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.


  1. Paul Baumann's review of the BO in Commonweal:

    Worth a read. I think there will be many reviews in this vein, which is, roughly: the amount of history Dreher doesn't know about his topic is a lot.

    1. That's what struck me when I read somewhere that Dreher had surveyed all of Western history from late antiquity to today. How does he suddenly become an historian? Does he think it's that easy? Does he realize how amateurish this makes him look?

    2. Well, for his last book, he became in short order a Dante scholar, which is something else that actual experts spend a lifetime becoming. So gathering the whole of Western history for this book should be no big thing for him, either.

    3. There's a price to be paid for cocooning oneself off in a safe space of one's own construction the way Dreher has since he gained control over his blog, and Dreher has paid it heavily in the form of the arrested development of his thinking processes. When one can control the temperature and other conditions in the hothouse to confirm one's opinions of oneself and one's thinking, it's not surprising that one inevitably grows self-indulgently weak and disconnected from the world at large one might wish subsequently wish to speak to.

      I don't use the term "cult" entirely flippantly above. One of the things I've been up to over the last six months is reading the blog of gamerboi/sci fi "rabid puppy"/now Alt-Right promoter Theodore "Vox Day" Beale.

      Although their respective ends-contents are radically different, structurally the worlds of Theodore Beale and Rod Dreher are virtually identical. Neither allows backtalk on their blog, unless it's of the most supine and servile kind from curious seekers. Each uses their particular ostensible value-goal - Beale identity politics nationalism; Dreher religious liberty - as a wrapper within which to actually promote themselves instead - Beale his publishing imprint and to ingratiate himself in the company of higher status individuals in his own particular orbit; Dreher his books and to similarly ingratiate himself in the company of similar higher status individuals like Brooks, Douthat, Moore, etc.

      Each creates and utilizes his own self-affirming vocabulary - Beale "converged", "magic dirt", etc.; Dreher "BenOp", etc. - which in turn become shibboleths by the use or non-use of which safe tractable sheep might be distinguished from potentially troublesome goats.

      In each case, each promotes himself as the dog while actually being the tail being wagged, Beale by the Trump ascendency, Dreher by the fallout post-Obergefell, a fact invisible from within while abundantly clear from without.

      Neither can really function very well outside of their hermetically sealed comfort zones of carefully selected appearances and audiences, and each takes his strength from a carefully groomed blogatariat of readers eager for their dear leader's confirmation. And to an ungroomed outsider, each presents himself as embarrassingly idiotic in astonishingly short order.

      It's that carefully groomed followership that supplies the primary purchasing audience for each. Few outside Beale's gamer/sci fi/blog orbit seem to read his books or criticize them. When goats like Smith and Baumann happen to take up books like Dreher's ambitious "new paradigm" the results can become predictably ugly.

      But in the age of the mass-individual Internet, the bean sprout can paradoxically create almost entirely out of itself all the matrix and nutrition it might subsequently need to consume. It will never become a sequoia in its respective field, but it will continue to get by from day to day.

  2. Ok, apologies to our Eastern Orthodox brethren who frequent this blog, and no offense intended. But I think we can't totally understand where Dreher is coming from without considering his "Convertodoxy."

    First, there's the fixation on monasticism. In Latin Catholicism there's a rich tradition of lay spirituality, aka the Domestic Church. Family Rosaries, devotions, consecrations to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, sappy Mary hymns, living rooms that resemble get the idea. Whatever you may think of this stuff, it sustains a vibrant lay piety that is very much lay- and family-oriented, not monastic.

    From what I'm told, Eastern Orthodoxy, at least here in America, does not really have anything equivalent except the Jesus Prayer (of monastic provenance) and the icon corner. Both of these are wonderful, but they are not as full-fledged, so to speak, as the Domestic Church.

    Moreover, among American Convertodox, a certain monastic-hanger-on cult has developed. Many converts look more to their local monastery (if they have one) than to their parish for spiritual guidance. This is especially problematic for converts who live close to one of the Ephremite monasteries. (We have one of these here in my neck of the woods.)

    Thus Dreher's focus on monasticism is in keeping with his Convertodox assumptions. He assumes, as many EO converts do, that laypeople are supposed to live as much like monks as possible. But as the Benedictine monk featured at an earlier link noted, that is neither feasible nor desirable. Laypeople have a different calling.

    The other way in which Dreher's Convertodoxy informs his BenOp is his anti-Westernism. He chronicles what he considers the West's decline into darkness and then proposes a very Convertodox solution -- laypeople living like monks. How convenient!

    One wonders whether he sees any similar moral and spiritual decline in the East, which has certainly had its own tortured, complex history. One suspects not.

    Dreher's fixations conveniently fit his anti-Western, anti-Catholic prejudices. That is not the only thing that should give us pause. But it it is certainly one thing among many.

    Dreher is not a safe guide for Catholics. He is playing us. It's too bad so many can't see that.

    1. Diane, probably the most peculiar thing about the BO is that it's being pitched as a generic, one-size-fits-all solution for all denominations. Denominations so different that in prior centuries some fought generational wars against one another. And Dreher has never excluded his BO as an option for his Muslim readers as well.

      So what is it that all of Dreher's proposed market does have in common, intra-Christian and extra-Christian alike?

      Why, they all have the money to buy his book. After that, good luck, and God bless.

    2. True, he is peddling it as one-size-fits-all to reach the widest possible market. But very few Baptists of my acquaintance are going to uproot to live near a monastery. :)

    3. IOW Dreher is snookering Catholics. He may rope in a few of his fellow Orthodox (although most of them seem to have his number). He may even persuade a few high-church evangelicals. But his primary target = those many well-intentioned Catholics who do not know enough about Dreher to realize that he's playing them.

