Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The best Benedict Option comment ever

I lifted this comment wholesale from Rod's blog. You know, like Rod himself frequently does.* It really doesn't get more concise than this.

yan says:
April 26, 2016 at 3:35 pm

I don’t understand what the Benedict Option entails on a day to day basis. I don’t really understand what it is at all, except for a mental rejection of whatever is “wrong.” And I don’t understand how that can be a movement or a culture. And if it can’t be a movement or a culture, I don’t see any relevance in discussing it as any kind of an “option.” Seems to me it is just as well to say, “keep praying every day and go to Church every Sunday and avoid morally pernicious influences as best as you can on yourself and your family.” And to me, that is synonymous with leading a religious life. So, what is new or different about the “Benedict Option,” compared to just trying to lead a religious life, if it does not entail some kind of co-ordinated, communitarian effort?

But, if it does require the latter, then, didn’t Monaghan the pizza guy attempt to set up some Catholic community in Florida at one point, and didn’t the federal gov’t say that they way he wanted to run things violated the Constitution?

If that is the case then the issue is not just culture/community, because you aren’t going to be able to create mini-cultures. The law won’t allow it.

Any kind of Benedict Option that involves community won’t be outside the reach of the law. And that’s the real problem. A real Benedict Option would mean illegal communities.

Like the days of the catacombs. If that’s what you mean by a Benedict Option, then please let us know. I’m just trying to get some clarity here.

Benedict Option

What can I say, yan? The Benedict Option is bogus. A placebo. A will-o'-the-wisp. There is no there there that wasn't there already. The only thing new is a catchy new marketing phrase.

Like the chains that bound the mighty wolf Fenris, the Benedict Option is forged of impossible things: the sound of a cat's footfall, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain, the sinews of a bear, the breath of a fish, the spittle of a bird. Oh, and for good measure, a smokin' hot cover of Kiss.

One of the perennial characteristics of the defrauded is that, deep down they know they're being had as the process is occurring, but the psychological desire to believe that they're getting greater value (relief from all that bad culture stuff) at a very good price (an easy to acquire sugar pill called the Benedict Option that doesn't even make you larger) is strong enough to push any doubts out of mind long enough for them to be had. Afterwards, of course, they are victims, but at the time, they are actually eager co-conspirators. Fortunately, it sounds as if yan here may end up walking away with his wallet intact.


In the main post itself, Rod whips out his kid gloves and slaps conservative Christians with derision - slap!, slap! - for not signing up for his mystery meat from the bed of his pickup truck,

Anyway, Ross’s last bit — reaction as an artistic and religious stance, but not a political one — seems to be more or less where the Benedict Option is. You have to be fairly alienated from liberal democratic culture to find the Ben Op appealing. In fact, I think that’s why so many conservative Christians resist it. They know that things are bad, and getting worse for us, and they know that the center is not holding, and cannot hold. But if it’s true, then they would have to do things that are really difficult. It seems easier to live with the cognitive dissonance. Many of us are like the conservative Episcopalians who say, “One more thing and I’m out the door!” — but then the one more thing comes, and we redraw the red line.

finally ending this interminable scarf quilted from the thinking of others with this ultimatum:

Sooner or later, religious conservatives will have to take the Benedict Option, or be assimilated. I know of no feasible alternative. The longer you put off the decision to start thinking and moving in the Ben Op direction, the harder it’s going to be.

Well. Winter Is Coming, you bloody fools, and if you don't purchase the Emperor's New Clothes right now, your willies and boobies will promptly freeze to a crisp and fall right off. This is a limited time offer, folks. Act now.

But wait. Let's examine just how fraudulent Dreher's Offer You Can't Refuse actually is: no one yet knows even what the Benedict Option IS, least of all Dreher, who's still in the process of inventing it.

How do we know this? Dreher himself explains just how the sausage is being made earlier in the same post:

As part of my Ben Op research, I’m reading now a dense book by social anthropologist Paul Connerton, whose 1989 book How Societies Remember I blogged about here.

