Friday, April 21, 2017

Chapter 4: A New Kind of Christian Politics

Although the focus of the book is not political, in this chapter Dreher discusses what we ought to do politically: "The Benedict Option calls for a radical new way of doing politics, a hands-on localism..."

He notes that the 2016 Presidential election was not a hopeful one for committed Christians.  This is not to say that recent elections have been much better, only that in this latest round, even the Republican candidate had given up pretending to offer much to Christian voters. His reward was 80% of the Evangelical vote, and the Presidency.

More importantly, although the State can be a threat to Christians who wish to live out their faith--just ask the Little Sisters of the Poor--ultimately, the State's power flows from the culture.  So long as the culture is militantly secular and treats earnestly held Christian belief as a dangerous superstition, we will need to be on guard.

As he has taken pains to point out, Dreher is not advocating quietism.  We must still do what we can in the political arena, even as we recognize that we may achieve very little.  "The first goal of Benedict Option Christians in the world of conventional politics is to secure and expand the space within which we can be ourselves and build our own institutions."

For all that Dreher has been accused of being too pessimistic, I find the opposite to be true.  It would be a quibble to chide him for misreading After Virtue; his intention is clearly to use MacIntyre as a springboard rather than develop that philosopher's thought.  On the other hand, it is fair to ask whether MacIntyre sees more clearly than does Dreher, at least insofar as the political situation is concerned, for this will alter the political component of the Benedict Option.

The notion that there is any space within which orthodox Christians can build their own institutions is a dubious one.  Clearly, we are still granted that privilege now, and it would be dishonest to suggest we cannot have what we currently possess.  However, one of the contentions of the book is that the State has expanded its sphere beyond any reasonable bounds.  In Obergefell, the court insisted that the State has the right to redefine the institution of marriage, which is to say, human nature itself. That conceit has been on full display in the push for transgender rights.

It's possible that Christians will be left alone, and they probably will--for a time.  But the logic of Obergefell is totalitarian.  To disagree with gay marriage is not to express a different understanding, it is to challenge the ability of the State to decide.  Hence the vitriol over florists, bakers and the like who refuse to acquiesce.

I hesitate to think what people would have thought of Dreher had he cast doubt on the validity of liberalism itself--though that is what MacIntyre did, I think rightly.  Suffice it to say that even the very modest goals Dreher proposes may prove too much for the State to grant us.  Time will tell.  It behooves to do what we can to enshrine religious liberty in law, but we would do well to put no more faith in that than we do in princes.

Dreher's examination of Czech dissident Vaclav Havel is more valuable.  For Havel, the essential thing was to live in truth. Dreher borrows Havel's example of a greengrocer who refuses to display the sign: "Workers of the World, Unite!" in his shop window.  He will be punished for this, precisely because his act addresses the lie inherent in the communist propaganda.  For Havel, this wasn't a foolish protest; it was authentic and important.  Comforting words, one hopes, for the aforementioned beleaguered bakers and florist.  Havel wrote that: "Only by living a better life can a better system be developed."

Dreher also draws inspiration from the pro-life movement.  They haven't stopped trying to overturn Roe v. Wade. But they have focused their efforts on creating a culture of life, for instance, by opening crisis pregnancy centers to give mothers a better option for them and their child.  Whatever the State may do to us, in the meantime, there is urgent work to be done.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Chapter 3: A Rule for Living

To start chapter three Dreher introduces us to the monastery at Norcia, the hometown of St. Benedict, and the monks who live there. He gives us a glimpse into their lifestyle and purpose and then uses this as a springboard into the “Rule of St. Benedict,” which is the detailed instruction for organizing and governing a monastic community.

Dreher notably points out that the Rule, “far from being a way of life for the strong and disciplined…was for the ordinary and weak, to help them grow stronger in faith.” This doesn’t apply just to head knowledge about the Faith. Rather, the Rule helps to “channel your spiritual energy into conversion of heart and putting beliefs into practice.

In short, the Rule is “an instruction manual for how to form one’s life around the service of Jesus Christ within a strong community.” The main point of the Benedict Option is that we can use this Rule, at least in adapted form, as a guide to building strong Christian communities that will preserve the Faith in the West through a time of testing and antagonism.