  3. John Zmirak: Three Tough Questions to Ask Yourself Before Signing on to the Benedict Option


    Michael Charles Burge • 4 hours ago

    He doesn't advocate withdrawal. Did you READ THE BOOK? He is advocating a different type of engagement and NOT by any means shirking parental and civic engagement...its a matter or prioritization..we can't act from or hand on what we have lost AND ARE NOW LOSING. read the book.


    Michael jeromesstone • 4 hours ago

    Read the book. The "withdrawal" trope in this thread is a straw man.

    Of course it's not withdrawal. It's engaging withdrawal. Or withdrawing engagement. Or

    I’m sure I’ll read the book eventually, but frankly, it’s hard to find the motivation. The way TBO has been discussed publicly for years has struck me as similar to a phenomenon common in academia: You popularize a phrase that appeals to many people, but for multiple reasons that are not easily reconciled with one another, and then build a career for yourself as the only person who is allowed to authoritatively resolve disputes about what the phrase “really” means. So those who see TBO exemplified in Tim Keller’s church and those who see it exemplified in monestaries will provide Rod Dreher with job security as a referee. But whatever TBO means to Dreher, if some champion it because they love Kuyperians and other champion it because they love monks, it’s not clear to me just how much of a clear and stable meaning it will ever have in the public mind.

    Or maybe it's just something like those ironic rock band names, like Iron Butterfly. See, man, it's, like, a butterfly - but it's made of iron. But it's, like, a butterfly.

  4. Zmirak's article is so spot on. I kept saying "yes, yes, exactly," all through it. Thanks so much!!

    More later. This is a YUGE topic.

  5. As Rod says concluding his "Dark Mountain" post which resumes that parallel phase of promoting the BO that identifies the BO with everything (e.g., parallel universe hillbilly prophet J. D.Vance) and everything with it:

    You may disagree with all of this, and if so, read The Benedict Option and let’s have that discussion in our churches and families and small groups.

    So get your priorities exactly right:

    1. First, above all things, buy Rod's book and pay him and his publisher

    2. Then say or think whatever you want, agree, disagree, whatever. You have already taken the most important step.

    3. But, first, above all things, buy Rod's book and pay him and his publisher

    4. Because, if you haven't read Rod's book, you haven't read the exact words of Rod

    5. But if you have read the exact words of Rod as written, that is, exact words of exhortative command general enough for a reasonably broad audience crossing Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox denominations, then you can have full confidence that the universe will obey his words, as if they were the Logos, because Rod has written them.

    6. But if if you haven't read Rod's book...all bets are off, with respect to your thinking, contemporary and future Christian history, how God moves in the universe - all of it. Not to have read Rod's book is, well, it's like voluntarily submitting to a curse, isn't it.

    7. So, first, above all things, buy Rod's book and pay him and his publisher

    8. And then do whatever you want with your life. You have been given Rod's Truth. It's now entirely up to you what you do with it.

    1. And after all this waiting and decoding of blog posts and NFRs, just like Ralphie we find out that it's just a crummy commercial.

      BTW, I see from the "Dark Mountain" post that one doesn't have to be Christian, or even concerned with "preserving Christian culture" to receive the BO Seal of Approval -- the religion of environmentalism works just fine for that.

  6. From today's installment in "enough about the book, let's talk about what people are saying about the book", we have Dreher telling us to take him seriously but not literally:

    Quote from the book (via a reviewer):

    Dreher: “It is time for all Christians to pull their children out of the public school system.”

    Dreher's response in the blog post (emphasis added):

    I know that it is simply not possible for very many good people to do anything other than send their kids to public school. And speaking for myself, there are some places in which I would choose a public school over a private school. It is not fair to generalize, and I did generalize, and am sorry about that. It really is a matter of prudential judgment. If it were left up to me and me alone to homeschool, I would have my kids in a public school in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

    I guess we shouldn't take him seriously either.

    1. Pik, the guiding principle is this: does it move the Ovaltine?

      The most ironic thing about this whole project is that, in the end, it will overwhelmingly be the person and personality of Rod Dreher which ultimately torpedoes his effort.

      Because there really are reasons for Christians to perk up and take notice in ways they may not have done before, or recently. But they don't involve spinning one phrase out of MacIntyre into a Benedict-resonant marketing jingle, which monastic implications the author denies at every turn; they don't heavily involve an anonymous Greek chorus of anecdotal emailers and conversationalists providing remarkably coincidental support for the author's views and disdain for his critics; they do involve, as this grad student points out, thinking far more deeply and thoroughly than an ADHD-ish blogger with a minimal undergraduate education is capable of; and, finally, they certainly do not involve the sort of sense of entitlement ("the Benedict Option is my time to be a contenda, Ma!") that the furiously peckish and petulant Rod Dreher exhibits when others actually dare to repudiate him.

      In the end, potential consumers beyond the blog circle and its ripples will see through the BS to the narcissitic hustle of just another crummy commercial, Crunchy Cons refurbished for Krunchy Kristians, that BO is and only is.

    2. You have to be critical in ways Rod approves. You're dead to him Jamie Smith:
      [NFR: I’m not interested in engaging with Jamie Smith. I continue to recommend his books — they’re very good! — but on this topic, he has proven that he writes in bad faith. I don’t know what his personal problem is with all this, but I’m not interested in it. He burned that bridge. — RD]

      Rod has no response for Smith's review in Comment. He unmasked the emptiness of it all.

  7. That review by Nathaniel Peters is excellent.

  8. Now the ugly molars of Pathos will begin to grind Dreher into cud:

    1. He has to push this dead horse of a BO uphill into acceptance. If it catches fire, he's all set. Early returns are not encouraging. Most of the people he needs to promote him have, at best, only been politely air-kissing him, something he may or may not be acute enough to realize.

    2. To push the horse uphill, he has to tie his current brand of blogging, pop culture outrage porn, to the BO. OTOH, the BO pushed by an outrage pornographer; OTOH, outrage porn alone.

