Reviewed by Tim Chow
Being theologically conservative doesn’t necessarily imply being socially or politically conservative, but Rod Dreher identifies himself in both these ways. In his recent book, The Benedict Option, A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (Penguin Random House, 2017), which David Brooks of The New York Times called the most discussed and most important religious book of the decade, Dreher describes the sense of disillusionment and shock he has experienced in reaction to various social and political movements, notably but not exclusively the L.G.B.T. (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) movement, which have increasingly marginalized and stigmatized the views of conservatives such as himself. Dreher believes that we can no longer rely on politics and law to solve the ills of our society. What he calls the “Benedict Option” is his suggestion for what Christian churches should do now.
The Benedict Option is named after St. Benedict of Nursia, who responded to the collapse of Roman civilization by founding a new monastic order. Though Dreher does not advocate monasticism per se, he draws inspiration from the Rule of St. Benedict, which prescribes a rigorous and even ascetical way of monastic life that puts God at the center of everything. In the context of the American church, Dreher warns against the easy comforts of modern technology and a consumer-oriented attitude towards church. He recommends building tight-knit Christian communities around which we center our lives. He also emphasizes preserving our Christian heritage via classical Christian education and being willing to sacrifice our preferred vocations, if necessary, in order to hold fast to the Christian faith.
Depending on your political leanings, you may or may not sympathize with all of Dreher’s concerns, but he is right to warn us about what he calls “liquid modernity,” which threatens to take over our lives and values if we do not push back and form intentional communities to resist the tide. Is the time ripe for Stone Hill Church to take the Benedict Option seriously and build a deeper and more Christ-centered community right here in Princeton?
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