A Feature Review of
The Benedict Option:
A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation
Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
For over a decade, Rod Dreher has been observing and commenting on the demise of Western culture, and sketching the basic ideas that he presents in his new book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (which releases today). His account of the deep fragmentation and crumbling of Western culture, and especially the devastation that flows from our uncritical submission to the economic forces of market capitalism, is one that many social critics across the ideological spectrum have explored over the last century, from Russell Kirk to Wendell Berry to Robert Putnam to Noam Chomsky. The title of Dreher’s book is appropriated from the final pages of Alasdair MacIntyre’s prescient book After Virtue (originally published in 1981), in which MacIntyre suggests that the inevitable end of the crumbling of Western culture will be a sort of “dark age,” in which civilization would only be preserved by communities that function in a similar way to those of the Benedictine monasteries that preserved much of Western culture through the dark ages after the fall of the Roman Empire. I agree with MacIntyre and Dreher that in our age of prevailing individualism, we need to find ways of cultivating community that stand in sharp contrast to the manifold fragmentation of the dominant culture.