Rod Dreher had these words to say in a recent interview he did with Albert Mohler on the show Thinking in Public on February 13, 2017:
“DREHER: I believe that we are on the edge of and in fact within the collapse of Western civilization. It’s a very comfortable collapse because we’re rich; but it is collapsing, nonetheless, in the same way that the Roman civilization collapsed in the West in the 5th century. I believe that Christians now have got to realize that we’re living in a post-Christian civilization and take measures to build a kind of ark for ourselves with which to ride out the dark ages, to hold onto our faith, and tender the faith for such a time as light returns and civilization wants to hear the gospel again.”
The collapse of Western civilization he says right here right now and we all are living through it? That sounds pretty dramatic I must say. Like the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD. We are now living in a post-Christian civilization Dreher says and therefore faithful small “o” orthodox Christians need to withdraw from mainstream secular society to some degree, put a greater focus on their local communities, form stronger communal mutual support bonds with their fellow small “o” orthodox Christians, prepare themselves for greater social ostracism and possibly legal persecution coming forward, be ready to suffer for the faith if it comes to that, and make sure that traditional authentic Christianity is still around for when society comes to its senses and seeks a return to the faith once again.
To me what Rod Dreher is saying sounds like Christian revival, the kind of Christian revival I have been seeing and predicting more of for awhile. What is new with The Benedict Option is the call for mainstream forms of Christianity to bunker down and get serious about the faith and to move towards the creation of geographically concentrated extra devout and serious mutually supportive Christian communities.
Rod Dreher was born in 1967. According to Wikipedia Dreher was raised as a Methodist, then he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1993, then he converted to Eastern Orthodoxy in 2006. In Dreher’s interview with Albert Mohler on February 13, 2017 Dreher states “I came to Christ as an adult through the Roman Catholic Church in my mid-20s, and I in large part read my way into the Roman Catholic Church from being an agnostic, atheist teenager.” Now Dreher is the number one advocate for “The Benedict Option” urging Christians of all stripes to get more serious and more committed to the Christian faith. Dreher has written for National Review, The Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal, and now can mostly be found at The American Conservative website.
Dreher is himself part of what I would call the God Revival. Starting out as an agnostic atheist teenager, being an intellectual converter to Roman Catholicism, then being a more passionate heartfelt believer in Eastern Orthodoxy, now leading the charge against decadent secular modern culture urging Christians of all types to take their faith more seriously and to reject the anti-Christian pressures of mainstream culture.
Conservative “serious” Christianity today seems to be almost entirely a backlash against prior held secularism and atheism. The serious or “radical” Christianity of today is not a continuation of the more religious past that still persists to some extent to this day, it is instead a rebellion against the pathologies caused by unbelief and secularism.
Regarding this idea that we are now living in a “post-Christian civilization.” That seems like a fair assessment to me. Arguably we have been living in a “post-Christian civilization” for a long time now however. Feminism is definitely anti-Christian, so called “gender equality” is anti-Christian I would say, and yet feminism has been the dominant cultural ideology since the 1970s. School prayer was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1962 (the Engel v. Vitale decision). Sure the Obergefell decision mandating so called “gay marriage” nationwide in 2015 was anti-Christian and against the most basic fundamental concepts of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman joined together in marriage but the culture has been turning against the traditional understanding of what it means to live a Christian life for a long long time.
Dreher seems to trace the beginning of the decline of Christianity to the Enlightenment, commonly dated from 1715 to 1789. As far as family statistics are concerned ongoing family deterioration was certainly underway by 1870 in the United States; divorce and women working steadily increasing according to government statistics ever since 1870. The Married Women Property Acts from 1839 to 1865 in the United States ending the previous coverture system seem to be the beginning of modern feminism.
Getting back to more recent politics Dreher said in his interview with Albert Mohler on February 13, 2017:
“DREHER: That’s true. It [the Obergefell decision] was the Waterloo of the culture war for our side. And even before Obergefell we had the Indiana RFRA debacle with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana, which Governor Pence and the Republicans tried to pass to extend this nominal protection to Christians and others in case they got sued for discrimination. And the whole world came down on their head, especially big business. And this is the first time in the culture war that big business had taken a side, and they sided thoroughly and completely and decisively against Christians, and the Republican Party did not know what to do with itself. That right there was when I started hearing from Christians all over the country saying, ‘Wow, all the stuff you’ve been saying about a post-Christian country; I think it’s really true.’”
