Christians must make radical changes in their churches, schools and homes in order to resist the challenges presented by a culture “increasingly hostile” to their faith, the author of a new book argues.
In his book "The Benedict Option," Rod Dreher points to St. Benedict of Norcia, the father of western monasticism, touting him as an example modern-day Christians need to follow. St. Benedict, frustrated by the vice he saw in Roman culture, retreated to the hills, becoming a hermit and living in a cave. He later founded monasteries and wrote guidelines for governing monastic life — referred to as the Rule of Saint Benedict — that are still in use today.
Dreher, who writes for The American Conservative, told TheBlaze in an interview that he wrote the book due to “how quickly things are changing” for Christians in Western culture.
“We are at a time when everything is chaos, morally speaking,” Dreher said.
Dreher argued that materialistic elements of modern culture are hostile to orthodox Christians in all denominations by placing too much importance on wealth and status. Sexualized elements of the culture seek to destroy the traditional family and treat those opposed to same-sex marriage as if they were the same as racists.
For too long, he said, Christians have behaved as if electing the right politicians and putting the right judges on the Supreme Court will rescue Christianity from a culture that is hostile to it — but politics will not and cannot save Christianity. Even keeping Hillary Clinton out of the White House isn’t a solution, he said, adding that President Donald Trump’s administration will present its own challenges to the church.
“I’m pleased with what Donald Trump has tried to do so far, but it’s been very, very small — we need to see an executive order on religious liberty at a minimum,” he said, while also noting that Christians must hold Trump accountable and not expect him to save the church.
“If we think a casino owner who’s been married three times who has very little familiarity with scripture is going to be our white knight, we’re dreaming,” Dreher said.
Dreher said that as Christians lose power and influence in Washington, involvement in their local communities becomes all the more important.
He argued that Christians need to build “communities of virtue” that will allow them to fully live out their faith “in the dark ages to come.”
“We’re living through our own spiritual collapse,” Dreher said. “We need to establish strong communities, strong institutions, ways of living as Christians to give us the resilience to not be swept away by the chaos around us. That’s what the Benedict Option is, the option is, the choice is, are we going to keep living as if times were normal or are we going to make a choice to be consciously counter-cultural?”
Contrary to some media reviews of his book, he said, he doesn’t actually think Christians need to literally head for the hills.
“A Christianity that doesn’t love and serve its neighbors is not true Christianity,” he said, adding, “We have to go out into the world knowing who we are and what we believe.”
Dreher said that like the early church, today’s Christians need to prepare to live as “minorities in a pagan culture.”
Christians are facing incredible challenges, challenges that have never been seen in the West since the West was Christianized. We can’t live as if the world was still Christian.
He said if Christianity is to survive the coming dark age, Christians must rededicate themselves to living counter-culturally. He outlines the steps for counter-cultural living in his book.
Dreher said that too many churches and Christian institutions have fallen victim to a pseudo-Christianity scholars have dubbed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, or the idea that Christianity is merely about making an attempt to be a good person and occasionally asking God for help in times of trouble. He added that churches should support their flocks by instructing them on repentance and asceticism, so they know how to suffer for their faith.
Dreher recommended, among other steps, that parents ensure that Christian schools reorient their curriculums to provide students with a thorough understanding of church history — or homeschool their children.
He also said that parents have to rethink the role of technology in their homes, such as not allowing their young children to have smartphones in order to shield them from easily accessible graphic content on the internet.
Preserving religious liberty protections and creating communities and families “strong enough to pass our faith to the next generation” are also key steps in the Benedict Option, he said. “There’s nothing more important in the long term.”