Having had no urgency himself with respect to the Benedict Option for decades until a book contract materialized - not to form any sort of coherent thought simply for his own understanding of his own to-be wares, not to save his own family, not for any reason which might have displaced the other pleasures in life he chose to pursue instead - Rod nonetheless wants you to know now he's doing the heavy mental lifting you probably can't by tackling this "dense" book.

But, exactly as with the invention of Obamacare, Christians will have to first buy Rod's not-as-of-this-moment even coherently understood account of the Benedict Option to find out what's in it. Shouldn't commitment this far in advance of delivery carry at least some sort of deep discount?

In addition to the typical Dreher thoughts-of-others-quilting and tacit narcissistic apple polishing, the main thrust of the post is a put-down of liberal democracy. You know, the sort of liberal democracy Christians across the lands of Christ's birth were sneering at themselves - ptui! - even as ISIS was cutting them and their children down like wheat. Well, weren't they sneering? No? You mean they wanted more than anything else a space of liberty to worship as they pleased? Huh.

When one puts any effort at all into examining what turns out to be this layer cake of fraud, one finds that the foundational layers are self-delusion: arrested adolescent rebellion against the very sort of spaces and processes supplied by older, wiser others enabling the adolescent's rebellion to even become possible. The aging, bearded teen, fuming, liberal democracy-enabled belly full in his warm, safe liberal democracy-protected bedroom, with latent Daddy issues about how uncool and decadent the bubble within which he exists is.

And so, like those un-self-aware jellyfish marooned in a lake in Micronesia, Rod will write his Benedict Option book and sell it to fellow Christians of similar oblivious bent, greater fools eager to co-conspire in the self-congratulatory exercise of thinking Benedict Option-flavored thoughts.

Will the book offer anything of practical value to anyone? At this point, the word from the author's mouth seems to be no:

Q: Not sure if you’re there yet in your book, but I’ll be interested to hear your thought on how the concepts of liberal democracy come into play in the self-governing structures of the BenOp.

I understand you’re not talking about setting up some sort of weird shadow government. However, the community would need some sort of rules for who’s in, who’s out, who should be eldered/discipled, what behaviors are unacceptable, etc. There will be real questions in any community about how those rules are set and those decisions are made. Since we’re pretty much talking about Westerners here, there will be a strong bias towards a more or less democratic process as people’s default approach to self-organization.

A: [NFR: I don’t want to mislead you about the book. I’m not going to get that granular about it. — RD]

Probably the smartest move, Rod. The less detail you offer, the easier it is to sell a lie.


But, Keith, you ask (I know you ask this because I get literally thousands of anonymous emails daily, each beginning "But, Keith..."), what sort of person is likely to buy the hot mess of thinking you just described above?

Well, people like this guy:

Hector_St_Clare says: April 27, 2016 at 12:09 am

Here’s where I think neo-reaction’s critiques of democracy are serving a useful purpose (amidst a bunch of noise and provocation). Neo-reactionaries say they would prefer a form of government where Hobbes’s Leviathan is not required to constantly persuade those it guards of its legitimacy through a system of voting that fixates on short time horizons.

Oh my goodness. This is the heart of why I dislike liberal democracy, and it says more pithily what I would just love to say but couldn’t express so neatly. Well, that and then there’s the fact that liberal democracy is ultimately a morally hollow form of governments: it grounds its authority on the will of the people, whether that will be for good or evil. And then of course there’s the fact that setting adults free to compete for political power ends up in the same place as unrestricted economic freedom. Most adults, like most children, don’t really have a good sense what’s good for them, and allowing them to govern themselves is just going to end up with the bullies and smooth talking sociopaths in power.

Here’s a decent example of why liberal democracy doesn’t make a lot of sense when you carefully examine its premises. We know that the popular will is just flatly wrong about a great many questions, we can see that from looking at questions which actually do have a scientifically correct answer. If 60% of the population can be wrong about a basic scientific question of fact, why would we expect them to be right about questions which are harder to answer, like "what sort of society would be optimal"?

And we wonder why ISIS is so attractive to so many effete young people world wide.

