Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Benedict Option: For Christians with Expanding Brains

I just keep coming up blank for anything to say about the Benedict Option. Everything there is to say has been said by others. Recently there's been great stuff from Keith and Sam Rocha. Going back a little further there's me in 2016 and me in 2015, etc. Oh, also Keith in 2015. And of course Bruce Frohnen's in 2015.

Oh wait, here's another good one I did in 2015.

Right now, all I have left to say about the Benedict Option can be summed up by use of the expanding brain meme.



PS - Here's a prophetic post from Keith from 2014. But... I mean, here's the whole list, have at it, man.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

If and when the Benedict Option is ever understood...

Benedict Option


...what then?

The inchoate and incoherent marketing phrase "Benedict Option", test-marketed at the end of Rod Dreher's Crunchy Cons, was just that: a phrase, nothing more.

Years of blogging since based on that marketing phrase are just that: years of blogging based on that marketing phrase, nothing more.

A book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase is just that: a book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase, nothing more.

Examples of various, wildly disparate Christian endeavors predating a book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase and collected anecdotally post hoc are just that: examples of various, wildly disparate Christian endeavors predating a book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase and collected anecdotally, nothing more.

Spirited current talk provoked by examples of various, wildly disparate Christian endeavors predating a book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase and collected anecdotally post hoc is just that: spirited current talk provoked by examples of various, wildly disparate Christian endeavors predating a book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase and collected anecdotally, nothing more.

What, if anything, does any of this derivative, discretely and completely independent, free-floating cloud of abstract talkety-talk reality have to do with actual Christianity as practiced for the last 2,000 years? Need it? No, not at all, really, no more than the loquacious quadriplegic football fan need suit up and actually hit the field. All such abstracted fans, ordained and not, can remain blissfully happy their entire lives, perpetually circulating in their respectively flavored cloud realities.

Why has the derivative, Benedict Option cloud reality never before been proposed until Rod Dreher arrived to propose it to us? Is Rod Dreher the singularly visionary Christian prophet of our time?

Or is the problem ultimately simply the perennial one of trying to live as an actual earthly Christian, in the actual human world in which we find ourselves, in the actual historical years into which we have been born - rather than in an abstract cloud map?

Will the new, improved, aftermarket Christian additive - the abstract, derivative talkety-talk cloud reality of Rod Dreher's Benedict Option, hovering like a disembodied spirit over the human corpus Christi - really make Christianity and us as Christians perform better than the original?

How could it?

None of this of course means that Rod Dreher's Benedict Option phrase and its book may not sell some copies on Amazon, make Rod the talk of Christian blogging for a time, get him invited onto some high visibility  TV shows, or anything else coveted by the professional writer.

It simply means that, at the end of the day, even the most celebrated abstract aftermarket map remains just that, nothing more.

The territory - and Christianity's role within it - remains the same problematic, grubby, gritty human reality it has always been since that day on Calvary, the wonderful modern development of the Internet combox salon/book marketing portal notwithstanding.

TL;DR version: the "Benedict Option" is a faith unto itself.

On Miswriting The Benedict Option

Benedict Option
The Benedict Option is not like this at all, except to get you to buy it.

You can't judge a book by its cover.

Or its contents.

Or reviews of its contents, by people who have bought the book, read what's in it, and told you what's in it. They might have misread it. So who can you trust?

When it comes to this book, the only person you can trust is you and Rod. And, frankly, you probably put too much trust in yourself as well.

You see, Rod Dreher's a professional writer, but are you a professional reader? Of course not; there's no such thing. So you probably misread it, too, whether or not you think you "get" the Benedict Option.

As George Weigel says,

There has been a lot of talk about a “Benedict Option” recently, and while no one seems to know precisely what that might mean, the Ben-Op, at least as advertised, does suggest a certain withdrawal from public life for the sake of forming intentional communities of character.

But there's a 50/50 chance that George Weigel misread the book as well, and since reading Ben-Op-type books is his business, what chance do you have of getting it right?

That's right, flatfoot - none at all.

So why even take the chance of embarrassing yourself by becoming confused over details you will almost certainly misread and misunderstand? Just leave the book out of it entirely.

Instead, send an Interac e-transfer for $14.98 (the Amazon hardcover price) with the subject line "I get the Benedict Option!" to

rod@amconmag.com

There!

Now, you, too, can be officially on record as someone who "gets" the Benedict Option, but, even better, you have now perfectly insulated yourself from the all too likely charge of having misread it.

UPDATE: A law professor at one of the country’s elite law schools - I'm going to call him "Professor Kingsfield" to preserve his privacy - just emailed me to ask,

But, Keith, this misreading plague...is no one immune from it? What about Rod Dreher himself? When we read his blog, which amounts to little more than links to his readings of others stitched together with his commentary - is it possible he could be guilty of misreading, too?

The professor was clearly rattled. After all, like Wile E. Coyote and his precipitous dash off the cliff, the good scholar knew he had just opened a void of nihilism beneath his feet, one where no one ever read things correctly, and the world was nothing but a compound horror of misreading piled upon misreading.

