The Benedict Option in the Neighborhood?

In order to survive the coming flood that was going to ravage the earth, Noah had to build an ark.  It took time, effort, and work to prepare it.  And when the effort was complete, Noah and his family had to get in.  Rod Dreher in his new book, The Benedict Option:  A Strategy Guide for Christians in a Post Christian Nation, is making a clarion call that the flood waters of post-Christian American culture have reached the point when we have to start making sure our arks are ready. 

In #BenedictOption - @RodDreher is making a call that the flood waters of post-Christian American culture are rising.Click To Tweet
In making this case, Dreher looks back to Benedict of Nursia who lived during the early stages of a declining Roman Empire.  Benedict created a rule for monks to live orderly lives at a very disorganized time.  In the following centuries the Rule of Benedict would help preserve Western culture, bringing stability and civilization back to a society that had fallen into the Dark Ages.

According to Dreher - the culture wars are over and we Christians have lost.Click To Tweet
According to Dreher, the same is true for the American church.  The culture wars are over and we Christians have lost.  Recent Supreme Court and state court decisions (such as Obergefell and the Washington state case against Barronelle Stutzman) have finally opened the flood gates of anti-Christian culture that have, and will continue to permanently change American culture for years to come.    It is no longer feasible to roll the clock back by political means. Though Donald Trump won after being backed by many evangelicals, astute observers can see that this will be at best a temporary pause in the all out assault on Christian values.  In the colleges and universities, in the entertainment industry, the arts, and even in sports, orthodox Christians are being marginalized, and penalized to various effects.

Christians who take the Gospel seriously will have to turn inward to prepare their arks, ride out the storm, and preserve the Gospel for future generations.  Its going to get worse before it gets better. But the point of The Benedict Option is not that we should run to the hills, but that we should prepare to survive the storm in constructive ways with our eyes on the future.

To prepare this ark, Dreher emphasizes three needed components:  authentic community, new forms of evangelism, and intentional discipleship.  For the Benedict Option to work, Christians are going to have to support each other like they have not for decades.  This intentional Christ-centered community will be needed to help disciple adults and children who will be constantly bombarded with anti-Christian rhetoric, discrimination, and soft forms of persecution.

Dreher's #BenedictOption emphasizes authentic community, new forms of evangelism, & intentional discipleship.Click To Tweet
With regards to discipleship, parents will first have to be much more intentional and involved in the religious formation of their children’s lives. Hoping that an hour of Sunday School will counter the anti-Christian themes they will constantly hear at school and on television is negligent. Instead, families will have to pull out of culture to some extent to focus on making sure the next generation adopts the community values of Christians. This will mean more family time focused on the mission of Christ, and life in the community of believers.

But lest one thinks that Dreher is calling for a full-scale retreat from culture, perhaps a new form of Amish, he does acknowledge the need for evangelism, but one with new forms and emphasis.  In an American culture that is no longer that focused on logic and reason, but emotivism and feelings, Dreher believes that two important supports to the spoke word will be beauty and the lives of the saints.

Unbelievers must see beauty in what we Christians do and lives that practice what we preach. -Tom KnightClick To Tweet
Is the Benedict Option that radical in light of several decades of Missional Church?  In some ways no.  But in others it is.  We are not primarily talking about what is effective anymore.  Dreher’s premise is that now for the survival of the church in the West, Christians will have to make radical changes.  Secondly, Dreher draws out a long timeline for these arks to float.  There will be no quick and easy fix. It might be several hundred years.  As he puts it, one should “recognize that the new order is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be lived with.”  Thirdly, Dreher is stressing that the Benedict Option is not a program, a one-size-fits-all tactics book, or a pastor or staff-led event.  It is a lifestyle that will need to be begun and nurtured by common, ordinary Christians from all walks of life.  It is the many personal choices of individuals and families to opt out of post-Christian culture, to the extent that anyone can, to form new pockets of Christ-centered culture right where they live.  It is to live out the reality of being strangers in a strange land, though with the hope of being beautiful strangers to those who have lost all notion of The Beautiful One.


This post has been adapted from Tom Knight’s post Why You Should Read The Benedict Option at CampusParade.com

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Tom Knight
Tom has worked for thirteen years as a campus minister, focused primarily on international students. He now works as a consultant and coach for churches who wish to engage the collegiate contexts. He is highly focused upon the intersection of Christianity, the college campus, and the cultural trends and contexts that surround them.

Read more from Tom here at Campus Parade.
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