*If Rod or yan has any copyright problem with me lifting this comment wholesale, simply let me know in writing care of Est Quod Est and I'll be happy to remove this post. As I mentioned, Rod frequently uses reader comments - intellectual work created by others - as the mainstay, even the entire content of posts that pad out his contractual obligation to The American Conservative and from which he earns his salary and the medical and other benefits his family enjoys. So I don't see why I'm not entitled to the same liberty to take yan's comment that he enjoys, particularly since I'm not earning a dime from doing so. If it is the case that either Rod himself or the commenter yan believes one or the other owns the copyright to yan's comment, however, let's see that claim presented in writing. I'll be happy to participate in any such defining moment.

(Astute readers may detect a certain pattern of parasitic repurposing for profit common to both Rod's frequent lifting of his blog readers' comments to then become his own bylined blog posts and the re-branding effort which exhaustively defines his Benedict Option.)

Thanks for reading my blog. For current commentary and what-not, visit the Est Quod Est homepage


  1. It seems easier to live with the cognitive dissonance.

    Well who would know better about this than Rod Dreher himself. He has lived for years now with the cognitive dissonance of someone who continues to report on abuse scandals in the Catholic Church but not in his own church. He decries the lack of community out there yet starts a church in his back yard which is so tiny that they can't afford to pay their priest enough to get health insurance coverage. Etc.

    Whenever I read or hear something as maniacal as "Sooner or later, religious conservatives will have to take the Benedict Option, or be assimilated," I immediately return to this ancient description of Christian life as a refresher course/palate cleanser.

    1. Rather than build another overly long post, let me instead take off from your remarkably timely and prescient reference link and just finish what I teased here.

      The Dark Ages for Christians aren't things like weirdos causing transient bathroom hysteria; weirdos have always been with us, and things far worse: governments would butcher Christians in arenas for sport (still do), marauding tribes spitting children on swords like shish kabobs.

      No, the Dark Ages for Christians arrive when personal Christian faith and will in that faith becomes so effete and enervated and crumbly rotten that the hyenas like Dreher usually kept at bay circling just beyond the fire light trying to peddle their must-have Stabil-Faith Christian fuel additives start becoming attractive.

      A perverse and sinful world is the normal state of affairs for Christians to live in. It's the Benedict Option that's the unnatural hormone therapy which shrivels some parts while ballooning others.

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  2. "Sooner or later, religious conservatives will have to take the Benedict Option, or be assimilated"

    This has to be one of the most delusional statements the Rod-Man has ever made.

    1. Well, he keeps making it. Has been repeating this mantra a long time now. It's delusional and it's marketing. Promoting the delusion to the currently-or-soon-to-be delusional, to make them into a market for the book.

      I'm Orthodox, and I rarely stop cringing when I read (mostly just skim) his posts. Please, don't anyone assume he speaks for all of us.

    2. Fear not, Anonymous. I consider Rod Dreher religious in the same way I consider Caitlyn Jenner a woman.

    3. I am Orthodox and religiously conservative. But I am socially much more liberal. I shudder whener I read Rod because he does not speak for us in any way. His knowledge f Orthodox theology is shockingly limited. My big concern about Rod is that those otside our faith will consider him a representative sample of Orthodox christian rather than a delusional neurotic sitting at a keyboard riffing apocalypic fantasies constructed in his own mind.

    4. Anonymous at 11:40, like the truffle pig, it has always been the lure of the sensate rather than the spiritual which has drawn Rod to the religions he has aspired to beyond his country mouse roots, thus his ease in jettisoning an entire communion wholesale over one instance of psychological food poisoning: it's the interchangeable exotic taste and the self-congratulation attending it ("Can you believe what I paid for this caviar?"/It’s grueling — I’m putting in a five-hour shift from midnight till five a.m. on Saturday, reading the Psalms aloud in church —), not the particular theological content.

      But again, don't worry. When Rod uses Orthodoxy to praise himself

      That’s really great. It made me think about how the only thing my kids know is the Orthodox form of Christianity. The younger two kids only remember Orthodoxy. Matthew was seven when we became Orthodox, so he might have some memories of Catholicism, but surely most of his sense memories of churchgoing are in Orthodoxy. And that means a far more elaborate mystical and aesthetic experience of Christian worship than he would have gotten anywhere else.