    3. There is no more BO anticipation. That ship has now sailed. As BO talk drops off, all that remains is an endless horizon of outrage porn blogging. His blog readers will of course like that, as do the children who ask the aging clown to make that balloon giraffe again. Again. Again. At what point do the clowns begin to dream of hemlock?

    4. To re-invent himself again, to change his stripes, to rise like the phoenix from the ashes of bad metaphors, Dreher must pivot again: from Crunchy Cons --> Little Way of Ruthie --> Dante --> Benedict Option. Crunchy Cons? Early first attempt. Ruthie? Still dead, and Dreher's abandoned the Wendell Berry meme entirely, once he found out he couldn't go home again, moving instead to one of the densest urban centers he could find. Dante? Just medication. He's all better now. Yay!

    But to pivot away from the Benedict Option, his life's work as a prophet? Inconsthievable! OTOH, the BO pushed by an outrage pornographer; OTOH, endless, unruffled horizons of outrage porn alone. Dreams of hemlock.

    1. And, right on cue, just like one of Pavlov's dogs salivating to a bell:

      Critical Cheers For Cannibal Movie

      Weimar America. The Weimarization of the West.

      Remember: St. Benedict was so disgusted by the decadence of the city of Rome that he walked out of it and headed for the forest to figure out what to do. This is us, you know. A culture that celebrates the depiction of cannibalism as sexualized entertainment.

      What are you going to do about it? No, seriously, what? Is this the world you want your kids to grow up in?

      Is this not completely insane? What a culture!

      Rod, who with this project clearly fancies himself the lay "doubtless very different—St. Benedict" (who else has he named for the role?) proves instead to be a very, very, very, very different bringer of good words - the BO and its appetite stimulant, outrage porn.

      First you serve them the outrage porn, then how can they do anything but follow you?

      But I don't think either Jesus or Benedict done it this way.

  9. He won't post my response which was asking why does he continue to look at this stuff if the BenOp is true? Why is he not on his Ark? Why can he not look away? Oh yeah, because he peddles in and profits off this shit. He's the very thing from which Benoppers ought to flee. In fact, he worse.

    1. This +100

      In terms that a guy who's intellectual claim to fame is a philosophy minor at LSU can understand, Rod's problem ( there id only one) is that he's selling eudaimonistic virtue ethics (granted a Christian one where eudaimonia is found in God), which are based on right action, but he lives a bizarre cyber life that's a combination of the world online and the world in his head, where he is predisposed to endless contemplation rather than action.

      You can trace this all the way back to "Little Way" where he is the philosophical intellectual city mouse and his sister is just the plain old country mouse. That would be his sister that did more good work for society in one year as a teacher in a poor, rural, predominately African American public school system than Rod will do in his entire life with all his books and blogging.

      He needs to put down his MacIntyre (he doesn't understand it anyway, except in a modern, sound bite sort of way) and pick up his Marcus Aurelius:

      "Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one."

      But the odds of that area just as slim as the odds of Rod the lover of the local giving up his fancy french confiture and switching to Louisiana made muscadine jelly.

      -Anonymous Maximus

  10. Noah Millman nailed Dreher to the wall in the infamous critique that was expunged from the American Conservative website at Dreher's request. "Now, I have to seriously ask this: is [Dreher's] feeling, of outrage, likely to be salved, or exacerbated by the pursuit of the Benedict Option? The culture is going to go on, after all, doing whatever it does, and people all over the country will continue to produce Dreherbait ... But isn’t the collection of such stories, well, isn’t it kind of obsessing over precisely the parts of our culture that the whole point of the Benedict Option is to turn away from, in favor of a focus on one’s own community, and its spiritual development?
    So I have to ask: is one of the strictures of the Benedict Option going to be to stop pursuing outrage porn? And if it isn’t – why isn’t it?" Dreher never answered this question in a satisfactory way, nor has he even attempted to answer it in any kind of way at all, satisfactory or not. That failure speaks volumes about both Dreher and his brand of Ovaltine.

    1. Rod kicked me off his site because I asked the same questions writ smaller over his obsession with Miley Cyrus. What kind of middle aged man, particularly one who purports to be so holy, spends his time watching the MTV Music Awards? And then writes post after post documenting, in excruciating detail, and complete with links, the lewd and suggestive performance of a barely legal pop star? Such things are par for the course, and have been for decades. Rod is like the New York Post...with their "Here is the latest outrage about Abercrombie and Fitch scanty clothes for kids...complete with pictures. Lots of pictures."

  11. So many incisive comments! Y'all rock!

    Meanwhile, there's a lively discussion of the BenOp going on over at, an evangelical "watch blog." It seems the New Calvinists (John Piper et al.) are gaga over Dreher, and the Wartburg folks find this rather odd and disturbing. (They are not fans of Calvinism, new or otherwise.) Check it out... They could use and would welcome your input. (I post there very occasionally as Catholic Gate-Crasher.)

  12. Commenter Gina also has Rod's number:

    RD: “What are you going to do about it? No, seriously, what?”

    Well, I’m certainly not going to rub my nose in it, or spend any time gawking at it. How on earth does this driving fascination with the worst excesses of our corrupt culture give you the strength, peace and love to combat it?

    Yes, it’s your blog and you can run it however you like, but for someone ostensibly concerned with building up Christian culture and showing a different way of living, you seem to spend far more time in the dark than in the light. Just saying’…

  13. “I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.” -- Ignatius Reilly, A Confederacy of Dunces

  14. “Social Note: I have sought escape in the Prytania on more than one occasion, pulled by the attractions of some technicolored horrors, filmed abortions that were offenses against any criteria of taste and decency, reels and reels of perversion and blasphemy that stunned my disbelieving eyes, the shocked my virginal mind, and sealed my valve.” ibid

  15. Dreher's valve only comes unsealed when he goes to Italy.

  16. Amidst a sea of praise for Dreher, here is a refreshing change of pace:

    1. Thank you for recommending this review. It is outstanding, without doubt the best, most comprehensive I've seen. Seriously, it covers almost everything that's wrong with Rod's writing. And it is not a hit piece; it is reasoned and scholarly. Everyone, go and read it right now.

