Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The premise of the Benedict Option

Today Dreher asks (via an alleged Muslim commenter):

... when you ask Muslim immigrants to integrate, what do you mean? Integrate into what?

Dreher has no answer -- other than this:

... I'm not sure how I would answer it. I've never thought about it before, and am embarrassed to realize that. 

... I think when Europe asks them to integrate, it's asking them pretty much to quit being Muslim. When America does, I think it's more or less asking them, "Will you please not act in ways that make us feel afraid?"

I guess the only way one can think like this is because one thinks like this:

.... Post-Obergefell, to what extent should Christians remain engaged with and willing to defined the America we have? .... 

.... I no longer hold the view that America is a nearly unambiguous force for good in the world. In fact, I think American culture is in many ways poisonous, and a force for evil....

.... I believe that there is a meaningful difference between being a good Christian and a good American ....
This is the premise of the Benedict Option. When one believes that the "Enlightenment project" has failed, then one cannot answer that simple question of "what does it mean to integrate" with the obvious answer that "to integrate" means to accept the founding ideas of the Nation:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed....

Despotism awaits those who follow the path of the Benedict Option.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Benedict Option: a problem understanding monasticism

Benedict Option
Wrong monk
In A Critical Look at the Benedict Option, Greek Orthodox Boston College senior staff member Gjergji Evangjeli writes:

What has come to be known as the Benedict option seeks to answer this question. According to this theory, Christians should retreat from the culture at large, form their own communities where “neo-monasticism” is practiced, which seems to be a selective retreat from the world, where those participating are laymen and laywomen in every respect except that they remain uninvolved in the culture, one could even use the term quasi-monks. A good example of what these communities would look like would be the Hasidic Jewish communities that exist throughout the U.S.
As I, in my own life and discernment process, consider the monastic life, I must say that this is a misrepresentation of what it means to be a monk. A monk does not seek to retreat from the world because he has some sort of ideological or practical disagreement with it; he does so because he comes to the realization that everything that is in and of the world is to him an impediment to the radical union with God which he seeks. Thus, he gives up everything, including the opportunity go hold a job and have a family and children of his own, to own a home, to network with others, to be able to make meaningful change in society, for the purpose of pursuing only one thing, complete dedication to God. Yet, the monk—though he retreats from the world—does not abandon the world, because his great love, Christ, did not abandon the world. Rather, having retreated from it, he prays for the salvation of the world. Thus, he does not seek to forget the world, but to serve it in a different manner.

before concluding

In regards of the Benedict option, imagine the disaster that would have happened had the early Christians chosen it. After all, if Western culture has in some important regards moved away from Christianity, how much farther from Christ was it during the first three centuries of Christian existence? Of course, the early Christians did not choose the Benedict option. They did not choose the Benedict option because they understood that they had a duty to God and a duty to their neighbor to spread the good news that Christ is Lord, that He came back from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion, and that those who believe in Him will have eternal life. And so do we. The correct Christian response to the current culture is not to retreat from it, it is to work zealously to convert it and bring it to the truth and love of Christ. If the Benedict option instructs us to act differently, its validity is questionable.

Of course, it's very possible that Evangjeli gets the Benedict Option completely wrong, from two important standpoints.

First, the Benedict Option is an animagus in the process of being continually redefined by Rod Dreher even as I write this, so, like any week's upcoming Saturday Night Live production, the Benedict Option is in no way bound to be tomorrow what it was yesterday or today.

This is the Easter egg irony at its heart: what Rod Dreher's Benedict Option is is optional.

Second, though and most importantly, as close followers of Rod Dreher and his Benedict Option have verified on numerous occasions, Rod Dreher's Benedict Option possesses a genetically programmed autonomic self defense* within the aforementioned Easter egg which prevents it from ever materializing as anything identical to an object of criticism.

So, sorry, Gjergji Evangjeli. By your very act of criticizing the Benedict Option you have almost certainly guaranteed that it will never admit to being what you understand it to be.