      Orthodoxy has it’s problems, Lord knows, but one thing the Orthodox Church knows how to do better than everybody else is celebrate liturgy (Many Eastern Rite Catholics use the same liturgy, so I mean them too.) The colors of the icons and the vestments, the liberal use of incense, candles everywhere and the aroma of beeswax; the frequent crossing, bowing, kissing, blessing, and ritual gestures that tell a story; and the fact that nearly all the liturgy is sung, sometimes in ancient melodies that simply stun —

      I, at least, a bad cradle Methodist, am not baited into the sneering at Catholicism he's passive-aggressively trying to provoke. I see it for what it is, simply a creature desperately trying to raise his public status above bacon.

    5. Rod offers us an excellent insight into his cynical, utilitarian regard for religion with his actions this Great and Holy Friday in the Orthodox calendar.

      In several posts today (written previously and timed to automatically drop today) Rod offers us a great deal of pious hand waving over the fact that he won't be approving comments today, given the day's exceptionally sacred status.

      That doesn't stop the yet-uncommented posts from appearing today, because, whether or not a holy day without a Rod Dreher might be an affront to God Himself, it certainly would be to Rod, Wick Allison and their TAC franchise, which requires every possible Dreher-driven page view for its survival (here's an uncharacteristc post soliciting for the Dallas TAC event Jonathan first uncovered. FrontBurner blogger Jason Heid handles the assignment with all the enthusiasm of simultaneously enduring a prostate exam).

      It goes without say that simply letting comments to Rod's commercially necessary Great and Holy Friday posts go up as automatically as the posts themselves would be an affront to at least one self-annointed deity.

    6. Drump's slogan: "Make Good Friday GREAT again."

    7. Pauli, I'm sure you'll appreciate this comment.

    8. "Fear not, Anonymous. I consider Rod Dreher religious in the same way I consider Caitlyn Jenner a woman."

      This has to be one of the most beautiful things I have read about DreRod. However, I would replace the word religious with orthodox. I am gonna have to use this gem myself.

    9. The Resurrection, prioritized by the truffle pig himself:

      It’s going to be a LONG time before I eat beans again. After the Paschal liturgy, at the parish celebration, I had bacon, meatballs, ham sandwiches, cheese from Norcia … and prosecco. Just now I have taken a Pepcid, and am headed to bed.

      Pascha is so joyous! Christ est réssuscité! Il est vraiment réssuscité! A special greeting to all my Orthodox readers around the world. Answer in your own language, please.

      Would it really be that much worse if a porn actor were to yowl a similar post-Lenten triumph over sensate deprivation during his money shot? Would being married to his recipient co-star bring it more solidly into Benedict Option territory?

    10. I never realized Great and Holy Lent was supposed to be enjoyed as some sort of gastronomic S&M bondage-and-release.

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    12. Wait a minute, anonymous Orthodox readers of EQE, you mean all Orthodox aren't given to crowing Christ is risen — and he brought back pulled pork with him! when celebrating a self-valorizing Easter in a 1,464-word post?

      You mean you're not so smitten with the risen pork that you attach the same caption to a picture of a priest holding something looking suspiciously unlike suckling pig?

      No, I didn't think so, and thank God few others will really think so either.

    13. Christ is risen — and he brought back pulled pork with him! when celebrating a self-valorizing Easter in a 1,464-word post?

      tl;dr - Reader's Digest Condensed Version: "My religion can beat up your religion"

      -Anonymous Maximus

    14. Isn't that always Rod's point? Sigh. Gets so old.

    15. If I were Rod's priest, I'd be careful dandling tender infants around him right after a fast. He seems easily confused.

    16. I'll confess, Anonymax, in my comments so far I've been completely enthralled by the transcendent repulsiveness of Dreher's consummate swinishness (he was already wallowing in the caption he had intended for the subsequent picture when he even more grotesquely attached it to the first), but you make an even more important point.

      One understands how Dreher's cartoonish grasp of Christianity as Spartan martial ethics for indoor kitties proceeds necessarily from his reflexes as a passive-aggressive bully and from that, then, how he might want to create a movement like his Benedict Option to give those reflexes a facade of gravitas they could never claim on their own. But how can one now plausibly believe that anyone else who reads this post of his and still wants to join his movement is not essentially made of the same character clay? I used to worry they were being deceived, then mocked them as fools and nitwits, but now I understand they are simply fellow mutants, finding each other at last through the magic of the Internet.