There are seven main element to the Rule, and Dreher shows that we can apply each of them to form a strong Christian community. The first is order, which is really a recognition of the order that God has written into creation. The effort of Christians to hold onto order and truth stands in stark contrast to a world of disorder and constantly changing values. This order keeps us focused on God and prevents us from wandering away with the latest fashions in theology and culture.

The second element, not surprisingly, is prayer. This includes both private and communal prayer, and both structured prayer like the Liturgy of the Hours and less structured prayer like lectio divina. This prayer is simply time spent being with God and communicating with Him. Without this explicit element in community it is easy for the community to simply become a social circle which can lose its rudder and drift off with cultural trends.

As ridiculous as it sounds, it is extremely easy to find Christian groups in which none of the members have a deep or regular prayer life or relationship with Christ. The element of prayer is one that has to be fought for on a daily basis and at an individual level. It is too easy to think that there is not time in the schedule to fit in prayer, and soon enough prayer disappears completely. This is when Christian identity starts sliding easily into the realm of moralistic therapeutic deism or conforming to whatever the prevalent cultural trends may be.

The third element is work. There are two primary views of work in society today – for some it is a source of identity, for others it is simply a means to make money so that we can do whatever we wish. The Benedictines show us that neither of these views is correct. Our work is not supposed to serve us, but rather it should serve God. Our work is an opportunity to glorify God.

Dreher suggests that we need to reorient to this view of work as glorifying God, especially as we move toward a time when Christians will lose their careers and be blocked out of certain professions due to their faith. Seeing our work as serving God rather than serving or defining us will help as some proportion of Christians are forced to work in a field other than their chosen profession.

The fourth element of the Rule is asceticism, or the taking on of physical rigors for the sake of a spiritual goal. An obvious example of this is fasting. Asceticism trains us to put God ahead of ourselves and helps to prevent against self-centeredness by saying no to our desires and yes to God. As one of the Benedictine monks mentioned to Dreher, “We are often further away from God than we realize. Asceticism serves as a healthy reminder of how things are. It’s not a punishment for being so far away.”
A great illustration that Dreher uses when discussing asceticism is that of an athlete training his body for competition. In the same way, asceticism trains us in the love and service of Christ and His Church.

The fifth element of the Rule is stability. For the monks this means spending their entire lives in the same monastic community. For lay people, stability means setting roots and investing in community. Moving from city to city from one job to another to climb the career ladder, or eschewing family and community for the sake of travel and novel experiences cuts off the roots that build community. There is great value in the lifelong relationships of a deep, stable community in times of trouble, but also in everyday tasks of supporting one another, raising children, etc.

This leads into the sixth element of the Rule, which is in fact community. In a deep, strong community the individual members are really part of an organic whole, a spiritual family. These communities allow for accountability between the members and deep levels of support. This level of community is difficult to achieve and even more difficult to maintain, especially among a variety of families from differing backgrounds, and it can take some reckoning.

The social interaction within a strong community leads to bonds that are hard to match in any other way, though. This interaction is glaringly absent from society today. Much of human interaction has been reduced to pixels on a screen, and this can never replace the bonds between real people, especially those formed over a long time in community.

The seventh element of the Rule which Dreher focuses upon is hospitality. This is the part that many reviews and discussions of the book seem to miss. While the element of stability and community that he recommends require us to draw back a little bit from society to augment our closeness and cohesion with others that share our faith, we still must reach out, welcome, and serve outsiders.

The Rule requires monks to welcome outsiders, at least to a point. That hospitality cannot interfere with the community’s way of life. As one of the monks puts it, “If we let visitors upset the rhythm of our life too much we can’t really welcome anyone.” Even so, the goal is to be as open to the outside world as possible.

I like how another of the monks describes the balance between preserving the community and welcoming outsiders: “Yes, you have to have borders, but our duty is not to let the borders stay there. We have to push outward, infinitely.” He states that this is done first by changing our own hearts toward God, and then our families, and then the world.

The final element of the Rule is balance. The Benedictines strive to be rigorous but not extreme. As one of the monks says, “If a community relaxes its discipline too much it will dissolve. But if it is too rigid, it will make people crazy.” He says that a balanced community should show good fruit – they should be cheerful and happy, growing, doing good, and helping people.