    2. Yes! That review is terrific -- I was going to insert a pull quote from it here, but that would not do the review justice.

      Those who have read Dreher's blog pieces over the last couple of years will see each of the points raised by Dr. DeVille in the review, which makes it sound like the BO book is essentially a compendium of Dreher's blog posts.

    3. Yep. Exhaustive and complete. The only thing left to say now is that the BO project will be that litmus test which will separate the pop-cultural Christian needy and their willing pop-cultural Christianity parasitic market suppliers from the rest of humanity, Christian and non.

      Adam Deville seems to be the singular child at the Emperor's haberdashery reveal.

    4. Yep, that was a great critique. Sigh! How can Professor DeVille be so brilliantly correct re Dreher and so boneheadedly wrong re Fatima? (A discussion for another day.)

  17. From "A Muslim Reads The Benedict Option" (But of course! /Clouseau French accent):

    TitusA says:
    March 26, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    “How is it that my Muslim brother Kamran understands The Benedict Option better than some Christian reviewers?”

    Unless you see him as some sort of MTD Christian, I think Adam Deville’s critical review may provide some answers to your question:

    [NFR: I don’t see him as any kind of Christian... — RD]

    TitusA says:
    March 26, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    So then do you think Deville’s criticisms hold any water? If your Muslim brother understands the book better than Deville, how so?

    [NFR: Didn’t read Deville’s piece, but note that I didn’t say “all” Christian critics who don’t like the book misunderstand it. That would be ridiculous. — RD]

    Across, eight letters: Japanese for "divine wind"

    1. Rod "didn't read DeVille's piece." That's rich.

    2. In fact, now I think it's quite possible that copying that 20-part tweetstorm in his next post was his way of putting as much real estate as possible between the top of his blog and the comment thread that includes reference to DeVille's review.

    3. Yep. There's a good argument to be made that, more than ever with the BO project, Rod Dreher's punched a quagmire of a tarbaby named Rod Dreher.

    4. “How is it that my Muslim brother Kamran understands The Benedict Option better than some Christian reviewers?”

      Perhaps because the BO is more Islamic than it is Christian?

      The BO has been pitched since its inception as intended to "preserve Christian culture". But IMO it has never had anything to do with spreading the Gospel itself, except as something that later generations might be able to do decades or centuries from now. OTOH, the BO is a battle with modernity in much the same way that Islam has been battling modernity over the past couple centuries and to this day.

      So little wonder that our Muslim brothers would "understand" the BO better than many Christians. To the extent it can be understood in any meaningful way, that is.

    5. Sometimes when it rains on Romantic Medieval Man, Pik, it pours.

    6. OMG, I honestly find people like this Sanchez cat more tiresome than Dreher. Trads always overestimate their numbers. Get real, Gabriel.

    7. Pauli, not sure I'd say "more tiresome," but yeah, that "SSPX Will Save the Church" stuff gets really old. Apart from the SSPX stuff, though, I agree with Gabe's analysis.

    8. I know reading comprehension levels are at an all time low, but...

      I can't think of a single place in the post you are childishly attacking where I inflated traditional Catholic numbers. I am quite cognizant that traditionalists are a very small minority in the Catholic Church, though there's an argument to be made that their influence far outpaces their size.

      Also, I do not believe the SSPX will "save" the Catholic Church. That job belongs to the UGCC (duh). I just wish everyone else would quit working so hard to ruin it. That's all.

    9. Noted G. In the future I will try my best to comprehend you, whatever religion you happen to belong to at the time.

    10. Gabe, I apologize! I was uncharitable.

      I promise not to caricature trads if y'all promise not to call the rest of us Neo-Caths. Deal? ;)

      (I won't caricature trads anyway. I sympathize.)

    11. Today in Our Guru and His Gurism

      Unfortunately, Guru will be unable to speak to Adam DeVille's review of his book today and for the indefinite future because he's about to undergo the scariest of scary back procedures because basically he never gets off his ass.

      Therefore, to oil the psychological and spiritual waters prior to our brave Guru undertaking this most scariest of scary back procedures because basically he never gets off his ass, today's post will contain nothing but positive, happy thoughts about the BO book.

    12. And then there was this review:

      "I cannot say enough about how wonderful this 1-inch diameter PVC Sch 40 coupling was to apply to my project. It was constructed of the best PVC material I have ever seen and was deeply impressed with how smooth it was on the inside which was identically duplicated on the outside! As for the color, my goodness, I was so overwhelmed at its whiteness that I have determined to be a better person from now on!! How did they make such a perfect product which is even now forever hidden deep within gunite concrete in my backyard koi pond? Amazing! I most certainly will return to Lowe's in the near future to buy more and more of similar products in the very near future! Thank you!!"

      Okay...wait. Sorry.

    13. Pauli, I think Gabe is on our side. :D

  18. Here's what I think happened. 1) He really hadn't read DeVille's piece and so let the comment through. Had he read it, there's no way he gives his minions access to it; 2) he then read Deville's piece. He's probably regretting that now and can't just delete the comment, especially with its NFR. So it's very possible that space is being created. I wouldn't be surprised if we get a number of "outrage" posts today to show us just how bad the world is and how much we need the BenOp. I can't imagine he actually tries to engage DeVille.

  19. In the same piece as Dreher's question about his agreement with the "Muslim brother", we have this follow-up question from Dreher:

    How is it that I suspect I have more in common with him on the subject of holiness and faithful living than with a lot of Americans who call themselves Christian but who seem to be well assimilated to the secular, consumerist order?

