Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dreher’s “Benedict Option” Not THAT Hard to Understand

Monday, while perusing Big Pulpit, I came across a link to Deirdre Mundy’s Aleteia post, “Where [Rod] Dreher lost me on the ‘Benedict Option’”. I recently bought the book The Benedict Option: A Strategy For Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (New York: Sentinel Books) but hadn’t got around to reading it yet. I’d read a couple of his columns on the concept two years ago (and wrote a post about them); the basic idea seemed pretty clear to me at the time. However, intelligent people like Dr. John Zmirak and Austin Ruse showed quite clearly that they didn’t get it. Nevertheless, I read the book before reading Mundy’s piece.

Build an Ark? Right!

Reading the book was kind of a let-down. I agreed with everything Dreher wrote. In fact, I had written about many of the things he discusses and drawn pretty much the same conclusions. It was like I had paid $16.00 for the privilege of reading my opinions in someone else’s book. (Mind you, I’m not accusing Dreher of plagiarism!) The difference is, Dreher is a more experienced writer who uses fewer twenty-dollar words than I do, so his style is more accessible to the average reader. So it was like reading my opinions the way I should have written them. The Benedict Option concept is just not that hard to understand; it’s not Plato’s Republic or Cicero’s On Public Duties.

Having forearmed myself with the assurance that I indeed knew what Dreher was talking about, I then plunged into Mundy’s article to see where Dreher lost her. It turns out that her problem is with a simile Dreher conjured up in passing: “I believe that Christians now have got to realize that we’re living in a post-Christian civilization and take measures to build a kind of ark for ourselves with which to ride out the dark ages, to hold onto our faith, and tender the faith for such a time as light returns and civilization wants to hear the gospel again.”

Rebuts Mundy: “Here’s the problem: from a Catholic point of view, we already have a metaphorical Ark: The Church. We don’t need to build a new, more isolated ark to ride out what Dreher sees as a coming dark age. We can continue to live in the Ark we already have, as members of the body of Christ.” The rest of the article discusses ideas that Dreher covers in his book, but they’re written as if she’s contradicting him instead of agreeing with him. Sigh; some more hay litters the pavement of the public square as another straw man has the stuffing beaten out of it.