      This may also explain the enduring hard, low ceiling of interest in the BO. Like trannies, they can never be more than a fraction of a fraction of the population.

    17. Orthodoxy has it’s problems, Lord knows, but one thing the Orthodox Church knows how to do better than everybody else is celebrate liturgy

      And once again, Rod absolutizes his own aesthetic and seeks to impose it on the rest of us, as a universal "given."

      It does not even cross his mind that we are all different; chacun a son gout; one man's meat is another's poison; diff'rent strokes, etc. etc. etc.

      Some of us prefer Eastern liturgy. Others prefer Latin liturgy, which in its more reverent and traditional forms is also incredibly beautiful. Different. But just as beautiful.

      People are different. We all have different tastes. When will Rod ever get that?

    18. Rod sez: "Last night at the barbecue, my friend Chris and I were talking about how exhausting it all is, but how we wouldn’t trade it for anything. “It’s like Navy SEAL training,” said Chris. I smiled, because I had made that same comparison in an e-mail to a friend the day before. This is Church as training for spiritual athletes. Mind you, monks, both Orthodox and traditional Catholic, have a far more rigorous schedule, but for lay Christians, there is simply nothing as demanding as ordinary Orthodox liturgical life during Lent and Holy Week."

      Well I guess, if like Rod himself, you've given up on what are traditionally considered the demanding parts of Christianity..like loving your neighbor as yourself, not casting the first stone, and all that other hippie MTD stuff; then yeah, spending a few hours in Church and skipping the Parma ham for five weeks is just like Navy SEAL training. What an asshole

      -Anonymous Maximus

    19. Rod's post is one of those two panel cartoons where in the left panel Rod is standing triumphantly in a velour jump suit atop the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, arms in air, a halo percolating in a thought balloon above his head, while in the right panel we see a kindly God and Blessed Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu peering in bemusement at a beloved, beady-eyed hamster laboring in its wheel. Tenderly, she offers it a baby carrot.

    20. Well I guess, if like Rod himself, you've given up on what are traditionally considered the demanding parts of Christianity..like loving your neighbor as yourself, not casting the first stone, and all that other hippie MTD stuff....


      Yep. It all reminds me of my least favorite, most obnoxious advertising campaigns from years past:

      "Are you tough enough for Grapenuts?"

      "Volvo. The car for people who think." (Right. Because if you can only afford a Honda Civic, and you don't feel like over-extending your bank account, that obviously means you're a stupid unthinking clod.)

      And last but not least, from just a few years ago, courtesy of UNC-Chapel Hill:

      "Presenting the Online MBA Program You Probably Can't Get Into."

      Because everyone knows that preening and bragging while insulting the rest of the human race is a surefire way to spread the Gospel.

    21. BTW, isn't boasting about how much tougher your praxis is the very essence of pharisaism?

    22. BTW, isn't boasting about how much tougher your praxis is the very essence of pharisaism?

      Yep, this is a foul straight out of God's Playbook. Personal foul, 15 yard penalty, repeat the down.

    23. Absolutely right, Diane.

      To borrow a line from Fight Club, which I trust is macho enough for Rod:

      The first rule of fasting is: you do not talk about fasting.
      The second rule of fasting is: you DO NOT talk about fasting.

      (Obvious exception for immediate family who eat their meals together. I don't think that applies to one's faithful army of blog readers.)

      In any case Rod has slept off the pork bacchanal and is now back to his usual ranting about teenage trannies. Yawn.

  3. In addition to the typical Dreher thoughts-of-others-quilting and tacit narcissistic apple polishing, the main thrust of the post is a put-down of liberal democracy. You know, the sort of liberal democracy Christians across the lands of Christ's birth were sneering at themselves - ptui! - even as ISIS was cutting them and their children down like wheat. Well, weren't they sneering?

    Precisely so, for the reasons you mention.

