The Benedict Option – Review and Analysis

Review and Analysis of “The Benedict Option” by Rod Dreher

More quotes from “The Benedict Option” 

“But American Christians are going to have to come to terms with the brute fact that we live in a culture, one in which our beliefs make increasingly little sense. We speak a language that the world more and more either cannot hear or finds offensive to its ears.”

“[There is a] growing sense inside of me that there’s a real work of cultural reclamation and renewal, not outside the church but inside the church, that really needs to happen first, before we can think about much longer-term goals… Nothing matters more than guarding the freedom of Christian institutions to nurture future generations in the faith. Given our political weakness, other objectives have to take a back seat.” –Lance Kinzer, PCA member living in Kansas.

“Don’t be deceived by the ordinariness of this charge. This is politics at its most profound level. It is politics during wartime, and we are fighting nothing less than a culture war over what C. S. Lewis called “the abolition of man.

“Peering into the near future, the world of work looks uncertain for everyone, especially for Christians. The practical challenges facing us are unlike any that most believers in this country have ever dealt with. Schools and colleges—morally, spiritually, and vocationally—will have to prepare young believers for some increasingly harsh realities… We now know that some Orthodox Christians will lose their businesses and their livelihoods if they refuse to recognize the new secular orthodoxies. We can expect that many more Christians will either be denied employment opportunities by licensing or other professional requirements, because they have been driven out of certain workplaces by outright bigotry or by dint of the fact that they cannot in good conscience work in certain fields.”

Quotes from Dreher, Rod. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (p. 85). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Dreher sometimes overstates the case, as when he writes

“Hostile secular nihilism has won the day in our nation’s government, and the culture has turned powerfully against traditional Christians. We tell ourselves that these developments have been imposed by a liberal elite, because we find the truth intolerable: The American people, either actively or passively, approve.”

I think it is more accurate to say that the war for control of the federal government is still raging and increasingly being fought in public rather than behind closed doors in Washington, D.C.  Certainly secularists have won many huge battles, but conservatives have as well, and the American people are deeply divided with perhaps as many as 100 million citizens to some degree opposing the agenda of the radical left.  This war is not lost – not yet.  As many have been saying for years, control of the social policies of the federal government depends in large part on the composition of the Supreme Court.  Stay tuned.

This extends to the culture war as well – the country is deeply divided – there is not a wholesale capitulation to secularism.  We need to break that down and analyze specific issues such as the LGBT agenda, freedom of speech, relativism, etc. because each issue represents a series of battles in the war.  We need different tactics for each issue – retreat on some but find allies and advance on others.  Dreher calls for all-hands-on-deck in the war on religious freedom because if we lose that battle America will descend into a totalitarian state where Christians are imprisoned for Christ.

Retreat from the Institutions?

Dreher calls for a retreat from cultural institutions – fall back, don’t invest precious resources trying to prop up institutions that are dying.  Which institutions?  I wonder – is it the Universities?  Born-again Christians abandoned the universities in terms of leading in scholarship 100 years ago with the Fundamentalist controversy, which enabled the left’s “long march through the institutions” to infiltrate and now to control almost the entire landscape of Higher Education.  To my thinking, that hasn’t worked out well at all.  That control has extended to Public Education – secularism prevails, the Christian worldview is typically scorned.

Or maybe it is the institution of Marriage, hotly debated.  In the past many Christians followed Focus on the Family – Dr. Dobson certainly helped me be a better parent and spouse.  We hoped that FOTF would lead to a resurgence of strong families in America – that certainly did not happen!  Although FOTF and other organizations have not been very effective in reducing the rate of single-parent families or divorces, why would Christians abandon the battle for traditional marriage and nuclear families?

Of course we have the legalization of same-sex marriage.  That is a fact – that ship has sailed.  If Dreher is talking about withdrawing from the public same-sex marriage battle, I agree, that battle is lost and we must quickly adjust our thinking to the new reality: same-sex marriage is the law of the land, imposed by the Supreme Court, and seen by many as the “civil rights movement of our time.”  How shall Biblical Christians live in this reality?  That requires careful thought and planning in the Church and in our workplaces.

Perhaps he is calling for retreat from political parties – the Democratic and Republican parties.  But that makes no sense to me either because politics is now a very significant influence in culture (culture precedes politics but now I think politics defines culture as well) and I can’t think of any institutions that need the Salt and Light of the Gospel more than those parties.  Both need significant reform – and those reforms will have a lot to do with the kind of America that our grandchildren grow up in.  Christians have the moral compass required to create new political visions and strategies that would result in uniting America and promoting the common good.

I don’t know which institutions to withdraw from, that we haven’t already ceded to secular control.  But the fact that we don’t control them – or in many cases that we have little influence on them – doesn’t mean that we should stop being salty or stop shining the light in darkness.  Influence – impact – creating space for evangelism and the demonstration of the power of the Gospel – I think our efforts should focus on these efforts, and in primary cultural centers.


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