Thursday, July 2, 2015

Two Down Votes for the Benedict Option

The last several days were sort of rough for the so-called Benedict Option. It's not like the future guru-architect probably cared, though. He was to busy being Mr. World Traveler with his companion, Sordello.

But while he was tramping gayly through Europe, Bruce Frohnen wrote this withering take-down of the BO. Excerpt:

The Rome Benedict fled in the late fifth century surely was chaotic and troubling. But Benedict did not flee to the woods to pray because he was told his God was not welcome in the public square. And when God refused to allow him to pray alone, sending him acolytes and fellow believers to build a community, it was as a means of evangelizing to spread the good news throughout his land and the lands beyond the borders of old Rome, into the pagan forests. Those who went beyond those borders often were martyred because they refused any tactical retreat to the supposedly safe and hospitable regions in and around Rome. They reinvigorated as well as spread the Church, because they refused to be cowed, refused to back down, and refused to retreat, instead recognizing their duty to combat the ignorance and superficial understanding of the nature of reality that ruled most of the world.

Such a vision is attacked as prideful and even oppressive today, as one would expect, given the repaganization of our culture. But it is precisely this hostility toward evangelization that must be fought. As Dreher openly admits, Christians will be persecuted in a culture such as ours has become—we will lose careers, opportunities, and even our freedom if we step too far out of line with the ruling ideology. But there will be no safe place to reorganize for the future. Should we withdraw we will merely devolve into insular groups, many run by crackpots (there already are too many examples to mention) and most so cut off from one another that they will die out. The faith will not be lost, just as the cause of a Christian society will not be lost, because no cause is ever truly lost. But our duty is not to hope for better days. It is to work for better days in the here and now, including by confronting a political and legal regime increasingly hostile to our faith and way of life.

The article is worth reading in its entirety. Frohnen concludes: "[O]ur children and our children´s children need to know that we fought hard, not that we retreated in the face of arrogance and injustice. For we are not fighting for victory in this world, but to witness to the nature and reality of the next."

No doubt the future guru-architect of the Benedict Option will merely wave his hand, smile and gently state that Frohnen just doesn't understand what the Benedict Option is. The insinuation would be that Bruce Frohnen has neither thought nor meditated deeply enough upon the glorious Benedict Option, and maybe just doesn't have the mental capacity or the imagination to do so. By the way, Dr. Frohnen got his PhD at Cornell and has three other degrees.

I would like to point out several things the second paragraph. First of all: "[T]here will be no safe place to reorganize for the future." Keith did an entire post on related aspects of this truth. I have laughed from the very time I heard the term strategic withdrawal from the guru and future architect of the BenOp. How can any planned battlefield action which you broadcast to everyone beforehand be called strategic? Sloppy usage of battlefield language is a betrayal of unseriousness.

Secondly: "Should we withdraw we will merely devolve into insular groups, many run by crackpots (there already are too many examples to mention) and most so cut off from one another that they will die out." Emphasis mine. And the groups will be insular by definition. Diane could probably list off a number of crack-pot, insular "communities"— it's one of her specialties. In theory, I realize, the proposed BenOp communities will be enlightened, immaculately clean, free from scandal, covetousness, dissension and bickering in the ranks about small worldly matters such as, oh, I don't know... money for example. But in practice just look historically at the groups of people who have tried this. And please, don't argue for the Amish. I live in Northeast Ohio OK?

A day before Dr. Frohnen wrote this, John Zmirak wrote another article condemning the Benedict Option. (We blogged his first here.) Excerpt:

So is it time to give up, hide, and hope for the best? Should we throw down the weapons we still have, which God provided us? Shall we surrender America to the sex radicals, and leave our children with none of the liberty that we inherited from our parents? Is it moral to abandon our fellow citizens and neighbors to the ever-escalating demands of the secular culture of death? Is it time to dissolve all activist divisions of the pro-life movement, which has made so many strides, and accept that abortion on demand, for nine months, for any reason, will be legal here forever?

