The Oldest Daydream: A Review of The Benedict Option

One of my oldest daydreams is gathering up the people I love best, moving far-far-away from the rat race, and starting a community of our own.

When I was in high school, having been exposed to too much Heinlein at an impressionable age, I wanted to start a commune.   Starting around the turn of the millennium, my focus was just going back to the land.  And for years, my husband has called the dream of getting a big piece of property with several buildings on it, and importing our besties to come live with us, the “when I win the lottery” daydream.  (This being my husband’s daydream, there’s a forge and not so many hedges).

I’m not alone in this kind of daydream – I know at least two online friends who have the same hankering.  One of them is actively working on it, much to my envy.   I even have a couple online buds living on farms… I suspect it might be a GenX thing.

So, when I heard about The Benedict Option, I was intrigued.  Many of my online buds have already checked Dreher’s blog out, and were familiar (and somewhat annoyed by) the concept.  I hadn’t, haven’t checked it out yet, though I will.

Quick and Dirty:  I liked the book, didn’t agree with all of it, and think Dreher is a bit misaligned in his priorities, but overall I thought there were some great points for every Christian.   I am not an Orthodox Christian or Catholic, but Dreher had nice things to say about crazy evangelicals too.  As I mentioned in my blog about Christian Unity, when your back is against the wall, what matters is your commitment to Christ Jesus, not whether or not you use incense in your church services.  Our backs are moving rapidly towards the wall – and Dreher sees this, it’s the basis for his book.

What I loved:  I loved the description of living within the natural world – I hadn’t realized that the enlightenment church had intellectualized the faith so much.  I find that odd, since Creation is supposed to witness to the Creator.   And of course the idea of living simply, working shoulder to shoulder with fellow believers is the epitome of my Oldest Daydream… 🙂  I got quite a lot of sympathy for the Orthodox and Catholic churches (even though I am still firmly Sola Scriptura/Gracia/Fide) from this reading.  The schism came at a cost, and there were things lost.

What I found convicting:  That we return to/develop the communities of our youth, and deepen our connections there, rather than gallivanting off to where-ever we might want to go.  OUCH.  See, I live in SoCal, but unlike most folks here, I am a native.  A second-generation native, which practically makes me an elder stateswoman.  I would rather live in a forest somewhere, but y’all know the beach is in my bones.  If you don’t know that, come watch my face when I’m near the sea.

But maybe I should be working more on strengthening the connections on my block, in my neighborhood, in my church… and less time daydreaming about a swiftly moving stream and nodding pine trees?

This was the most unexpected part of the book – I thought Dreher was really all about going back to the woods, or at least back to small towns.  Instead, he talked about blooming where you were planted, and how one might make that work in different situations.

What I found helpful:  The suggestion to think outside the box and start actively preparing ourselves and our children for the approaching time of persecution.  I have teenagers, and suggesting to them that they might want to think creatively about their professional futures rather than just hitting the college/career track is useful.  (So much dovetails now with what we’ve been talking about as a community about the skilled professions being a wiser choice than college, the Mike Rowe scholarships, now this… of course I am not the one making the choice).

My church has been preparing the youth for home churching and studying the Word in small groups for years now – so that bit of prep is something that Crazy Evangelicals can do, and groups that are dependent on a priest (Orthodox, Catholics) cannot.  (I think, I could be wrong and feel free to correct me – can laypersons prepare Communion in those traditions?)

What I found meh:  Dreher really pounded the idea that we should be working on getting religious freedom laws saved.  It seems to go against his general thesis, that the World is going to largely throw against us.  Dreher also emphasized Christian education to a fault – not that I have an objection, but it seemed to be a bit more intense than I’d have chosen.  Of course my kids only have a few more years before college (if) so… YMMV.  But even since the very recent publication of his book, the few delicate religious freedom laws have gotten overturned.   Put not your faith in princes, dude.  If you’re going to posit a return to small community based church, don’t waver.

The end of the matter?  I thought the book was pretty good, especially the first half, and there were several things I found convicting.   It’s worth a read.  Get it from the library and have a think.

6 thoughts on “The Oldest Daydream: A Review of The Benedict Option

  1. Cassie

    and groups that are dependent on a priest (Orthodox, Catholics) cannot. (I think, I could be wrong and feel free to correct me – can laypersons prepare Communion in those traditions?)

    I’m not 100% sure about Orthodox (but I strongly suspect it’s the same with Orthodox as it is with Catholics). But for Catholics, you’re correct in thinking that laypeople cannot prepare communion (though we call it “consecrate” communion). The reason being because we wholeheartedly believe in Transubstantiation, meaning the substance of the bread and wine are transformed into the literal body and blood of Jesus, even though to the naked eye it doesn’t appear to be any different. During mass, the priest starts off with “unconsecrated hosts” (bread and wine). He then says certain prayers over them, in effect asking Jesus to become present in the bread and wine. Once those prayers are finished, we believe that Jesus really is present there within the now-“consecrated hosts.” However, if a layperson were to say the exact same prayers over the hosts in the exact same manner as a priest would, then nothing would happen. Jesus would not become present within those hosts, because only Ordained priests have been given that authority by Jesus Himself (the 12 apostles were the first priests/bishops, with Peter being the first of 200-something popes).

    Sorry for the long explanation. I wasn’t sure how to explain what we believe in a way to explain why you were correct in your thinking without going into such an explanation of what we believe.

  2. midnightavej

    Ok Hearth it’s AL from Facebook, you know, your crazy anxious sewing person fron NJ…

    Cassie’s explanation is perfect and in line with the Code of Canon Law. But I veil my head, with lace or shawl or hat, when in the sanctuary and in the Real Presence of Christ in the Tabernacle, during Mass or Not. That is MY personal, old-fashioned custom. The post-conciliar RCC has made lax and lawfully violate so many former codes of doctrine I don’t know how it can defend itself. I remain faithful but I recognize whence you come and question.

    The time will come where we will be sparse and few. I don’t know on whom I would rely…my Rosary, my own conversations with God. I wonder how the early Scots Catholics, brought here as indentured slaves, got in without regular mass and Sacraments. Many converted to some forms of Protestantism, I would guess. Or they lived as bad Catholics until God sent them a priest.

    In the end, as you tell me, we rely on God. He will provide…a spiritual leader, if needed; a priest or minister, when warranted; hope in abundance, if we ask when in need. My qualms center on those who would twist hope to serve, or ameliorate, their own failings. The Bible lays it out, and the wisdom of a traditional Trivium/Quadrivium education are revealed when one reads the often shallow and ripest of cherry picked arguments made by journalism interns at pop publications.

  3. elspeth

    But maybe I should be working more on strengthening the connections on my block, in my neighborhood, in my church… and less time daydreaming about a swiftly moving stream and nodding pine trees?

    This is totally where I am now. Husband doesn’t share the “leave it all behind” dream, but he does share the “bloom where we are planted” vision.

    We often forget to consider the darkness that will overtake even faster if we all run off into the woods.

  4. Pingback: Stand, fight. Truth is worth it. | Dark Brightness

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