Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JODT 21:63 (Autumn 2017) p. 217
The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher. New York: Penguin Random House, 2017. 262 pp., cloth, $14.99.
Rod Dreher believes that the culture war which began with the sexual revolution in the 1960s, has ended in defeat for Christian conservatives (pp. 3, 79), and there is no hope of being reversed (p. 89). Ultimately, all faith among European and North American Christians will disappear (pp. 8, 12, 46, 202), and the only hope for them is a strategic withdrawal from the standard in America (p. 2). In search for a model of survival, Dreher turns to the sixth century monk St. Benedict. During a time of similar societal corruption, Benedict withdrew to a cave for three years, eventually emerging to found 12 monasteries (pp. 14–18) and create a Rule (The Benedictine Rule) which showed the monks (and now us, by extension) how to order one’s life to be receptive to God’s grace (pp. 15, 47, 50–54). It was this monastic system, best exemplified by Benedict, that kept the faith alive in Europe during the medieval period (pp. 4, 49, 236). If the faith is to survive in the West in our times, we must follow suit and “learn habits of the heart forgotten by believers in the West” (p. 4). Thus, the Benedict Option:
is a call to undertaking the long and patient work of reclaiming the real world from the artifice, alienation, and atomization of modern life. It is a way of seeing the world and of living in the world that undermines modernity’s big lie: that humans are nothing more than ghosts in a machine, and we are free to adjust its settings in any way we like” (p. 236).
Dreher traced the moral fall of modern society to five landmark events that rocked Western civilization. The first occurred in the fourteenth century with the loss of belief in the integral connection between God and Creation or, in philosophic terms, transcendent reality and material reality. The collapse of religious unity and religious authority in the Protestant Reformation took place the sixteenth century. The eighteenth-century Enlightenment displaced Christian religion with the cult of reason, privatized religious life, and inaugurated the age of democracy. The fourth was the Industrial Revolution (ca. 1760–1840) and
JODT 21:63 (Autumn 2017) p. 218
the growth of capitalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and finally the sexual revolution (1960-present) (p. 23).
One should note that one of these events is the Reformation which, according to Dreher, brought about the collapse of religious unity and religious authority. This is a common complaint of Roman Catholicism concerning the Reformation, which not only shows Dreher’s bias but...
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