But I was happy to reassure him: only other people misread things. As with the research behind his Benedict Option, and going back to the very first note he copied from a kindergarten mate to stick on Mam and Paw's refrigerator, Rod Dreher always gets it right.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Benedict Option as Triumph of the Therapeutic

Benedict Option

In which the blogger, c'est moi, overcome by a tragic attack of laziness, in the style pioneered by Rod Dreher recycles a commenter's comment as his own post filler. In this case it's the 61st comment from the Rod Dreher on Sam Rocha post below by our own Anonymous

April 11, 2017 at 2:00 AM

Rebecca Bratten Weiss (linked to by Rocha):

"And there are other problems: when you try to come Out (or In?), whatever you feared in the World comes in with you, into your microcosm. It’s ironic that my father’s first community was called “New Eden.” Into every Eden, a serpent will come. We tend to bring it in with us. Want to escape from overweening tyrannical power? Too bad, you probably brought it with you, and you will find the community dominated by whichever leader (usually male) has the loudest voice and the least empathy. Want to escape from sexual perversion? Ha. Have I got some stories! It’s amazing just how perverse people can be, on the land, when no one is looking. Want to escape from a welfare system in which those who don’t work won’t eat? I can assure you, you will be shelling beans or building a cabin while nearby some hanger-on rambles on forever about how misunderstood he is. Tired of nitpicking bureaucracy? Your community will be filled with nitpickers, happy to call you out if your daughters’ skirts are too short, or if your sons have been listening to evil music like (gasp) Simon and Garfunkel.

"Communities like this tend to attract those who are unable to get along in the ordinary world, and whatever it was that made them unable to get along, they will bring in with them."

The last point seems to be the most salient re Rod and his BO. Rod can never fit in, and can never follow the rules. He would bring that with him into any intentional community. He basically had to found his own church, because no existing one is good enough for him! He doesn't fit in in East Podunk, or the big city, or his own family. He would bring that same problem with him. As would the other Optionists. They are, like Rod, all would-be chiefs, and no Indians.

More from Weiss:

"But the main thing I want to touch on, here, is why the idea of radical separation into intentional community is delusional from the start. And that has to do with money. Money creates systemic dependence. That’s why agrarianism is a needed component in any marginally successful effort..."

Of course. Without a material basis, the whole thing is play acting. You can't work for Dow Chemical all day, and then pretend you are a monk or a Pilgrim at night. Or, rather, you can, but it is stupid.

As for the agrarianism, good luck with that! Being a subsistence farmer is a lousy lot in life. Real subsistence farmers dump that lifestyle as soon as they are able. Being cold, hungry and sick, and not having access to warmth, food and medical care is not a good thing. And nobody in their right mind wants it. But those conditions, and worse, are very real possibilities for truly agrarian intentional communities.

Otherwise, again, it is playacting. Thoreau at Walden going in to Concord to have dinner at his Mom's or over at Ralph Waldo's when he got tired of his beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner diet!

How is Rod Dreher's personal, idiosyncratic Benedict Option therapeutic in the manner of his beloved Philip Rieff?

Because, upon critical analysis it proves to be not historical, nor theological, nor even geometrical enough to pass muster with Ignatius Jacques Reilly.

It is, instead, in the foundational formulation of our own pikkumatti, the confusion and conflation of Rod's personal taste with truth, also arrived at independently at by Sam Rocha himself:

Here is an insecure man selling his internal condition wholesale to other insecure Christians.

The Benedict Option is what, solely to therapeutically satisfy the psuchological distempers of Rod Dreher and others like him, what religion should be.

Not just Catholicism, because the Benedict Option gambit isn't Catholic, nor limited to Catholicism.

Not just Orthodoxy, because the Benedict Option gambit isn't Orthodox, nor limited to Orthodoxy.

Not just Evangelical, because the Benedict Option gambit isn't Protestant, nor limited to Evangelical Protestantism.

No, the Benedict Option is what the entire human enterprise of religion itself should be, if rewritten from scratch to therapeutically satisfy the psychological-aesthetic needs of Rod Dreher and those enamored of his cult of personality.

To be sure, Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ isn't MTD - Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

It's really more like MDF - Medium-Density Fiberboard, a recomposition of sawdusted chunks of many religions, all hastily pasted together with psychological Rod-Glue.

I wouldn't count on it standing up to a hard rain. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

In pursuit of pyrrhic victory: Rod Dreher on Sam Rocha

Benedict Option
You tell him, Rod!

Let's begin by remembering that Rod Dreher, via his Benedict Option marketing gambit and the book that resulted from it, proposes to instruct the rest of the world how to be better Christians.

Sam Rocha's review of Rod's Book

Rod's review of Sam's review: Sam Rocha: The Critic as Failed Oyster

Useful associated links:

#BenedictOption = boot camp for the Church Militant


“Christian America” and the Benedict Option

Guilt by association...


My comment from the post below where I first posted these links: "Dreher's pyrrhic victory is so close - so close!"