On March 26, 2015 Indiana Governor Mike Pence (now Vice President Mike Pence with the election of Donald Trump as President) signed the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. This produced a huge backlash especially from the business community. On April 2, 2015 Mike Pence signed a “fix” to the RFRA law that weakened the law:
“Specifically, the new language says the RFRA does not authorize a provider — including businesses or individuals — to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, goods, employment, housing or public accommodation to any member of the public based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex or military service.
The proposed language exempts churches or other nonprofit religious organizations — including affiliated schools — from the definition of ‘provider.’”
As part of this drama Memories Pizza said they could not in good conscious cater to a same-sex wedding. Rod Dreher wrote an article at The American Conservative on December 8, 2016 titled “Memories Pizza: Where the Trump Revolution Began?” in which he said:
“It’s an impossible claim to prove, but I think Milo [Yiannopoulos] is onto something. If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know that I’ve been talking about the Benedict Option for at least a decade. It has never really taken off. After the Indiana RFRA event, of which Memories Pizza was a key part, interest in the Benedict Option really took off. That was the catalyst for a lot of conservative Christians. I noted this in the manuscript for The Benedict Option, but I had not thought about all that being a catalyst (not the catalyst, but a catalyst) for the Trump campaign until Milo said so. I did note in my manuscript that the refusal of the GOP to stand firm in the face of Big Business pressure was revealing. Perhaps this too, at some level, worked to Trump’s advantage, signaling to conservative Christians at the grassroots level that whatever his many sins and failings, Trump was not a guy who was going to be intimidated by political correctness.”
Then of course on June 26, 2015 was the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling mandating homosexual pseudo-marriage nationwide.
On March 14, 2017 then Rod Dreher’s book The Benedict Option was published.
So a new kind of Christian activism is emerging? The call to build Christian counter-cultures sufficiently resilient to resist the wider society’s pressures to conform to the “new order” of homosexual declared “equality” and the utterly radical idea that gender is self-defined. The goal of this Christian activism not being to influence social policy or cultural norms overall but instead focusing on the more limited goal of self-preservation and the building of small insular strong Christian communities that hold their own and offer refuge to those who will inevitably flee from secularism and atheism looking for truth and looking for guidance and support; the kind of truth and moral way of living that the Christian way of life can provide.
As Dreher said in his interview with Albert Mohler on February 13, 2017:
“DREHER: But the collapse of that project [the secular project] is and will be very painful for a lot of people, and we’re already seeing this now playing out in many ways. A friend of mine was discussing with her neighbor—the neighbor had gone to a baby shower, six baby showers in the past year for all her nieces. None of them have husbands; some of them have multiple babies by different fathers. These are white, working class people who a generation ago were in church. They’re not in church now and their family systems have blown up. How did this happen so quickly? Well, the seeds were planted in the 50s and the 60s and the 70s and now they’re bearing bitter fruit. But somehow this has got to play itself out, and we have got to be able to offer reason and light and love and structure to these people.”
For me I am inclined to blame feminism for the moral disorder of modern American life, that patriarchy is the solution to the problems of the American family. At the same time it is reasonable to view the underlying problem as the collapse of effective religious faith; that the decline of Christianity inevitably leads to hyper-individualism and the loss of moral values and adherence to moral standards of behavior. The decline of patriarchy and the decline of Christianity have gone together historically and this is not an accident; patriarchy being God’s design for the family. The restoration of patriarchy and the resurrection of Christianity are very likely to go together to.
I do not really see the collapse of Christianity coming; instead I see Christian revival coming, The Benedict Option being a manifestation of Christian revival. Looking at social statistics there has not been apparent decline in family indicators since 2009 and this I believe is significant.
One thing I notice about Rod Dreher’s writings is that he very rarely talks about feminism and he never talks about masculinity or femininity or gender roles or about women obeying men or about the duty of men to financially support women. Dreher is oddly not “sexist” even while advocating relentlessly for more robust forms of conservative Christianity.
Regardless of that though it is very predictable that stronger religious faith leads to stronger families and stronger relationships between men and women; that God is the answer to what ails us as a society.
References: The Legacy and Achievement of Mark Driscoll