    Putting aside for a moment the arrogant insult of "who call themselves Christians", I think this question fully exposes the BO for what it fundamentally is -- the recycling of "Crunchy Con", this time as "crunchy Christians" rather than conservatives. It's crunchy turtles all the way down.

    Back to the insult: we see (again) what Keith's been pointing out all along -- Dreher will be the judge of True Christians, namely as those adopting the BO and eschewing "consumerism" (except for yummy food and drink, of course). The particularities of Christian doctrine are not important (indeed, one can be Muslim, it appears), it's all about how properly Crunchy you are.

    1. Bingo. Thank you.

      And yes, the arrogant, elitist insult is Pure Dreher.

  20. To Gabriel Sanchez's point, it does seem reasonable to ask BenOppers whether the SSPX is an example of BenOp, and if not what distinguishes the one from the other?

    1. I agree. But the same could also be said of a vibrant, close-knit parish, like the one I belong to. What distinguishes it from the BenOp?

  21. Guru defends his Gurudia on Amazon

    Again, the Three Commandments of Gurudia:

    1. If you have not read the Gurudia, the Gurudia is correct.

    2. If you have read the Gurudia but disagree, the Gurudia is correct but you did not get the correctness of the Gurudia.

    3. If you have read the Gurudia and agree, you both got the correctness of the self-evidently correct Gurudia and are blessed beyond others for having done so.

    1. On Amazon? Seriously??? Lol... Have never seen an author do that before. How undignified. (Checking it out now.)

    2. Lol, OK. That review was a big fat bunch of bigoted hogwash. In this case I think I have to say: Go Rod!

    3. Yeah, Diane, I agree about the review itself. I was struck, first, by Dreher "curating" his Amazon reviews one reviewer at a time and, second, by the fact that Dreher seems to understand that the crowd that "gets" his book will also effortlessly swallow "I've decided you didn't read my book" as preemptive counterargument. It could just as easily be that the reviewer Dreher chastens has read a book so ineptly written that arriving at the conclusions satisfying his particular bias was not a difficult journey.

      What can we learn from comparing all of these academic and theological reviews (not counting this one or the paean to the Schedule 40 PVC coupling)? What is the one point they all ultimately reveal?

      That the BO is the Christianity of a solipsist, Guru, a Tradition of One, for All.

    4. LOL, yes, Keith, I agree 100%.

      Curating your Amazon reviews one by one...LOL. Yep, who else does this? Who else would *ever* do this?

    5. ...and it makes Rod look petty and undignified for no good reason. I mean, it's just downright silly to respond to a review that deranged. Let the unhinged review speak for itself! By responding to such nonsense, Rod legitimizes it. If he had ignored it, it would have stood forth clearly in all its glaring idiocy. In a way, it would have made Rod look good. (If a nut like that doesn't like Rod's book, it can't be all bad, right?)

      But Rod could not resist. He simply had to respond.

      By failing to control his urge to respond to every single criticism, no matter how unhinged, Rod shoots himself in the foot, IMHO.

    6. Diane, I think we're seeing to the heart of the BO in Rod's response to this review through a lens unavailable before. Pik picked up and amplified something that Adam DeVille alone, I think, identified: the BO is Rod's own, personal, idiosyncratic jihad against modernity as the personally particular Christian Rod has become as of publication. And so, while Parallel Universe Rod n-subscript-1 might write a slightly different BO book less heavy on Obergefell, say, and more heavy on the scourge of overcooked broccoli and while Parallel Universe Rod n-subscript-2 might might write a slightly different BO book less heavy on, etc., etc, all Rod's would still write essentially the same BO book from the perspective of the solipsistic, idiosyncratically modernity-cranky Rod particular to his universe. And none would write BO book leading with the Gospel or articulated on the basis of philosophical or theological principles actually understood either historically or conceptually - only on the basis of name-checking those other thinkers who have gone to the trouble of doing so. He actually conducted several blegs to that effect after getting his contract but before writing the book (paraphrasing): "Who would be good to read to cite and flesh out my book?"

      So, since the book is essentially All About Rod, any critique is not a critique of a conceptual architecture; from accounts, there's precious little such architecture there to critique. Instead, such critiques - including Amazon reviews - are personal put-downs of Rod himself, ones, unlike his blog comments, he couldn't delete, and so, one by one, they must be personally answered.

      Except for one's like DeVille's where answering would prove even worse.

      And, of course, except for reviews like maria's. No one asks whether maria actually read the book in order to arrive at her exhaustive review, because Amazon informs us she already did something far more important to Rod: she bought it.

  22. Ruh-roh

    From the Federalist, no less:

    The Benedict Option Can’t Save Your Faith Or Family

    Mid-article sub-heading:

    "Benedict Option Communities Are Intrinsically Weak"

    1. That is excellent! Thank you.

    2. Excellent piece, thanks.

      As a complement to that piece, we have this one from Crisis entitled "Is the Benedict Option the Answer to Neo-Barbarianism?". The short answer is: no.

      Pull quote:

      Should we disengage from the Culture War and follow a policy of “increasing and unstoppable fragmentation” which facilitates the building of “thriving sub-cultures,” you can trust the neo-barbarians to respond like neo-barbarians. They will target our intentional communities (and monasteries), which will be like low-hanging fruit, ripe for politically correct marauders and savage judicial fiats to steal.

      Continued cultural engagement and maximum political action, however imperfect, are the only ways to hinder and confront this scenario. We forget that the Culture War began as a war of self-defense. You can’t just call off a war of self-defense without losing your freedom.

      So the BO is a bad idea because it eats itself through its insularity (from the Federalist piece), and it won't work anyway (from the Crisis piece). These are serious challenges that deserve more of an answer than the apparent superficial treatment in the BO book (or the usual response of "the reviewer didn't get it").

    3. Pik, if the vitamin water I sold you didn't put the pep back in your step, it's probably because you didn't drink it right. Sorry. How 'bout another bottle? I'm sure you'll get it right this time.