UPDATE 1 - Poink!:

A Noise Annoys An Oyster: A Critical Review of Rod Dreher’s Review of Sam Rocha’s Review of The Benedict Option

Friday, March 17, 2017

The logical impossibility of the Benedict Option

Benedict Option

The logical lacuna at the heart of Rod Dreher's Benedict Option is the same one faced by the architect who would construct a universe on the back of a turtle: what does the turtle stand on? Another turtle? Then what about that turtle?

For our purposes, what Benedict Option protects the Benedict Option?

If secular society has become so intrusive that Benedict Option cult members feel they must withdraw from it, even partially, what Benedict Option technique can possibly insure that that separation will be respected by a force that the Benedict Option inventor defines as demandingly intrusive?

If the Benedict Optioneers can unilaterally disengage from a demandingly intrusive secular culture, it was never really demandingly intrusive; they simply disapprove of it and have converted that disapproval into hysterical pearl-clutching. If, on the other hand, that culture really is so overweeningly and demandingly intrusive, there can be no escape from it. In the badlands, the rapist gets what he wants when he wants it.

Which brings us back to the turtle's footing. So perhaps there is some as-yet unnamed force which will interpose itself between the demandingly intrusive culture and the Benedict Option cultists, a Benedict Option Hell's Angels, if you will.

Whether this Benedict Option Hell's Angels is separate or integral to the Benedict Option cult itself is moot: if it exists, we're no longer talking Benedict Option, we're talking Remote Idaho Christian Militia Option or Ruby Ridge, an alternative which, while nominally Christian, is simply no longer what the Benedict Option author is trying to peddle. It's something else entirely.

But perhaps the interposing force protecting the disengaged Benedict Option cult is not an internal or external Benedict Option Hell's Angels but rather the State of whatever nation in which the option is being implemented, in which, diametrically in contradiction to the foundational claim of the Benedict Option creator, it is precisely politics which will save the Benedict Option cultists: only if their politics are actively and primarily successful will the government protect. If their politics fail, it won't.

Despite the powerful marketing resonance inherent in the word "benedict" itself, literally "good words" or "good speech" in Latin, which, fortuitously for Dreher, flexibly and open-endedly psychologically invokes any Benedict of value from Benedict of Nursia to Pope Benedict XVI, the fantasy upon which the Benedict Option floats is derived not so much from the original Benedict of Nursia as it is from Walter Miller's classic post-apocalyptic science fiction novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, a fiction you may very well enjoy immensely more than Rod Dreher's.

In the Benedict Option author's scenario as in Miller's, the surrounding world collapses into a Dark Age while somehow miraculously not taking down the Benedict Option cultists with it, a prospect now that much more miraculous, indeed, in a world so interconnected that the very inventor of the Benedict Option himself can only make a living by telecommuting as an Internet blogger who seeks out and hypes the most deliciously freakish elements of the culture he disparages such as trannies or cannibals at CNN.

Nonetheless, once you buy, read, and join the Benedict Option cult you will be able to, in ways you are unable to now, disengage from the demandingly intrusive culture while still using the Internet, social media, and mobile telephony in order not to sink into terminal balkanized isolation.

Moreover, that culture you have now tamed by reading Dreher's book will respect your choice, cross its heart.

Then, when everyone else has fallen into Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome - but not you, with your own alternate universe grocery and other support infrastructure - then you will be able to conserve not only your family and loved ones but also the correct traditional version of Christianity, not one which, because of the Apocalyptic Troubles, has now unfortunately mutated through a game of religious-cultural "Telephone" into something idiosyncratically monstrous involving child sacrifice, which you will then be able to reintroduce to those non-Benedict Option cultists who survived the Apocalyptic Troubles by virtue of the Darwinian natural selection such Troubles imposed on their wills to survive and prevail over anyone, at any cost.

And they won't even kill and eat your children for their feast of St. Horrible, even though, dang, do you know how long it's been since fresh pork has been available?

Really, read Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz. And if one slap in the face isn't enough to wake you up, follow it up by streaming Bone Tomahawk.

Either way, Dreher's Benedict Option future is doomed to be turtles, or maybe alternating Benedict Options and turtles, all the way down.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Early returns for "The New Christian Paradigm"

In the comments I have already pointed out that Rod Dreher, in some euphoric rush of unknown provenance, has most recently elevated his Benedict Option book to the grandiose status of "The New Christian Paradigm".

Here he is last night on Tucker Carlson's show revealing this epochal transformation of Christian civilization to America at large:


Discerning viewers will note Carlson's treatment of the transformational prophet Dreher.

Polite. Solicitous. Charitable. All completely appropriate for a conservative Christian talk show host. Also, as Dreher brings the beige, indistinguishable from Carlson probing either a seven-year-old nephew or Triumph the insult comic dog over the technical workings of a gamma ray burster.

Meanwhile, the Lord God Almighty has determined that one of his n-grandnieces, Stella Bombogenesis, should cover Rod Dreher's week long NYC media launch extravaganza as well.

Benedict Option

As Dreher himself remarks as to the launch of his book on the feast day of St. Benedict: coincidence.

Friday, February 24, 2017