A Russian’s Take On The Benedict Option: Retreat is premature

A Russian’s Take On The Benedict Option: Retreat is premature, by Boris Mezhuez.

In the US this year quite a bit of attention has been generated by a book urging genuine Christians to abandon the struggle to salvage a dying post-Christian world; to instead withdraw to their religious communities, continuing to observe Christian norms and maintaining those prohibitions against which secular society rebels. The book is “The Benedict Option,” and its author, Rod Dreher, is a religious conservative who writes for The American Conservative. …

St. Benedict of Nursia, founder of Catholic monasticism, carried the fire of Christianity’s truth through the “dark ages” of Europe and actually saved Western Civilization from complete decay. The Christians of the modern world, Dreher advises, should do the same. It is impossible and senseless to struggle against the consequences of the victorious sexual revolution. The post-Christian world is now a terrifying reality — the task of believers today is to leave that world to its own devices and put as much distance as possible between its toxic fumes and Christian community.

Dreher, a Protestant by birth, later converted to Catholicism, from which he then moved, in 2006, to Eastern Orthodoxy — a choice, incidentally, that has been made by many other paleoconservatives. His turn away from Catholicism came about after discovering the strength of the so-called Pedophile Lobby which had tried to hush up the numerous scandals associated with sexual harassment of parishioners by individual priests. …

Dreher considers Trump the perfect embodiment of both personal moral debauchery and political braggadocio. A person who promises “to make America great again” but is incapable, even outwardly, of properly controlling his own behavior. In general, for the author of The Benedict Option, Trump presents evidence plain as day that America is doomed, and that traditional conservatism in the U.S. has let itself fall victim to false temptations.

Dreher does not skimp on making alarmist statements about the consequences of the sexual revolution. From his perspective, the victory of the LGBT community and the legalization of same-sex marriage is not just the opening of Pandora’s box, it’s more like our first direct acquaintance with what that box contained. As one can judge from his current journalistic output — and he literally on a daily basis puts out a stream of articles and blog posts on The American Conservative’s website — the next step towards the Omega point of the history of Western Civilization will be society’s full acceptance of the idea of “open marriage.” …

Christianity, when you come right down to it, is really not a very demanding religion. It permits believers to eat pork and drink wine except on days of fast. On lay people it does not impose particularly harsh domestic norms. In fact, the only strictly tabooed side of life in Christianity relates to sexuality. Sex is permissible only in marriage and preferably for the purpose of giving birth to children, while deviations from this norm give rise to various suspicions. For the modern world, such a stance sounds terribly depressing. …

Among the things common to all religions is that they all impose taboos on female promiscuity, and on same-sex sex, but it is Christianity that adds that a person is obliged not only externally, but also internally, to be free from attraction to what is prohibited by the tradition. …

Dreher’s position amounts to religious libertarianism as regards his relation to society. Instead of fighting for the dominance of our faith in the public sphere, we are only trying to achieve corporate independence from the pressures of the secular state. …

hat-tip Stephen Neil