      Even better, why don't you and your group contact Taylor Fleming at for a lot of 25 or more. You'll get a tiny discount on each bottle, and you'll have the extra confidence of having the mutual support of the group to reinforce your belief that not only did you drink it right this time but also that your ole pep has come a-roarin' back. There's just nothing quite like a group to erase those nagging personal doubts, is there. Call now. Operators are standing by.

    4. Excellent comment from a priest in the combox of that Crisis article:

      The battle ground for the faithful remains the parish. That is also the conviction of Cardinal Raymond Burke. If those of us we believe in the Apostolic Tradition and the moral teaching of 2000 years drift off into isolated communities it's likely those communities will stay insulated and eventually vulnerable to dissipation and error. What occurred during the Dark Ages and Barbarism was the mission of the Benedictine Order with a firm rule of life to preserve Christianity. Eventually those monasteries of professed religious became the nuclei for drawing pacified roving Germanic tribes to the faith. The conditions today are essentially different. Christianity must stand its ground and fight the good fight of faith until it is provided with true and faithful leadership. There are many excellent faithful bishops and cardinals for he faithful to form community. Today communications, the Internet and sites like Crisis Mag provide opportunity for new forms of faithful community.

      Eggzackly!! There is a reason why the tried-and-true parish system developed. There's a reason why it has stood the test of time. There's a reason why it remains the primary way most Catholics (and Orthodox) live their faith. ***It works.*** And it largely avoids the huge pitfalls that hothouse "intentional communities" can fall into.

      So, your parish isn't vibrant? Volunteer. Lead a Bible study or renewal program. Teach Faith Formation. If the situation's truly hopeless, find another parish within reasonable driving distance. Duh.

      We've been at our current parish (actually a rural mission) since 1990. It has had its ups and downs. It started out as the most liberal, hippy-dippy parish/mission in the Vicariate, with liturgical abuses out the wazoo. Today it is solidly orthodox (although definitely not ultra-trad), vibrant, and close-knit. That's because faithful laypeople stuck it out and worked from within to renew it. In recent years we have also been blessed with wonderful, solid priests -- but we prayed fervently for this; it didn't just happen.

      I would rather rely on my parish any old day than trust my fate (and my family's) to a potentially toxic "intentional community" led by some kooky control-freak convinced that his elitist, communal version of Christianity is superior to everyone else's.

    5. A related thought:

      OK, so your parish isn't as *intense* as an intentional community?

      Believe me, that's a feature, not a bug. A benefit, not a liability. When I see an intense intentional community, I run screaming in the opposite direction.

      Parishes don't force you to get commit so much time that your family life suffers. All they ask is that you show up for Sunday Mass and put some money in the collection basket. If you want to go above and beyond that, well and good. But you do so of your own free will and to the extent that you feel able. It's very freeing! Ask anyone who has ever been in an *intense* intentional community -- like my goddaughter's "charismatic covenant community," which Dreher praised in Crunchy Cons. People who come out of such communities usually describe their exits as "escapes." And with good reason.

  23. I, a secular liberal Democrat, have been reading Rod's blog for years. I thought, initially, that it was a place I could go to understand the Conservative standpoint, which I quite admire.

    The reason there are so many liberals participating on his blog is because he has lots of interests, writes moderately well (at least he used to) and is perennially angry and complaining that the world is not working well enough for him, just like, frankly, liberals. I say "used to" because now he just copies other people's stuff and critiques it. And for doing that, he still gets more reads than anyone else. So why bother doing any original writing?

    I know very well that the whole BenOp inspiration is for the purpose of shoring up his own lack of faith, and replace his own doubts with a bunch of admirers who will make God and devotion seem real for him.

    And when he is not promoting himself as a religious Prophet, he is rolling in smut which he copies off the internet and then talks about how terrible it is. And us liberals, reading his blog are going 'well duh, it's terrible, and nobody spends time on it except you'.

    So I'm pretty disappointed that my pursuits to tap into my inner conservative nature have been so sorely let down by a writer who sells his own most private family moments for public acclaim.

    Pursuing his critics on Amazon was pretty funny, but totally typical, and it wasn't the lowest he's ever gone. The lowest was putting pictures of his young daughter in "reverence" as he explained it was, at church, on his blog. I actually think something he said on his blog in the matter of Mathew Harrington was even lower.

    So my long winded point is, he doesn't need to create some big Ben Op for religious life. He could just start by looking at his own morals.

    1. Thank you, Secular Democrat. Astute observations indeed. :D

  24. In which Dreher channels the great Whitaker Chambers. I guess any previous praise of St. Benedict by a famous author is now at risk of being co-opted into the BO book ("And please read The Benedict Option, and add your thoughts and your voice to the vital conversation of how we in the church are to live in these darkening post-Christian times.").

    P.S. On the pages of "The" "American" "Conservative" website, we have the following comments on Whitaker Chambers from a couple of its faithful readers:

    From Siarlys Jenkins:

    To me, this writing just goes to show how utterly banal Whittaker Chambers was. He was a neurotic communist and a neurotic anti-communist, and he wrote vapid commentaries with little or no grasp of relevant facts....

    From Uncle Chuckie:

    Rod quoting Whittaker Chambers. Words fail me.

    In any event, as has been pointed out, no one follows his line of reasoning in history any more. They were laughing at it when I was in college 50 years ago.

    Note to Secular Democrat (welcome!): A magazine who attracts readers who consider Whitaker Chambers' writings as "banal" and "vapid", or belittle his importance, is not the place to go to understand conservative ideas. Glad you were able to see through it.

    P.P.S. Bonus NFR:

    From "Ed":

    Maybe it’s time to think about “Gibbon options” — ways of participating in the social and political world, rather than abandoning the public sphere for smaller, isolated, private domains and letting the public realm fall apart.

