Rod Dreher on Cultural Engagement and The Benedict Option

David Kern

David Kern
March 14, 2017

An interview with Rod Dreher about contemporary Christianity, cultural engagement, and the Benedict Option.

March 14, 2017

"It requires discernment, which comes with trial and error. What we aim for is not simply telling our kids that they cannot see, read, or listen to bad things, but helping them to learn to love good things. And we don't define goodness as the absence of sex or violence."

That's definitely a thought-provoking statement. I've heard various contributors here at TC gently voice essentially this same thing in their treatment of potentially offensive artistic content in music, movies, and politics. I appreciate and respect Dreher's summary statement of that position, and I hope readers here will be charitable enough to recognize that it's a very Christ-like perspective.

Discernment is so very important. I think a lot of us in the church have gotten too lazy on this front. We expect others to do the discernment for us, and so refuse to have anything to do with cultural engagement once a few buzzwords are found. Or, worse, we self-righteously arrogate to ourselves the responsibility of being the voice of discernment for everyone, casting aspersions on those who choose to expose themselves to potentially corrupting influences that we know (often rightly so) it would damage our own morality to expose ourselves to. I think sometimes we get mad at Christians who engage with potentially offensive art precisely because they're doing something we wish we could do--have our cake and eat it too, in a sense. But God gifts us differently, and I'm increasingly coming to believe there are those in the church--including many contributors here--who are especially gifted consumers of popular culture whose important service to the church is that they celebrate the glimmers of holiness that an increasingly dark world hasn't yet extinguished.

Stephen Crosby
March 14, 2017

Thanks for the helpful interview. At first I was going to skip over it figuring Dreher to be too "out there." I researched him a bit as I read your interview. I appreciate his intellect and articulate comments and suggestions. One frustration/concern was his mention of homeschooling and the classical model. This is surely a generalization, but based on my personal experience: most of the folks I am aware of who share that ideal are also of the survivalist, gun-amassing, conspiracy-theory-believing, isolationist, etc. mindset - all behaviors and beliefs which to me are unChristian. How does the Benedict Option separate itself from that kind of mindset, or keep from becoming that kind of a moveement?

Steven Priebe
March 15, 2017

@Stephen Crosby, your generalization of homeschoolers is as correct as most generalizations are, even this one: Not At All.

I am not a survivalist, although I see nothing wrong with attempting to survive in the face of the obvious decline of historic Western civilization; I do not amass guns--I don't even OWN a gun--although I strongly support the rights of Americans to do so; I do not believe in conspiracy theories; and I am only isolationist in the sense that I believe firmly that I have the right to be LEFT ALONE. Yet I am also a conservative, Biblical Christian, a Libertarian, and a college-educated professional who is firmly convinced that the universe is around 13BY old, the earth itself is around 4BY old, and that humans and dinosaurs did NOT interact.

And my three children all started by being homeschooled.

The Benedict Option, of which I know nothing except this interview, seems to be advocating for the church and the family to examine everything, and hold fast to that which is good. This is hardly a new call; however, the Western church, which has had such an easy ride, is starting to feel the pain of the loss of its cultural supremacy.

Meanwhile, as the church dies in Europe, and sickens in America, it is growing vibrantly in other lands and communities. The largest churches in the world are in South Korea; there are estimated 100 million Christians in the house church movement in China, in a culture opposed to them; there are even Christians in North Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia...perhaps, just perhaps, what the Western church needs is a dose of persecution to strip away the dross and refine the gold.

So, we examine everything, and hold fast, declaring the truth and living it out. God is with us, and will not fail us. In the WORST case, He will gather us to Himself, and we will be with Him.

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