Monday, December 11, 2017

Can We All Have a Benedict Option?

I've spent the last week and a half reading Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option.  It's strange to read a book where I agree with the basic premise, but I disagree with lots of the reasoning that Dreher takes to get there.

Dreher summarizes the recent status of Christians (right at the turn of the 20th to the 21st century):  "We seemed to be content to be the chaplaincy to a consumerist culture that was fast losing its sense of what it means to be Christian" (p. 2).  Dreher claims that the culture has now become toxic for Christians--for all of us really--and that the only option is to strategically withdraw.

Some of us will physically withdraw by choosing to live in intentional community with others.  Some of us will withdraw by not participating--either widely or at all.  Some of us will withdraw periodically.

So far, so good.  But he comes at all of this from a conservative, orthodox position.  I suspect that some of our peace and justice ideas would intersect, but he's got a much more extreme view of gender issues and sexual identity issues than I'm comfortable with.  Many of our views on the education system sound similar, but I suspect that he and I would design very different curriculums.  I didn't find much to disagree with on the topic of technology:  he says that we must be very careful not to let our plastic brains be shaped by our smartphones.

Even though I disagreed with some of his points, he wasn't dreadful in making them.  He wasn't hateful, for example, in his rejection of homosexuality--but he was firm about the idea of sexual fidelity, and that sexuality must be limited to a one man/one woman option.

It was a good exercise for me--I do realize how seldom I read deeply when the author and I are in substantial disagreement.  And this book was interesting:  to see how the idea of monasticism could shape Christians in such different ways.  Dreher gives a solid summary of monastic movements, so even those who aren't familiar with monasticism will be able to navigate this book.

I'm glad that I didn't buy the book, but I'm glad to have read it.

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