    [NFR: You didn’t read my book, did you? Didn’t think so. — RD]

  25. Secular Democrat nails it. The purpose of the Benedict Option isn't to save America from spiritual despair and sexual debauchery - it's to save to save Rod Dreher.

  26. "The Benedict Option leaves out the black church":

    1. Interesting! Over at, several people noticed that, in a photo of a BenOp meet-and-greet, everyone was lily-white. Mostly males, many hipster-ish, all looking very well-heeled. Multicultural it ain't.

    2. Indeed interesting. If there's one institution that has really had its hands full witnessing against the destruction of its surrounding culture, it would be inner city black churches.

      And this struck me:

      According to a recent post on social media, apparently Dreher didn’t feel he had the “moral authority” to talk about the black church. That’s probably true, but it’s not difficult to gain information about the black church. He could have asked black Christians for input during the editorial process...

      Yeah, that would have required a journalist.

      P.S. This might just be a "smoking gun" that points to the BO as the conflation of taste vs. truth. If something meets Dreher's taste, it's "BO" -- if not, it doesn't get a mention (if not belittled). We've known all along just from Dreher's past history, but it is now being laid bare for all to see.

    3. I wouldn't be surprised if the BO becomes Dreher's Waterloo by virtue of his hubris.

      All of his work to date has been essentially personal: "Crunchy Cons - like me!"; Ruthie, his little sister, not yours, not mine; Dante, but really only Dante as Dreher's personal psychotherapist.

      But now Dreher brings his basic modus operandi of aggressive shamelessness, like that cousin who's always daring you to call her a slut for being a slut in front of the whole family, to our Christianity, which he demands that we improve to his tastes.

      Daring people, when he taunts "You didn’t read my book, did you? Didn’t think so", to answer "You mean the book where you do little more than name-check your intellectual superiors? The book where you give only lip service to the pathologies inherent in the BO? The book where you talk out of both sides of your mouth so vaguely and egregiously that the BO could mean virtually anything at all to anyone, but particularly to the psychologically and spiritually needy and hurting you would exploit to fund your own cosmopolitan Sun King lifestyle? That book, slut? Time for someone to turn over your table in the temple, boy."

      And not a few have already. If Dreher's smart, he'll take his tiny cult book royalty proceeds and run. If not, the bloom is already off the once-virginal BO rose, and the more he tries to push his intellectual mendaciousness uphill in the face of critiques like DeVille's and others while retorting that he doesn't find them "any sort of Christians at all", the more likely he is to become broadly crushed back into permanent fringe kook status.

  27. In today's local rag, a priest from a local parish comments on the BO book. RTWT, of course, but a couple of quotes are pertinent to this discussion (emphasis added):

    What's missing from Dreher's Benedict Option is an account of justice as both Aristotle and Aquinas would have understood it, that is, justice as commitment to civic virtue and the common good. The danger of the Benedict Option is it risks sectarianism, risks becoming nothing more than a reframed rehearsal of privileged middle-class conservatism, identity politics with an edge.

    To practice justice is to render each person his or her due. To be committed to justice is to trust in the capacity for truth each person possesses naturally, no matter their faith. Which means justice requires dialogue, argument, patience. And that's precisely what Dreher's book is short on. Which is precisely the danger.

    To be committed to justice is to be committed beyond one's tribe.

    Indeed: the BO all along has had little concern with what Christ called us to in the Great Commission, or with our responsibilities to our neighbors. It's all about keeping ourselves comfortably away from our neighbors.

    As an aside: this priest is one of the Episcopal priests that converted to Catholicism as the Episcopal Church went through its recent upheaval. He is married with children, and writes in the Dallas Morning News every so often. An interesting fellow.

    P.S. I now see that the DaMN gave Dreher a counterpoint in its online version (they didn't waste column inches on it at least). It's his usual overwritten "that's not what it means" noise -- to wit: "Does this mean running to the bunker with a Bible in hand, and watching the world go to hell with our fellow pious preppers? Not at all...." It's just that we're not good enough Christians.

    1. I can't really object if someone says I'm not a good enough Christian. But that doesn't mean I have to buy his book. I already have plenty of books that make that point clearly enough.

    2. Lol, Tom! But what does "good enough Christian" mean? Something tells me that Saint Francis de Sales would not have associated sanctity with BenOpdom. And if the Lives of the Saints mention "thickening," I must have missed it.

    3. True enough, I'm not a good enough Christian in the absolute sense. But what Dreher is saying is that we're not good enough Christians to participate in the public square (without ourselves falling victim to the culture and posting about cannibal movies and one-legged strippers etc.). Only the BO Leader can do that).

    4. Agreed, Pik. Precisement, as Poirot would say (except that he would have used one of those accent thingies, which I don't know how to do on my phone).

  28. A thorough-going systematic deconstruction of the nonsense which is the Ben Op:

    1. His consideration of the question, "What is Dreher’s method in this book?" makes it clear that The Benedict Option is best understood as fan fiction for the outrage porn set.

  29. On twitter Rob said he's going to respond to it tomorrow. If he does, that means DeVille's piece is absolutely devastating and that Rob has NO response. He thinks he sees a weakness in Sam's review and so will respond to it.

    1. The popcorn I made for reading Rod's response has gotten cold. So far today he's posted more outrage porn on campuses (snooze) and -- dentistry. Maybe this is how he procrastinates when the writing project he promised is too painful to face. "Weakness in Sam's review." He wishes.

    2. Still crickets from Rod, but another long post on a whole new auxiliary topic, for which he had to do research this morning. But of course.

  30. At this point Dreher's greatest hope is that the BO becomes, if not the intellectual booger you can't thump off, at least an intellectual booger he can keep sticking back onto vulnerable constituencies, in particular those mutually advantaged by holding conferences and seminars on boogers difficult to thump off.