It is also pointed out that balance is not to be confused with spiritual mediocrity. This is where some amount of rigor comes in, especially in prayer. The balance is not between good and bad, but between different goods. The end goal, given to us by God, is to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. This is a goal that requires balance in the approach, but really requires total abandonment of self-will to the will of God.

Applying all of these elements to the building of strong Christian communities, Dreher suggests, is what will help to build strong fortresses of the Faith to stand in contrast to the culture, and against its onslaughts, in the coming years when orthodox Christianity becomes increasingly unwelcome in the West.

The conundrum faced by a community that begins to implement the various elements of the Rule is the identity and relevance dilemma, as pointed out by Bishop Robert Barron. This theory states that the more we emphasize the uniqueness of Christianity, the less is seems to speak to the wider culture, and the more we emphasize the connection between faith and culture the less distinctive Christianity becomes.

The Benedict option is asking us to move to one end of this dilemma, or perhaps to the opposite end than we have been: emphasize the uniqueness of Christianity and let the culture view it as irrelevant for a time. Keep it alive until the culture is looking for what Christianity has to offer, and then offer it in spades.

Bishop Barron also offers an example of this being done very successfully, one that I had not heard connected to the Benedict Option before. Growing up in Poland under Nazi and Communist rule, Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II) was a part of an underground theatre group that kept Polish literature, poetry, and faith alive in an environment of dramatic oppression. Later on, as a priest, then bishop, then Pope, he was able to help bring the Polish culture back from the ashes to become one of the more prominent Catholic countries today.

Perhaps the difference in this example is that the Polish people were trying to outlast an outside force that was controlling their country, while the West is moving into a self-inflicted oppression of Christianity in the sense that it is our own country and culture that is secularizing. Even so, I think this is a great illustration of how the Benedict Option can be effective.

The coming chapters will break from the macro-level examination of the Benedict Option and start digging into some of the specifics for how the Benedict Option can be carried out.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Chapter 2: The Roots of the Crisis

This chapter begins with an anecdote from an older woman who has gone to six consecutive baby showers in which the expectant mother was unwed.  Illegitimacy rates continue to rise, to the detriment of the children, their mothers, and society at large.  But the point here is made to highlight the collapse of religion among the working class.  How has America, this once Christian nation, fallen so far, and so fast?

What follows is a breezy summary of western thought from the high middle ages through the sexual revolution which continues in our time.  Dreher admits that this is an "incomplete and oversimplified" picture, but argues that it remains important.  This strikes me as basically correct, though the grand narrative does have its shortcomings.  It fails to acknowledge the tremendous accomplishments of men and women who lived authentic Christian lives in challenging circumstances.  We are called to nothing less, whether America continues slouching towards Gomorrah, or whether it experiences another religious revival.

Now let's examine Dreher's narrative.  "The people of the Middle Ages lived in what philosopher Charles Taylor calls 'an enchanted world.'"  It wasn't just that God's existence was clear, as that He imbued all of His creation with His essence.  The divine wasn't something only encountered by holy people on occasion, it was an integral component of the medieval experience.  Even those of us who share their beliefs live in a radically different world.

As Dreher tells it, the first blow to the medieval synthesis came from William of Ockham.  For thinkers like Aquinas, God willed the good because it was good.  Or rather, it was in His nature to will the good, and only the good.  For Ockham, something was good because God willed it.  Ockham argued out of a desire to avoid limiting God's sovereignty.  But in so doing, God could no longer be understood, however imperfectly.  All we could do was to bow before His inscrutable will.

This had significant implications.  For instance, no longer could scientists say, the dry tree erupted into flames when hit by lightning because of properties inherent in the tree and the lighting; instead, the tree erupted into flames because God so willed it.  So much for science.  (As an aside, the main reason the Islamic world has produced so little science is that a dominant strain of philosophy subscribes to an Ockhamite conception of God.)

The next blow--or rather, blows--came in the Renaissance and the Reformation.  The former caused man to become, in Protagoras' phrase, "the measure of all things."  Rather than study God, or His creation, man began to study himself in isolation from his Creator.  Undoubtedly, there was much glory in ancient paganism, and scholars unearthed material that was worthy of study.  The error was to believe that man was sufficient without the assistance of God.

