Christian Culture at Stake

Living the "Benedict Option" is More Important Than Ever

America is now more than ever a dangerous place to be a Christian. In the days of social media mob group-think, cancel culture, and defacing and removing “white” Christian monuments, it is difficult to imagine that we were a country founded on Judeo-Christian principles. The very principles guiding our government and economic system were penned by many openly devout Christian men, such as John Locke, Patrick Henry, and John Witherspoon, just to name a few. There were countless others who were very influenced by Christianity, most notably Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. For such a glorious founding, those openly embracing the very same beliefs as the founders and desiring to live by them now do so at their peril.

Patrick Henry is most notably known for his words, “Give me liberty or give me death!” But few people are familiar with his more ominous warning, “It’s when a people forget God that tyrants form their chains.” Few would argue that since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, faith in America has been on the decline and attitudes contrary to the faith are being celebrated and legally defended.

Most of us are familiar with cases in which bakery owner’s, photographers, and florists - refusing services to same-sex couples for marriage ceremonies. In exercising what many of these business-owners thought were the rights to exercise their religion, they are met with lawsuits forcing them to close their doors because they cannot afford legal representation or the fines that resulted.[1]

If the prosecutorial teeth of law were not enough, many Christians daring to voice their disagreement with the ever-evolving dogmas of the LGBTQ+ movement are persecuted socially as “transphobes,” falling victim to cancel culture in which they lose friends, jobs, and contracts. More recently, those merely articulating the reasons why they do not support Black Lives Matter as an organization are similarly excoriated. If trends continue, there will be an ever increasing price to pay for exercising Christian beliefs in the U.S. In light of this reality (we are here folks, now) we must ask how then should we live, in order to preserve our Christian way of life?

Rod Dreher in his book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation,[2] provides much insight for the beleaguered Christian. Stemming from philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre’s observation, that a time would come when people would have to come to terms that full participation in society would not be possible if they wanted to embrace a life of traditional virtue, Dreher calls for a “strategic withdrawal” that he calls the “Benedict Option.” He states that Christians will need to develop “creative, communal solutions to help us hold on to our faith and our values in a world growing ever more hostile to them.”

The inspiration for this strategic withdrawal, and its namesake, comes from the sixth-century Roman-born monk Benedict of Nursia. In disgust of the paganism and immorality that ran rampant in his day, Benedict retreated to central Italy’s Sibylline mountain range for a season of prayer and contemplation. In founding what began as twelve monasteries in this region, adhering to what became the “Benedict Rule,” many historians and philosophers credit St. Benedict with saving Western civilization.

Now lest you misunderstand Dreher’s intent, he is not advocating that we form literal monasteries, but rather make a “decisive leap into a truly countercultural way of living Christianity,” with admonitions to “return to the roots of our faith, both in heart and in practice.” Along with a philosophical framework for this countercultural rule of living, Dreher provides many practical suggestions. Among them are ways of strengthening family ties, rethinking work, re-establishing the Christian village, putting politics in its proper place, and supporting Christian education.

By adhering to the principles set forth in The Benedict Option, the focus for the preservation of Christianity and its accompanying culture is not left in the hands of Supreme Court decisions, the next presidential election, or the legislative whims of congress. Dreher argues that Christians have focused too much energy and placed too much hope in the outcomes of local, state and federal politics. This misguided focus has taken our eyes off of areas that we can influence, such as our own homes, our own neighborhoods, churches, businesses and work lives, and the culture at large. He reminds us that western civilization was not necessarily preserved by the actions of the state, but by the enacting of “culture” within the Benedictine monasteries. These were sacred orders that initially just dotted Italy, but then eventually spread across all of Europe (and the rest of the world).

For the embattled Christian, following the tenets contained within the Benedict Option enables you, empowers you, to preserve your Christian culture for generations to come, regardless of the shifting sands of politics and contemporary culture. It is not for the faint of heart, since the sacrifices of the Benedict Option call for serious action. But this fresh way to reconsider your Christian walk offers hope and an actionable plan at a time when it is needed most.

[1] Melissa and Aaron Klein - the ill-fated owners of an Oregon bakery, in exercising what they thought was religious freedom they refused to bake a cake for a homosexual couple. Rather than simply going to another bakery, the “traumatized” Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer filed a suit, which ended with the state demanding the bakery pay the couple $135,000 in damages for “emotional suffering,” and slapped a gag order prohibiting the Klein’s from speaking publicly about their refusal to serve same-sex wedding clients.

[2] Dreher, Rod. (2017). The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. Penguin.

graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno, with a BS in molecular biology and a minor in cognitive psychology. As an undergraduate, she conducted research in immunology, microbiology, behavioral and cognitive psychology, scanning tunneling microscopy and genetics - having published research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, and projects in scanning tunneling microscopy. Having recently completed an M.Ed. from University of Cincinnati and a Certificate in Apologetics with the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, Emily is currently an instructional designer/content developer for Moody Bible Institute and teaches organic chemistry and physics. As a former Darwinian evolutionist, Emily now regards the intelligent design arguments more credible than those proffered by Darwinists for explaining the origin of life.

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