    The book's sales probabilities have now split cleanly between the BO cultists and those, including the average third-grader, who can recognize it for the self-dealing religious fraud it is. Few are likely to be swayed by the book going forward. If they are in the BO camp, it will almost certainly be because prior blogging primed it; the book merely becomes the marriage ceremony that makes the sex now okay.

    But don't expect Rod to settle for giving talks to the FHA at Faber College as he was doing with the Dante book. This time, it's Pike's Peak or bust, and, like the reporter who never misses covering a gala for the opportunity to stuff cold cuts in his pocket, Our Working Boy will now become permanently conference bound.

  31. In one of today's offerings, Dreher now walks back the BO, calling it not so much an "option" as a change in emphasis:

    In the Q&A, I pointed out that in The Benedict Option, I explicitly say that we cannot abandon politics entirely, mostly because we have to stay in the game to fight for religious liberty. But I also argue that we should reprioritize our approach to public engagement, and spend more time and effort trying to shore up the church and its internal culture — this, because our losses in politics on the issues that mean the most to us are the result of our having lost first the culture...

    If the BO is merely about changing the weighting factors (say, from 60/40 to 40/60), then one wonders just what all the fuss was about. (Well yeah, I know what it was all about...)

  32. And TitusA just continues to hammer away. Rod is either intellectually honest or is clueless about the vacuity of his answers.

    “This is a perfect example of why we Christians desperately need to be thinking and acting in a Benedict Option way.”
    ***Rod, in what way does the BenOP respond to this? I mean in concrete terms. Pretend you’re a Benopper in Australia? How does the BenOp book give you a plan? You thicken your Christianity to do what? Say no and lose your job? Wear the ring and eek out a little more time to thicken your Christianity? I really don’t get how the BenOp responds to this in any thickened way. I either lose my job (not wear the ring) and yet thicken my Christianity, or I keep my job (wear the ring) and thicken my Christianity. I can’t quite go get a Christian job in a BenOp community because no such thing exists. And every iteration of Christian marketplace has failed. America has tried it for 30+ years.

    [NFR: Do you really need this spelled out for you? We have to start preparing ourselves for these challenges, we need to be advocating for our liberties, and we need to start putting into place programs that can offer concrete financial and other support to congregants who lose their jobs. — RD]

    1. Yep. Mr. Burns has released the hounds:

      "Nestor says:
      April 3, 2017 at 9:03 pm

      “Do you really need this spelled out for you?”

      I would say that spelling such things in, as comprehensively, and in as much practical detail as possible, is the most worthwhile thing that this blog could be doing, by a long shot.

      By contrast, the lack of such spelling out would tend to confirm TitusA’s criticism as being rather devastating to the whole BenOp premise."

      "Matt says:
      April 3, 2017 at 11:06 pm

      “Do you really need this spelled out for you?”

      Yeah, you do. You can’t simply pump out 1,200-word daily anecdotes on the perfidy of the SJW menace, yell at people to prepare and then generically respond “programs” when people ask how to prepare.

      Either the BenOp, as you envision it, has a practical, scalable blueprint for communities or it’s just an intellectual exercise.

      Nestor is spot on.

      [NFR: You didn’t read the book, did you? It’s not a 50-point program for How To Ben Op Your Life, and doesn’t try to be. But it does offer some practical suggestions, and calls on Christians to collaborate creatively. We’ve never had to deal with a situation like this. Nobody has the answers. — RD]"

      You didn’t read the book, did you? Nyah-nyah.

      You didn’t read the book, did you? Nyah-nyah.

      Truly, a very different sort of Benedict, indeed.

    2. "You didn't read the book, did you?"

      I figure that nearly 1 million words have been spilled on the BO so far, including a couple years' worth of blogs at 1000 words per day, comments from the trained seals, a few words here at EQE, the book itself, and now multiple reviews. But we still don't know what the Benedict Option actually is. First it's a "strategic withdrawal", now it's a "reprioritization of our effort", or as Nestor puts it, "programs". In each case, the answer is "wait for/read the book" but now, after publication of the book, Dreher tells us that "Nobody has the answers."

      The only rational answer is that the BO is nothing. There is no there there. So the answer to Dreher's question is:

      Why would we?

    3. Pik, the BO is the book, and the book is the BO. If you put "BO" and "OK" together, you get BOOK. Ommmm.

  33. BO seems to be a perfect completion of the "Working Boy Anthology".

    Crunchy Con - Hey look, I found something new and exciting that is neither new nor really exciting, but some folks I hang with here in my trendy big city like it, so let me tell you about it.

    Little Way - I ran away from home because of bullies, but now my sister (the one who actually stayed home and made a meaningful life for herself) is dying, so I think I will move back and see if I can make some money talking about how I was right and they were wrong.

    How Dante Saved My Life - I read this neat book, now let me trundle out all this angst about my family and how I feel so hurt about them. Oh, yes, that is my precious snowflake...leave it alone. Isn't Dante great?

    Benedict Option - I want to leave the world because of bullies, but I can't. The world sucks and I want to get off, but it won't stop. Since I have made such a good life for myself writing books, let me write a book telling you how to survive being bullied by the world as much as I have. Oh look...some monks.

    1. LOL, that's it in the proverbial nutshell.

  34. Just wanna say, I hope you start a new thread now that Rod's (astonishingly even for Rod) unhinged reply to Sam Rocha is out. This one is getting kind of unwieldy, very long. Thanks.

    1. Oh my gosh. I just made the mistake of reading (OK, skimming) Dreher's tirade against Sam Rocha.

      If Dreher's skin were any thinner, it would crackle and fall off.

      Good grief. The book is apparently a success. Why on earth should Dreher care that some people don't like it? There's no such thing as unanimous approbation of anything.

      "Unhinged" is the mot juste.

    2. Childish ranting worthy of the TeeRump's twitter feed. The impression is of an emotionally stunted poseur hurt that someone dares to disagree with him.