Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Benedict Option: a problem understanding monasticism

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

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

before concluding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 15, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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


Strike back, empire. and strike hard.

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

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