*In addition to these autonomic defenses preventing Rod Dreher's Benedict Option from ever materializing within a locus of criticism, the Benedict Option Easter egg (BOEE) also contains within itself a process analogous to the enzyme reverse transcriptase which can be injected into any host it might encounter in passing.

Thus, if anything you're doing sounds decent, I must say, Rod Dreher's Benedict Option immediately transcribes itself within that activity, and that activity in turn immediately becomes an example of the Benedict Option.

Unless someone happens to criticize what you're doing; then: buh-bye!

Sunday, November 15, 2015


I believe it is accurate to state that the so-called Benedict Option as promoted by Rod Dreher had its genesis from about the time of the Brendan Eich brouhaha -- at which time Dreher concluded that the culture was lost and it was time to carry out a "strategic withdrawal" from the culture at large.  Keith summarized Dreher's moral cowardice here on EQE at the time, pointing out that even Dreher's good buddy Andrew Sullivan called Dreher a coward: 

And the only way to distinguish yourself from these hateful factions [those who persecute gays] is to make a positive case for your position.  That's always possible. From the very beginnings of our faith, Christians have made such a positive case, even as they were being thrown to the lions.  And Rod won't do it because someone might say something mean at the office! 

Sarah Palin agreed with Andrew Sullivan. In response to which Dreher doubled down, making an argument from anecdote by referring to religious conservatives in academia being afraid to disclose their own beliefs about same sex marriage without risking their career.

Hence the Benedict Option, because there just isn't room for Christian conservatives in the larger culture.

Fast forward to last week, specifically the inmates taking control of the asylums of the U of Missouri, Yale, Claremont McKenna, et al., following which Dreher exhorts academic authorities to show some backbone:

Why are you people so afraid?  I don't understand.


Strike back, empire. and strike hard.

That's Our Hero:  asking others to do something that he wouldn't dream of doing.  Picking fights for others, just like good ol' Wimpy:

And fair warning to those about to embark on the Benedict Option -- you'll be on your own, as far as its creator is concerned.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Aux Benedict Option Barricades!

Benedict Option
Put down the beer, Bo, there's barricades to be a-stormin'!
Sigh. Another day, another iteration of the ever-mutating chimera that is Rod Dreher's Benedict Option.

Forget exile.

Forget the stillborn The Benedict Post.

Born from the tumescence of recent Mizzou outrage, this one is straight outa Compton Les Misérables:

We can lament the auto-destruction of the church and the academy, or we can do something about it. We can prepare for the disintegration, and form communities of people who do love the faith, and who do love the Great Tradition, and who have ceased to trust institutions and elites within them to transmit that love to the young. We must strengthen those that stand, and start new institutions where there are no others.

I believe it. It’s time to quit thinking about these things, folks, and to start doing something about them. Organize! Don’t wait to be saved! The displeasure of a football team just took down the president and chancellor of a major state university. And whining students who just wanted to talk about their pain compelled a distinguished scholar to apologize and beg forgiveness for defending free speech and open inquiry. If those aren’t signs of the times, what is?

Put down the beer, Bo, there's barricades to be a-stormin'.

It's not entirely clear to me how much of the doing Rod will be doing himself that Wick Allison is not already paying him to do, but then we live now in the days of leading from behind, right? If not in fact leading while remaining comfortably seated on our behinds. Otherwise, injury might ensue.

But wait!

What's this?

Our chimera has just sprouted a new and very different...turducken...let's call it, for want of a better immediate name:

Merci! Your comment about the Benedict Option reminds me that all people of good faith who are devoted to the Western tradition — Christians, certainly, but also Jewish, Muslim (I’m thinking about our frequent commenter here “Jones,” a believing Muslim, but also someone I count as an ally), and non-believers in the Allan Bloom mold — need to organize, and when possible or desirable, form institutions.

