I’m about three years late in reading this book, but since I wanted to read Dreher’s newest book Live Not By Lies, I figured I’d better read this one first. Though I didn’t agree with everything it it (Dreher is sometimes given to overstatement, in my judgment), I liked it better than I expected to, and even found that some of the complaints about it were unfair (Dreher does not call for a complete withdrawal from politics, nor does he naively think that the woke left will simply allow Christians to build their own institutions unhindered without renewed religious liberty protections). What I appreciate most about The Benedict Option is that in a world filled with compromisers and accommodators, Dreher is calling American Christians to be willing to suffer social marginalization rather than deny or change the faith in order to survive. Here are five of my favorite passages.
- This is not just about our own survival. If we are going to be for the world as Christ meant for us to be, we are going to have to spend more time away from the world, in deep prayer and substantial spiritual training–just as Jesus retreated to the desert before ministering to the people. We cannot give the world what we do not have. If the ancient Hebrews had been assimilated by the culture of Babylon, it would have ceased being a light in the world. So it is with the church. (19)
- The real question facing us is not whether to quit politics entirely, but how to exercise political power prudently, especially in an unstable political culture. When is it cowardly not to cooperate with secular politicians out of an exaggerated fear of impurity–and when is it corrupting to be complicit? Donald Trump tore up the political rule book in every way. Faithful conservative Christians cannot rely unreflectively on habits learned over the past thirty years of political engagement. The times require much more wisdom and subtlety for those believers entering the political fray. (83)
- Communities that are wrapped too tight for fear of impurity will suffocate their members and strangle the joy out of life together. Ideology is the enemy of joyful community life, and the most destructive ideology is the belief that creating utopia is possible. Solzhenitsyn said that the line between good and evil runs down the center of every human heart. That axiom must be at the center of every Christian community, keeping it humble and sane. (139)
- Few parents have the presence of mind and strength of character to do what’s necessary to protect their children from forms of disordered sexuality accepted by mainstream American youth culture. For one thing, the power of media to set the terms of what’s considered normal is immense, and it affects adults as well as children. For another, parents are just as susceptible to peer pressure as their children are. (157)
- Gay marriage and gender ideology signal the final triumph of the Sexual Revolution and the dethroning of Christianity because they deny Christian anthropology at its core and shatter the authority of the Bible. Rightly ordered sexuality is not at the core of Christianity, but as [Phillip] Rieff saw, it’s so near to the center that to lose the Bible’s clear teaching on this matter is to risk losing the fundamental integrity of the faith. This is why Christians who begin by rejecting sexual orthodoxy end either by rejecting Christianity themselves or by laying the groundwork for their children to do so…If the remnant wants to survive, it must resist the Sexual Revolution. (203-204)
Bonus: “Better to be a plumber with a clean conscience than a corporate lawyer with a compromised one.” (192)