*The New Yorker* Tackles *The Benedict Option*

BenopCheck out Joshua Rothman‘s article on Rod Dreher, author of The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation.

There was a time when a secular New York magazine like The New Yorker couldn’t have cared less about a book like The Benedict Option or a guy like Dreher. What does the New Yorker’s decision to devote so many words (it’s a long-form essay) to the subject of this book tell us about the role of religion in American culture today?  Just a thought.

Here is a taste of Rothman’s piece:

Dreher takes the phrase “the Benedict Option” from “After Virtue,” a 1981 work by the Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre. MacIntyre argued that Western civilization had lost its ability to think coherently about moral life. The problem was the Enlightenment, which put individuals in charge of deciding for themselves what was right and wrong. This, MacIntyre thought, rendered moral language meaningless. Try to say that something is “good,” and you end up saying only that it’s “good (to me)”—whatever that means. It becomes impossible to settle moral questions or to enforce moral rules; the best we can do is agree to disagree. Such a world falls into the hands of managers and technocrats, who excel at the perfection of means but lack the tools with which to think deeply about ends. Surviving this new age of darkness might call for the construction of local forms of community, where a realist approach to morality lives on. Today, MacIntyre wrote, “we are waiting not for a Godot but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict.”

Dreher’s book describes a number of intentional “Benedict Option communities” that serve, in his view, as arks in a liquidly modern sea. (Dreher hopes that many different kinds of communities—even, in theory, Muslim and Jewish ones—will adopt the “Benedict Option” label.) One is in Hyattsville, Maryland, a small suburb of Washington, D.C. The community has no name—residents just call it Hyattsville—but, judging from the size of its two gendered Listservs (“Barn Raisers,” for men, and “Hyattsville Catholic Women”), around two hundred Catholic families live there, in modest brick homes with front porches. They send their kids to St. Jerome Academy, a local Catholic school that they have more or less taken over.

Read the entire piece here.

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