Well, that's certainly diverse, is it not? Rod Dreher's Benedict Option will now include in its communion Christians, Jews, Muslims and "non-believers in the Allan Bloom mold" but, presumably, not non-believers not in the Allan Bloom mold, unless, well, they're people of good faith.

It sounds all quite academic, or at least primarily pitched now to academicians and their academic camp followers like Rod.

The good news is, there won't be any hard thinking involved like actual philosophers and stuff (Have you ever tried to read a real philosopher? C'mon...what a tedious time suck.), just whoever's currently popular in sociology, like Jonathan Haidt. Sociology's best for this sort of thing anyway, because you don't have to prove anything, just quote it.

But what about blue collar folks? Unfortunately, at least according to the caption here, they're going to drink themselves to death in twenty years anyway. Poor choices in wine, no doubt, but really, what is one supposed to do?

That unpleasantness aside, though, (they probably wouldn't like Rieff or Haidt anyway), isn't this newly proclaimed inclusiveness wonderful? Almost like this:

And if you tell your potential publisher your target audience has now been enlarged to include "living literate human beings (of good faith)", surely it can only help.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What is the Benedict Option like?

Contrary to many accounts, it appears to be indistinguishable from a frenetic yappy dog with a spark plug wired into its butt.

Rod Dreher
The Benedict Option contemplates a strategic withdrawal from the external culture.




For those canines on the marches whose hydrocodone prescription has run dry, it's like the Reign of Terror, without the reign and without the terror.

I don't think Jesus done it this way.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Like a Lannister, Ross Douthat always pays his debts

As a non-Catholic, I can't say whether the liberal New York Times' young 30-something Catholic house conservative Ross Douthat was in the right or wrong in taking on the Papacy, its Synod, and all else contained in l'affaire "Douthat Letter" from Villanova girl theologian Katie Grimes and her evil cohorts Boris, Natasha, Moose, Squirrel and whoever else they were.

Ross Douthat Rod Dreher
Scratch Ross Douthat's mane and he'll tickle your tummy

But I was pleased to see that, after the exquisite tongue bath Catholic rejectnik Rod Dreher gave him here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here - oooh, so many different places! - as the night follows the day the following week Ross dutifully tossed his cabana boy a shiny new quarter, even if it did ultimately turn out to be a rather superficial and perfunctory mention in passing:

But in an era of stagnating wages, family breakdown, and social dislocation, this logic no longer seems to make as much sense. The result is a mounting feeling of what the American Conservative’s Rod Dreher calls white “dispossession” — a sense of promises broken, a feeling that what you were supposed to have has been denied to you. (The Donald Trump phenomenon, Dreher notes, feeds off precisely this anxiety.

When it comes to the food chain of the online punditocracy, no doubt one takes the alms thrown to one by a Lannister gratefully, regardless.

Readers of a recent post of mine will find the Dreher post Douthat (understandably, for those familiar with Douthat's own often incomprehensible constructions) cites as the one my colleague Pikkumatti and I were also just discussing as an example of non-sequitur Scrabble Thinking, or perhaps Lego Thinking: stuff is pasted or snapped together to other stuff that may have only the most tenuous connection with the previous stuff but who cares and may also have other stuff embedded in it to form longer and longer molecular chains of stuff and, before you know it - Voila! - one now has a handsomely larger wad of stuff to fill a weekly contractual online stuff-filling obligation.

Certainly not the predictably big league click bait of implicitly roaring at Pope Francis himself, "Own your heresy!", but, still, for its intended purposes, it'll do, pig, it'll do.

As we all know, it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for Rod Dreher to get a Benedict Option book deal without the essential aid of some solid upstream New York Times "authority linking" of the sort he previously got from David Brooks for his Ruthie Leming deal (now, from $1.98, new).

Hopefully, Ross may get around to even mentioning the BO by name any day now.

After all, in an age where Christianity desperately needs a thickening more than at any other time in its 2,000 year history, online Christian blogrolling and authority juice link building are really more crucial than ever before, aren't they.

Thursday, November 5, 2015