The Benedict Option in 43 Propositions

I’m working on a review of Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option, which seems to be all the rage  right now—whether you love it or hate it. While I have no great beef with most of Dreher’s arguments or suggestions, I also can’t see quite what the big fuss is about. You will probably see what I mean from the following list of 43 (or 47, depending on how you count) concrete proposals that I distilled from the book as an initial note-taking exercise:

Church

  • Learn the riches of your theological tradition, rediscover your past (102-5)
  • Liturgical worship (105-13)
    • Refocuses on God speaking to us, rather than us expressing ourselves
    • Involvement of the body as well as spirit
    • A rhythm that disciplines our desires
  • Recover fasting (114-15)
  • Recover church discipline (116-17)
  • Evangelize with goodness and beauty (117-19)

Community

  • Establish the home as “domestic monastery” (124-26)
    • Daily family worship
    • Mutual love and service
    • Show hospitality
  • Be willing to be nonconformist (126-27)
  • Think about your kids’ peer groups (127-28)
  • Beware of idealizing the family (128-29)
  • Live in geographical proximity to your community (130-34)
  • Establish strong social networks in the church community (134-35)
  • Establish, as far as possible, ecumenical ties with other local churches (136-38)
  • Don’t idolize the community (138-39)
  • Start where you’re at rather than trying to make something perfect (139-42)

Education

  • Recover classical Christian education (145-46)
  • Recover idea of education as passing on a culture, not mere utilitarian training (147-50)
  • Immerse students in Scripture (150-52)
  • Immerse students in history of western civilization (152-55)
  • Leave public schools (155-58)
  • Recognize that most Christian schools are a joke (158-59)
  • Start classical Christian schools (160-65)
  • If that’s not an option, homeschool (165-66)
  • Establish/join Christian study centers or communities at universities (166-73)

Work

  • Remember that a vocation is for God and for others, not primarily for money (177-79)
  • Recognize that in many callings, Christian faithfulness will soon close doors to advancement, if not to entry (179-83, 185-86)
  • But don’t pick a fight over everything (183-85)
  • Be entrepreneurial to provide new contexts for Christian work (188)
  • Establish Christian employment networks (188-90)
  • Consider learning a trade, working in a factory (190-92)
  • Prepare to be poorer and more marginalized (192-94)

Sex

  • Maintain the importance of a Christian sexual ethic (197-201, 204-5)
  • The church needs to teach openly about sexulaity (205-8)
  • Root sexual morality in love of God, not moralism (208-10)
  • Parents need to teach their kids about sex (210-12)
  • Provide strong support for singles in the community (212-14)
  • Fight pornography aggressively (214-16)

Technology

  • Be willing to question the morality of technological developments (220-23)
  • Recognize that the internet is an ecosystem of distraction (224-25)
  • Practice some forms of digital fasting (226-29)
  • Don’t give kids smartphones (229-31)
  • Don’t use social media in worship (231-32)
  • Do more things with your hands (232-33)
  • Do not assume that all scientific progress is good (233-36)

 

Fuller thoughts to come later.

10 thoughts on “The Benedict Option in 43 Propositions

  1. Andrew

    helpful summary, brad. however, in in your opening assessment, are you saying that you don’t think this book adds anything to the academic discussion in Christian political theory/ethics/etc.? Or are you saying that you think the average american christian already knows all these points you’ve listed? I would agree with the former but strongly disagree with the latter assessment. In fact, i think that if the average “megachurch pastor” preached the points you summarize under “work”…they would be called “anti-capitalist” and accused of trying to make the wealthy feel guilty.

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  3. Maybe I would feel differently if I had my own kids but the only points I disagree with are in regards to education. I work in public education and I still think it’s parents’ responsibility to form their kids primarily but private and homeschooling are inaccessible to a good chunk of people. I believe being investors in public schools as well as communication with your kids about what they are learning and encountering is also a valid option.

    Many reviews have been critical of what they see as retreat rather than engagement with the world or they reject the portion about sexuality. I’ll read for myself eventually.

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