The Reformation also called men back to an ideal.  To Martin Luther, the medieval Church had lost its way; it was too corrupt and had polluted Jesus's teaching with extra-biblical nonsense.  Whatever the merits of his claims, Luther, and reformers like him, tore Christendom apart.  No longer did people from Ireland to Spain, Norway to Italy, live in the same enchanted world.  They lived in (at least) two different ones.

Next came the so-called Enlightenment.  If the claims of religion were incompatible--as clearly they were in a world divided between Protestants and Catholics--philosophers arose who insisted that reason alone would provide the solution to the human dilemma.  Descartes doubted everything, and from this, reasoned that his very doubt proved his existence.  From this thin proof, he claimed to construct his entire philosophy.  Descartes remained Catholic, but centuries later, his followers would construct an entirely different philosophy.  If God was allowed to remain, He was no longer the Christian God Who revealed His Son in the Person of Jesus Christ.   He was simply the divine being, necessary to get the system up and running, who afterwards refrained from meddling.

Tellingly, some of the founding fathers shared these deistic beliefs.  This is worth mentioning, because the Benedict Option makes sense insofar as America is no longer Christian.  Of course, while some of the founders were hardly Christian, the bulk of the nation was; hence, the culture, which came from the masses, was likewise Christian.  The point remains: there were significant flaws even in America's founding.

Dreher next recounts the calamitous nineteenth century.  His account is confusing, as there were too many disparate impulses to file under a single heading.  To be sure, our culture has been influence by: Karl Marx and capitalism; the romantics and Darwin; Nietzsche and the third great awakening.  History can be a real muddle.  Anyway, "the important changes... took place among the cultural elites, who continued to shed any semblance of traditional Christianity."   Mainline Protestantism especially, jettisoned the Gospel for social causes.  Little has changed in this regard today, apart from the causes.

Finally, we have the triumph of Eros.  After two world wars in half a century, man had enough of sacrifice, and sought to fulfill his own desires.  Chiefly, these desires were sexual; as Malcolm Muggeridge put it: “The orgasm has replaced the Cross as the focus of longing and the image of fulfillment.”  The birth control pill has facilitated this replacement, but only apparently satisfied it.  In its wake are broken families, stilted relationships, abused children, and corpses of millions of unborn babies.

Thus things stand today.  It's not hard to see why MacIntyre, and Dreher, find the comparison with Rome to be as apt as it is troubling.  Nor is it surprising that St. Benedict and his rule would be seen as inspirational.  The next chapter will examine that Saint and his rule.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Chapter 1: The Great Flood

In the first chapter of The Benedict Option Dreher lays out the landscape of the West, and the United States in particular, to show the necessity of his suggestions.

In essence, the flood of secularism has overtaken the West through the breakdown of the natural family, the loss of traditional moral values, and the fragmenting of communities. These factors have been building for decades but religious conservatives were under the illusion that they could be pushed back, particularly by strengthening their case in law and politics, typically by voting for republicans.

While Dreher does not expressly say so in the book, it would seem that the rise of the post-Christian Right in the Republican party over the past couple of years demonstrates that the cause of the religious Right in the national political war is lost in roughly the same way that Obergefell demonstrated that the culture war is lost.

Returning to those three factors that have allowed secularism to overtake the West – the breakdown of the natural family, the loss of traditional moral values, and the fragmenting of communities – it has become increasingly clear that the third, the breakdown of community, leads to the first two.

The individualization of faith has led to the breakdown of traditional moral values by continually blurring the lines until nothing is clear and all that remains is relativism. With no clear moral values the takeover of the natural family was imminent, as we have seen.

While the loss of faith among the millennial generation is staggering, and is used as one of the indicators that now is the time for the Benedict Option, the fact is that the beliefs of this generation are those of their parents and much of Christianity today – mushy “kumbaya” spirituality where the goal is to be nice and feel good about oneself as a ticket to heaven, involving God only to watch from afar and solve our problems when they arise.

The term used to describe this type of faith is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD), and it stands in clear contrast to the core of Christianity which teaches repentance and self-sacrifice to grow closer to God, and even places a deep value on suffering to grow closer to Christ.

