic life of everything-goes is only fulfilling and effective for a very brief period, and we all know that. We’re just afraid to say it anymore.
Dreher spends some time addressing not only community building, but also how and when we should fight. How do you stay true to Christ while also being open to those around us who are not Christian? How do we exercise both kindness and control? How do we stand by our beliefs that some things are just inherently wrong without destroying ourselves and our families in the process? When should we stay silent and when should we damn the costs and express our belief? Dreher covers all these areas with a thoughtfulness, strength, and empathy that is a powerful call to action.
Topics addressed here specifically involve gay marriage, transgenderism, education, sex outside of marriage, technology, pornography, and more. So yes, Dreher goes right for all the hard topics and addresses them with empathy and wisdom. One note of my own personal belief – Dreher gets a bit heavy handed on the “technology is destroying us” theme. I mean, yes, it has changed life and as with anything, it can be abused and become detrimental. But I might add that many people had the same fear and loathing about the popularity of books after the printing press, and now you see almost every Christian book advocating quite study and reading. Otherwise, I felt that the topics discussed were 100% on point, mixing common good sense, scientific and sociological explanations, and history nicely to give a completely well rounded and edifying response.
I highly recommend this book and giving the Benedict Option itself a try. And, if you haven’t already, check out Live Not By Lies, also by Dreher.
– Frances Carden
Follow my reviews on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/xombie_mistress
Follow my reviews on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/FrancesReviews