All of these outcomes would flow from the misnamed “Benedict Option,” favored by Dreher, who for years has advocated a sort of apolitical Christian separatism. I am not surprised that the same magazine that publishes a piece from a writer wanting to crush the churches with the tax code has given Dreher a venue to counsel surrender. Any conquering army hopes to sow defeatism in the enemy. Remember all those leaflets in Arabic we dropped on Saddam’s troops in 2003, promising good treatment and hefty rations for those who defected? Think of Marshal Petain’s appeal to the French Army in 1940 to throw down their guns and collaborate. The Germans were happy to broadcast it.

Kudos to John Zmirakwho attained his BA from Yale and his PhD from LSUfor bringing it to the fight and not worrying about offending the guru of the BenOp, with whom I understand he briefly attended school. He rightly points out that Dreher is a favorite of the ultra-liberal TIME because they like the separatism and withdrawal as much as he does.

I hope more Catholics will follow Zmirak's' lead and less will take Father Longenecker's on this ridiculous fantasy.

UPDATE: Commenter 'Peter' gives us a link over at a post by a kindred spirit. Thanks, lads!


  1. Catholic Wick Allison hasn't shed any noticeable tears over Obergefell anywhere in his publishing realm, on TAC or in his D Empire. Here is one of his star writers on Allison's blog FrontBurner crowing over Obergefell-resisting Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's latest legal problem:

    Now, if I could stop being Zac Crain the highly respected journalist at America’s No. 1 city magazine and be Zac Crain your gossipy pal, I would say — after Paxton urged county clerks not to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, ignoring the SCOTUS ruling — this is how I feel about Paxton’s current sitch. ("This" links to anigif of athletic star celebrating).

    Now, to be fair, I'm sure the both Catholic Allison and Orthodox Dreher believe the Lord understands full well that to live in exclusive Highland Park as Allison does or to attend the horse races in Italy as Dreher does requires money, money that He certainly did not see fit to make grow on trees. Thus, to meet these fundamental human needs of both, at times a far from perfect human being will inevitably find it necessary to split the difference between the interests of the many, particularly their own, and the interests of the few, that is, those with the aforementioned fundamental human needs. But don't be misled by crass, superficial appearances, for the extra income either can earn in the present by lining their fellows up on the docks in Ghana for a trans-Atlantic cruise will surely be as bread cast upon the waters after many days.


    1. Color me unsurprised.

      P.S. It is so distasteful to read that sophomoric D magazine blog.

  2. Some one from my place pointed me here. Here is my Amen to your words:

    But don't be hard on every Cornell PhD. A few of them are nice people.

    1. Thanks, Mr. Briggs. I think I heard you on the other WIlliam B.'s show yesterday, or maybe today... My mornings kind of blur together, IYKWIM.

      Keep the stats coming, my man.

  3. BTW, Dreher seems to have a knack for convincing (or selecting, as the case may be) his readers:

    From the comments to today's Dreher post on the Palio shindig:

    ck says:
    July 2, 2015 at 7:52 am

    Over time, in America, perhaps the Benedict Option will organically evolve into something like this.

    There can be no better proof that the BOp is a meaningless term than that observation by a faithful reader of its inventor.

    1. Dreher appears to be irresistible to those whose reflexes tend toward obedience and submission, as opposed to others more inclined to grab his beard with their left hand and administer a Woop!-Woop!-Woop!-Curly-eye poke with their right.

  4. Why are you guys obsessed with this? are you hoping some publisher somewhere will notice that you are smarter/more consistent than Dreher? Because I have news for you: publishers don't care. Dreher gets paid for chasing his tail in an entertaining way. He's a useful idiot, easily controlled opposition. Whether Dreher knows that about himself or not is immaterial. I doubt even he cares at this point -- you're probably the only ones who do. Dreher's getting book contracts and junkets up the wazoo while you guys are swimming in sour grapes. Get over it. The publishers think all Christians are idiots and Dreher is just a useful one -- except wait, now you're going to tell me that I'm making stuff up and don't know what I'm talking about, that NY publishers really do give a crap about Christian thought! like ya did when you told me Brendan Eich wasn't really fired for supporting traditional marriage. etc.