As Dreher pointedly notes, “MTD is the natural religion of a culture that worships the self and material comfort.” It only values what feels good, leaving us to amuse ourselves to death a la Brave New World.

He also explores some of the points from Alasdair MacIntyre’s “After Virtue,” which was the impetus for The Benedict Option concept. In particular, Dreher examines the attitude of “emotivism” in which choosing what an individual feels is right becomes the ultimate moral guide. Emotivism breaks down a virtuous society, in which there is a shared objective moral good and a set of “practices necessary for human beings to embody those goods in community.”

A society that has moved toward subjective moral standards and broken down collective objective moral truths can no longer agree on what is virtuous, so the individual will becomes paramount. Moral standards and religiously- or culturally-based norms are abandoned, and individuals distance themselves from community and social obligations.

Dreher argues we live in this society now, and this society in which people answer only to their own will and care not about what they are destroying on their way to power and self-esteem looks a lot like barbarism. As he shrewdly notes, today’s barbarians have exchanged the animal pelts and spears for designer suits and smartphones.

What Christian faith that is left in the West does not have much to stand on in defending a barbaric onslaught. MTD is a shallow form of religion. When it comes upon a challenge, it does not have the roots to stand and fight. In the name of being nice, it gives in. The people raised in a framework of MTD do not have sufficient experience with those practices necessary for human beings to embody the objective moral good. They might know the faith to one degree or another in their head, but they don’t “feel it in their bones.”

This brings us back to St. Benedict, who kept the faith alive by fleeing to the hills and eventually starting a network of monasteries after Rome was overtaken by barbarians. The monasteries allowed Christians to retreat behind the walls to strengthen and preserve their faith in a way that allowed them to go out and evangelize the barbarians.

In his case, St. Benedict saw that society was too far gone to save, so he built a proverbial ark to shelter the faith in until the flood receded.

Have we reached the same point? Have the waters risen so high that even the strongest rocks of faith are at risk of being carried away? As Dreher points out, “Our scientists, judges, princes, and scholars are at work demolishing faith, family, gender, and even what it means to be human.” The tyranny of human will is omnipresent in our society, and the waters are showing no sign of retreating.

What is the answer? As Dreher is clearly preparing to argue, it is time to build a new ark of some sort. Christians need to find a way to step back from the world in deep prayer and spiritual training so that they can effectively represent a real (small-o) orthodox faith when they are in the world.

Why not stand firm and continue to fight the battle in American politics and hope to take the country back? For one, it is too far gone. The politics reflect where the society has already moved, and what they are reflecting now is a nation that has moved on from Christianity in any real form.

Taking part in the current landscape of national politics will require further compromise. As the two political parties move in opposite directions they move further and further away from the middle ground in which much of Christian teaching resides. Siding with one political party means giving up on some subset of Christian belief in order to try to preserve another.

And, as the book wisely notes, the kingdom of which we are citizens is not of this world. We cannot compromise that citizenship in the name of our worldly citizenship.

While interviewing Dreher on the “Thinking in Public” podcast, Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lousiville, posits that there are four stages to secularism. The first two are secular ascendance and triumphalism, which we have already seen. The third is secular aggression, in which those driven by secular impulses feel validated in silencing Christians and their influence as a human good. This is where we are now.

The fourth step, though, is secular exhaustion. The theory is that since secularism cannot deliver on its promises and cannot perpetuate itself in the absence of a religion against which to battle, it collapses.

When the current cycle of secular aggression collapses it will leave in its wake a lot of people who have been heavily damaged by the culture, and they will need a strong church to serve as a triage center, providing hope, purpose, and structure.

In some respects we may already be seeing the beginnings of the strengthening of the Church for this purpose. Looking at Church demographics and comparing them to those of a few decades ago is a discouraging practice in these times, particularly in the Catholic Church with which I am most familiar: church attendance is down, priestly vocations are down, and religious communities are shrinking and closing their doors. But, as a priest once pointed out to me, it is in some respects a pruning.

Today’s priests, though fewer, are much more effectively trained and went through a much more intense discernment process before ordination. Religious communities are falling off the map, but in many cases these communities had already assimilated to a new-age spirituality that only vaguely represented Christianity anyway. More orthodox and vibrant communities are starting to grow as their orthodoxy stands in contrast to society and becomes very appealing to young men and women seeking a real relationship with God.

