Let's face it, being a fraudulent hustler of religious culture like Rod Dreher is hard work. It's not easy selling people cutting edge hydrogen oxide when they are accustomed to drinking water. But if you're Rod Dreher you persevere in your emperorography, and then one day
Boom, there it is: the strategy for the Benedict Option. Christians have to play the long game, as our ancestors in the faith did. This is what I mean by the Benedict Option: to figure out how to live, and build the structures of community that make it possible to live, so that we raise generations of Christian families. Historical circumstances have trimmed back the previous growths of the faith down to the roots. Our job is to patiently tend the roots, and nurture them for the day when the long winter darkness ends.
Boom! At least someone else is finally providing Rod with something with which to substantiate the completely cool and at the same time utterly hollow Madison Avenue brand name "Benedict Option" he has been trying to market for the last several years now.
Those who have followed this ad campaign from the beginning know quite well that it started out as a flight-from-corrupt-society religious mutation of his original Crunchy Cons mish-mash, except that no one wanted to buy that product and, as a result, Dreher was forced to wander in the wilderness pretending he knew quite well what he was talking about without, however, ever quite being able to clearly state what he knew.
In philosophical terms, the Benedict Option trade name was forced for a time to revert from actuality back into the less stressful quantum state of pure potentiality while it awaited a new product host and a new consumer base for that new product. Now, though, it seems old, unimproved
UPDATE.2: And the next person who repeats the much-denied claim that the Benedict Option is about running off to the hills and building a compound to keep out all the impure people is going to get punched. Seriously, though, I am so tired of repeatedly denying this that I’m simply not going to publish any comments stating this untruth.
Given our working prophet's burgeoning Russophilia, the delicious Sovietness of this edict should not be surprising, but it does raise some ancillary and as yet unanswerable questions. What happens if I do decide to run off to the hills and build a compound to keep out all the impure people while patiently tending the roots, nurturing them for the day when the long winter darkness ends? Am I still licensed by Dreher, Inc. to use the term "Benedict Option"? For that matter, how will any individual or group know for sure whether
- they are practicing the genuine Benedict Option;
- got saddled with an old, out of date and previously recalled Benedict Option;
- are erroneously practicing a faux-Benedict Option (never buy one from the trunk of someone's car);
- or simply happen to be a sluggard who isn't trying hard enough and is only effectuating some inferior pre- or sub-Benedict Option?
In other words, where can one find the official catechism of the official Benedict Option to ensure one is getting it right?
Ah, perfect. So one will be available for sale.
Still, I remain confused. Some posts back I laid out my thinking as to why everything Dreher must deal with in under-girding his tantalizing trade name "Benedict Option" with actual practicable substance leads with inexorable logic to a terminal secular millenarianism, and, again, if anyone can show me how it escapes this logic trap, by all means do so.
But the "Boom" paragraph with which I led off this whole post suggests something new, something different, something exciting
This is what I mean by the Benedict Option: to figure out how to live, and build the structures of community that make it possible to live, so that we raise generations of Christian families.
To figure out how to live, to build the structures of community that make it possible to live so that we raise generations of Christian families. So...to be Christian. That's the Benedict Option. To be Christian.
But still, to figure out how to live as a Christian, to build the structures of community that make it possible to live as a Christian so that we raise generations of Christian families - with a way cooler new appellation, The Benedict Option.
Not that dull old traditional Zud figuring-out-how-to-live-as-a-Christian option, building the structures of community that make it possible to live as a Christian so that we raise generations of Christian families. No, new, improved Benedict Option figuring-out-how-to-live-as-a-Christian option, building the structures of community that make it possible to live as a Christian so that we raise generations of Christian families.
Now, of course, the whole enterprise will feel more or less new, improved Benedict Optiony as opposed to old, unimproved Zuddite or any other traditional Christianity optiony depending on one's relative hysteria about the putative Dark Ages one is living in compared to other periods in history with other anti-Christian hazards. Wolves. Meanies. People that when you tell them you're a Christian go "Nie!". Disco. Vikings.
Where does this now leave me? Adrift between apocalyptic, dark-agey secular millenarianism and this new gospel of a fascinating new hydrogen oxide, with its own exegetical catechism to be offered for sale some time after the book about how Dante can save my life will finally be offered for sale.
Thanks, I'll just have water. No, really, I'm good, just ordinary, 2,000-year-old water. If it was good enough for Jesus and those who followed Him, it's good enough for me. But, still - way cool brand name, dude.
UPDATE (as they say): Commenter Mike W at the Dreher post linked has questions similar to mine:
Mike W says:
March 19, 2015 at 12:25 pm
A few questions. As a practical matter, how would the Benedict option look? What would be the general attributes of someone (or a community) following the Benedict option? How would you know if you were actually doing it properly? How do you “modernize” the approach to deal with 21st century pressures such as 24/7 media, etc. Who’s doing it now? How successful are they (and how do they define success)?
[NFR: All great questions ... but ones I am not prepared to answer. All of them I have to explore while working on the book. -- RD]
All great questions indeed, and in most cases the sorts of things one would want to have thought about and have answered before embarking on a great commission to recruit others to completely recreate their lives to suit one's vision.
But, just as with the case of Obamacare, the Benedict Option is nothing more than a political marketing chimera designed only to enhance the reputation of its proponent while dumping the unknown burdens of implementing it - including even the most fundamental question: what is it? - onto the paying marks in the cheap seats.
Here's the litmus test that Rod Dreher's Benedict Option (TM) is nothing more than fraudulent vaporware. If it were a real thing he really believed in for himself, Dreher would have already stated in clear and practical terms,
"Here is what I am doing myself and for my family in pursuit of the Benedict Option as I envision it.
Here is what I am doing:
and here is what I am not doing:
That is the Benedict Option in practice for my family, the Drehers."
But having taken the orders and the down payments, alas, there is no product in the warehouse for delivery.