    Dreher has gone on and on about Christian conservatism being incompatible with the "Enlightenment project", meaning of course government by consent of the governed (from the Declaration), or more succinctly classical liberal democracy. But since the BenOpt hasn't yet (if ever) been defined, much less exist, the choice Dreher gives us between BenOpt and liberal democracy is no choice at all, but simply a "put-down of liberal democracy" as you say.

    More specifically, Dreher's BenOpt has all along been particularly a put-down of the Republican Party for not properly protecting traditional values in favor of kowtowing to business interests. Not to say that the GOP doesn't deserve criticism, but in Dreher's case it has seemed all along that he's just been dying to have an excuse to vote for the Democrats. You know, the "kind of Democrat many conservatives feel comfortable voting for". For example, like Elizabeth Warren:

    A populist who talks like Elizabeth Warren and really means it is a Democrat a conservative like me would consider voting for, despite her social liberalism.

    As further evidence of this, we can recall the Dreher jihad against Ted Cruz, in which Dreher applies the stoner logic that the real problem with ISIS is not Islamic terrorism but Ted Cruz's reaction to Islamic terrorism. Never mind that Cruz is of course a Republican who in fact would act to protect Christian values -- it matters not to Dreher. He embarrasses Dreher for backing what Dreher claims to want, and is thus in the way of Dreher voting for the Democrat, so he must be savaged.

    What a phony.

    1. Drerod is frequently asked what aspect of the Enlightenmenthe finds so unsetling. To date he has been unwilling or unale to answer that question. I get the impression that he either does not know enough about the Enlightenment to answer the question or is afaid of the reaction should he actually state what he thinks. Rod is a member of ROCOR and that church has ore than its fair share of monarchists who have a fetish for Russion Czaris. Some Orthodox converts get all misty eyed thinking about te glory days of 19th century Russia who of course could not tolerate living in such a society for one minute. Rod may be one of these or something worse.

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  5. I am sure you are sickened by what the former Speaker of the House did to those boys while he was a Coach. http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/27/politics/dennis-hastert-sentencing/index.html

    That being said, I do think if certain Crunchy Cons had not devoted so much time to covering the abuse in the Catholic church and making every think this was a uniquely Catholic problem; we might have found out about Dennis Hastert and many others years ago.

    1. Indeed so, Jonathan. For this continuing scheme to have continued all these years while he was making his way up the Congressional ranks without discovery means that people weren't looking.

      And for me, this highlights the corruption of Congress. They go in as middle-class as a wrestling coach and come out rich enough to pay hush money.

    2. Remember, Jonathan, Mr. Crunchy BO was Catholic as long as it got him a seat at Bill Buckley's dinner table and made him a national name as Scandal Blogger Boy, but when his own efforts began to taint the Catholic communion he packed his bags and split town in the dead of night, claiming a failure of his faith, just coincidentally picking up in the process some handily looser rules of the road just as his sex life and wallet were beginning to demand them.

      When his priest faced ruin with the birth of a special needs baby, he held an unctuous pointer on his blog to a fundraiser started by someone else, then not that long after advised us of the value of a good financial planner in cultivating a handsome net worth.

      This is Mr. Benedict Option, the religious utilitarian who will stand on the mountain top, smiting the ground with his staff and thundering that those who do not follow his whim-o'-the-moment will be assimilated.

    3. Jonathan, the clerical sex-abuse crisis didn't start in Boston. In fact, it was going full bore when St. Peter Damian wrote Liber Gomorrahianus, an illustrated treatise condemning widespread pederasty and concubinage, in 1049

  6. "...delusional neurotic sitting at a keyboard riffing apocalyptic fantasies constructed in his own mind."

    A truer description of Mark Shea I have never seen.

  7. Yes it happens in the church and the leadership's ineptness and/or criminality enabled many an Anti-Catholic. What bothers me is media elite who tried to make pederasty seem like it was only a Catholic problem. The evidence shows it is not! To focus solely on it does no one a favor.

    1. Amen, Jonathan!! Google CJ Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Ministries, and sex abuse coverup. We Catholics have cleaned up our act. Others have not, and they fly under the radar, so they get away with it.

  8. http://www.plough.com/en/topics/community/church-community/why-community-is-dangerous