Church attendance is down, but (at least in some communities) those that are attending Mass are incredibly committed and have access to resources that generations before would only have dreamed about. In addition, organizations are showing up that are doing evangelization and catechesis the right way. As an example, FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, has church attendance growing rapidly on many college campuses, and a staggering percentage of those students are plugging in to weekly Bible studies.

Today’s millennial generation didn’t grow up with a religion that had any meat to it, but they still have that innate thirst for something deeper. In some respects, they are easier to reach out to than college students were just ten or fifteen years ago, because they have no working knowledge of religion and are curious about it.

On the other hand, the problem facing Christendom today isn’t completely a shortage of good Christians. Orthodox Christianity is quickly becoming viewed as wholehearted bigotry by all of the institutions in our society, allowing them to discriminate against Christians in a widely accepted way just as Mohler’s phase of secular aggression describes.

While Benedict had to start a process to outlast centuries of barbarism, I have to wonder if the cycle that Albert Mohler described might move by in an accelerated fashion with the incredible speed of information and the short memory of today’s society. Perhaps we only need to preserve the faith for decades, rather than centuries. We will see.

In the meantime, perhaps the Benedict Option can be used to prevent a secular culture from turning a pruning of the Church into a full controlled burn of the entire Christian landscape.

While the focus of this chapter was on the crisis that has beat down our society over the past five or six decades, Dreher insinuates that the roots of the problem actually go back centuries. That is what he explores in the next chapter.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Introduction: The Awakening

The Benedict Option begins with a short introduction.  There was a time when Dreher believed that being a conservative and being a Christian were virtually synonymous.  But the birth of his first child had the affect Mencken attributed to the prospect of hanging: it concentrated his mind wonderfully.  He realized that some of the causes championed by conservatives, especially the free market, actually worked to undermine the family, an essential institution which ought to have been conserved.

These thoughts were sussed out in Dreher's first book, Crunchy Cons, published in 2006.  Tellingly, its subtitle refers to the salvation of the Republican Party.  His most recent effort expresses no such intent.  Interestingly, however, Crunchy Cons did reference the work of Alasdair MacIntyre, whose book After Virtue, concludes with a quotation that inspired The Benedict Option:

“It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman empire declined into the Dark Ages.  Nonetheless certain parallels there are.  A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium.  What they set themselves to achieve instead–often not recognizing fully what they were doing–was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness.  If my account of our moral condition, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point.  What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us.  And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope.  This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time.  And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament.  We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another–doubtless very different–St. Benedict.”

Whence Benedict and his option.  What changed over the course of the ten years between Dreher's first and most recent book?  There is a simple, though slightly misleading answer.  Two events happened in as many months that exposed the character of our supposedly Christian nation.  First, Indiana passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which sought to provide a legal avenue whereby citizens could defend themselves if sued for discrimination.  Corporations and the media lined up against the bill, denouncing its proponents as bigots.  Not willing to side against their corporate masters, the Republicans of Indiana backed down.  Two months later, the Surpreme Court made gay marriage the law of the land.  The triumphant left, bereft of a cause, turned to transgender rights so as to continue the crusade.

As I said, simple.  But also misleading, because these decisions didn't erode the foundations of Christian culture: they revealed them to be disintegrated.  Obergefell, the Supreme Court decision, was of tremendous symbolical importance.  Whether its members were willing to admit it or not, the secular left was ascendant.  And numbers notwithstanding, committed Christians were a minority--and probably had been for some time.

The book is divided into two parts.  In the first, "[Dreher] will define the challenge of post-Christian America as [he] sees it."  In the second, "[he] will discuss how the way of Christian living prescribed by the Rule [of St. Benedict] can be adapted to the lives of modern conservative Christians of all churches and confessions."

The Benedict Option - Rod Dreher

This post will contain all the links to discussions of Rod Dreher's new book, The Benedict Option.  I may be getting some assistance from a friend on this one.  Otherwise, you're stuck with me.

Introduction: The Awakening
Chapter 1: The Great Flood
Chapter 2: The Roots of the Crisis
Chapter 3: A Rule for Living
Chapter 4: A New Kind of Christian Politics